Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Pauline Baird Jones to the blog.
Pauline is the award-winning author of seventeen novels of science fiction romance, steampunk, action-adventure, suspense, romantic suspense, and comedy-mystery and four short story collections. She just released number seventeen with Genie Davis, a Christmas collection of two science fiction romance novellas called All I Got For Christmas.
When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?
When I’m sure it is a viable idea (i.e. one that didn’t die as soon as I studied it), I open a Scrivener file and give it tentative title. Sometimes the “title” is just a genre notation, or an indication of who I’m writing it for.) If the project is part of a series, then I pull in the character sketches of who will appear in that story. If it’s not a series, then, well, sometimes my characters arrive with names, sometimes they don’t. If they don’t, then I start writing.
Do you have a set routine approaching it?
Yes. And no. I know, helpful, right? I’ve gotten better about having a “routine” because I started, and finished four projects this year, a personal best. Two were parts of an already established series; one was a partially started project that I basically yanked the setting and the characters out and started over; and one was a from-scratch Christmas story.
Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?
Straight to keyboard. I can’t read my hand writing anymore.
How important is research to you?
Very. It can also be very frustrating when what you want isn’t readily available.
How do you go about researching?
I start with Google. If I can’t find what I want, then I either ask for help in refining my search terms. I also know someone who is very good at research. If I get stuck, I hire her to dig for me.
How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?
Scrivener has pretty robust and easy to use file storage options (for digital things obviously). For books and such, well, I keep them close until the project is done. I’ve been known to pin a map to the wall, so I can refer to it while I’m working. We were going through our storage and I found two boxes of research materials for Out of Time, my WWII time travel novel. Man, lots of memories came back when I opened the boxes. Maps and old newspapers from the time. And stuff sent to me by veterans who had kindly answered my many questions. Obviously, I kept all of it. In that same purge (that didn’t purge that much), I found maps and research for some other books and a VCR tape that my husband did for me to help me write The Last Enemy. That was funny because he almost got arrested for filming around a federal building. Luckily they believed him. But yeah, kept that, too. lol
Tell us how that first draft takes shape?
My first draft is a bit like making homemade bread. I throw things in. I stir. I scrape. (Though unlike bread, I can delete.) I add more things. I stir. I poke at the messy mass. I try to shape it. I try some more. Eventually it starts to resemble something recognizable. There is a point where it achieves…velocity. Where the words flow faster. That’s when it stops being “bread dough” and turns into something else.
Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?
I drink Diet Dr. Pepper and have Junior Mints on hand. Also something salty to cut the sweet. I like to have a custom playlist, though the updated iTunes makes that hard to create when you’re not on your main computer. (Yes, I’m looking at you iTunes engineers!) I also need large blocks of time in the initial stages.
Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?
I dive completely into the story, which is why I need blocks of time alone. Once a story achieves internal velocity, I can go in and out for shorter periods of time. But I don’t want to leave.
What does your workspace look like?
It’s pretty basic. A desk. A lamp. A computer or laptop. Headphones. No interruptions.
I used to have positive notes of encouragement around me to keep me going. After 17 novels, I just need chocolate and soda. (grin)
Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?
I edit…but I also try to push out new words. I need as firm a foundation behind me as possible. So I’ll write out onto the ledge, go back and edit in the supports, then write my out onto that ledge again.
I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?
Scrivener has that built in and it does help me keep track of where I am in the a project. When I was writing The Key, I spent most of the book thinking it wasn’t “enough.” When I finally knitted all the chapters together it was 140K! My editor called it my BAB (big a** book). This was pre-Scrivener.
So now I figure out my target length, and plug it into the project targeting. When I finish a session, I’ll check to see if I hit my word count. (I usually exceed it.) One thing I’ve found interesting this year. I set up targeting with all four projects and hit within about 2K with the word count for all four. I’m not sure if my subconscious helped me out or if I just planned stories that could be told within the word counts I’d set up.
So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?
A rough draft can take me between one-two months. Now, in real time, that might be longer, but in actual writing time? Yeah, 1-2 months. When I was a newer writer, my first draft was pretty rough, but—because I edit as I go—these days my first draft is not that far off from my final draft.
In what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?
I like to side load it onto an eReader. I also have beta readers. I rarely use paper anymore for any part of my process.
What happens now that first draft is done?
I hand it off to my beta readers. I try not to look at it again until I get their feed back, because I’ll fiddle with it. Based on their feedback, then I do some re-writing and/or start the polishing/refining process. Since I self-publish, I also start the process of pulling the other components together: cover art, blurb, formatting…
Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.
All I Got For Christmas
Christmas is coming and so is All I Got For Christmas. Inside you’ll get the evocative and haunting, ”Riding for Christmas,” and the offbeat and heartwarming, “Up on the Housetop.”
Riding For Christmas:
A mesmerizing tale of interstellar time travel and romance!
Jane MacKenzie, visiting her grandfather’s abandoned ranch, discovers something in the snow. When she opens the ribbon-wrapped box, it mysteriously returns Sam Harrington, who “disappeared” in an 1885 blizzard.
There’s nothing alien in this enduring tale of holiday homecomings and the hope of love that lasts a lifetime.
Up on the House Top:
Will her Christmas be ho, ho, ho? Or oh no, no, no?
Gini knew Christmas in Wyoming would be challenging as she headed over the frozen crick and through the woods to the family cabin. The lights are going out in her mom’s attic, the guy who broke her heart is on the porch…and there are aliens on the roof.
According to her mom, it’s going to be the best Christmas ever.