Writing Process 2015: What I Learned

I remember saying not too long ago that I was finished with my Writing Process 2015 posts, because, hey, it’s 2016.

What I LearnedWhat I didn’t take into account?

The book I wrote in 2015, the one I detailed in all those posts, will be at bookstores on June 1, 2016. So while the year has changed, When We Were Sisters still consumes a substantial amount of my 2016 writing and thinking time. Writing, because I’m working on blogs that will introduce you to the book and my characters. Thinking, because I’m still wondering exactly what I learned as I wrote.

So what exactly am I “writing?”

As part of every novel I spend weeks crafting character autobiographies. I used to write these as if I were a social worker writing up a chart. I can be excused for this. Once upon a time I saw clients in a mental health center and wrote up case studies and kept notes. This felt familiar to me. But about five years ago I realized I wanted my characters to tell their own stories. I wanted to broaden what I learned. So now the biographies are in their words, not mine. This helps enormously because before I’ve written a word of the actual novel:

  • I know who they are, the events that made them the people they are, the family that influenced them, their education, interests, likes and dislikes.
  • I know their voices, how they express themselves, their speech peculiarities, and everything they don’t say.

Who are these people anyway?

When I began When We Were Sisters I envisioned three major characters. I knew that each of these characters would have a point of view. Another way to say this? My readers and I would be inside each of their heads. We would know what they were thinking as well as what they were doing. So before I started the novel I wrote autobiographies for each one. What I learned about them became the lead-in for the novel. These impromptu memoirs end just before the novel begins.

Kris, Robin and Cecilia all told me about the events and people who made them who they are. This was written just for me, to help me move into their stories fully prepared. But as I looked them over I realized you might like to read their backstory, too.

What did I do about it?

Beginning in May, I will be sharing excerpts of that backstory with you right here, along with quotes from the novel and photos. I’ll be blogging more than usual, almost every day, so bear with me. I think you’ll enjoy this sneak peek.

Additionally, before that, on April 21, my publisher, Mira Books, and I will simultaneously post blogs about the When We Were Sisters cover at noon. I’ll link to theirs and vice versa. But the fun part? The really fun part? We’ll take you behind the scenes to the cover shoot.

So lots of writing still going on for that 2015/2016 book, including blogs, Facebook posts and my monthly newsletter.

Now what about “thinking?”

I would be lying if I said I love every single thing about writing a novel. For instance:

  • I don’t love deadlines. I really, really don’t love them.
  • I don’t love trying to explain my ideas and thoughts to editors, although conversely I do love the editors themselves, talented, thoughtful women that they are.
  • I don’t love banging my head on my desk because the right word eludes me or a character simply refuses to behave.

Other than that, though? I pretty much worship at the feet of my muse. I think I have the best job in the world. I actually feel guilty that I enjoy this so much. And I actually feel guilty that I feel guilty. Which is enough guilt to last a very long time.

What do I love?

A friend pointed out recently that it must be nice to be me because with my imagination, I’m never bored. And yes, it’s true. I rarely am.

So score one for imagination.

Let’s also score one for research.

Yes, I write novels, but I spend an enormous amount of time researching the backgrounds. What I learned? For instance, Cecilia is an international superstar singer-songwriter. What I know about the music business would fill a thimble, although as a former music major, I do know something about music in general.

To learn more about Cecilia’s musical world I read:

  • Full length biographies of Cher, Bette Midler, Madonna as well as long articles about Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion.
  • Books about the music biz including The Platinum Rainbow: How to Succeed in the Music Business, and All You Need to Know About the Music Business.

I could also list the thousand or more pages I read about making documentaries, about foster care and foster children, about compounding pharmacies, coal patches, lawsuits, law schools and different law specialties. And every town and state mentioned in the novel. For starters.

But my point? I love this part of writing. I do far more research than I probably need to because I love digging into subjects I know nothing about. I want to feel confident when I begin to write that I’ve rooted out the problems with my manuscript before they began.

Finally? My writing, my research, introduce me to new ideas, new cultures, new ways of thinking.

So score one for broadening my education and hopefully my mind.

The fun take away?

I am always changed by what I write. For instance The Color of Light had an impact on my own personal theology and spirituality. How could it not? I lived with Analiese and Isaiah and their own spiritual struggles for a year. Working through that changed me, as well.

This time my musical tastes were broadened. Considerably. I went into When We Were Sisters with little appreciation or knowledge about today’s popular music and came out of it with a slew of new musicians to listen to. The list grows daily now. I sat in front of the Grammy’s this year for the first time. Mesmerized. I’ll be sitting there next year, too.

I’ll be sharing some of that music with you, too, with a special treat I’m putting together. Stay tuned.


When We Were Sisters is available in for pre-order at Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, Kobo as well as your favorite independent bookstore. It will be published in hardcover, paperback and ebook versions, so choose your favorite way to read.

(I am an affiliate of Amazon and iBooks but encourage you to buy where you most enjoy shopping.)


  1. Nancy Lepri on April 14, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    Thank you for posting this. It’s exciting to know what you go through with writing your novels.

  2. jean maxwell on April 26, 2016 at 1:04 pm


    Thank you for the wealth of information you are providing wantabes.

    I loved the cover and treasure the backcover since the girls are joined at the hip.

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