Welcome to today’s stop on Jill Myles’ blog tour for her debut Gentlemen Prefer Succubi. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Jill about her writing process. Everyone’s writing process is so unique. I love to see how other writer’s work. And Jill’s answers really give a behind-the-scenes sneak peek into how her books become books! I especially love the notes she leaves to herself inside the manuscript.
If you comment on this post, you’ll be entered into a contest to win a personalized query critique from Jill’s agent Holly Root! For more entries in this contest, comment on the other blog tour posts. A full list of participating blogs and a schedule can be found at Shelli’s blog. One entry per blog per comment. Winner will be chosen at random by Jill Myles and announced on the last day of the tour: Wednesday, January 27th. Jill will also post an interview with Holly that day on her own blog.
And now for the interview! Enjoy!
1. What inspired your book?
I was in a discussion with my sister about vampires, and the phrase ‘sex starved’ came up. My mind immediately melded it together and boom – I had a succubus: a vampire that feeds off of sex. I thought it was the most ridiculous idea in the world, but it fascinated me and I wrote it anyhow. I gambled that I would either be laughed off the field, or someone would think it was genius.
2. Are you a plotter or a pantser? If you’re a pantser, I’d love to hear more about how that works. If you outline, tell me about the process: how long/detailed are your outlines, etc.
I’m a pantser, but I’m trying to reform! Especially now that I have to turn in outlines ahead of time and my editor wants me to stick to them (who knew, right?). Basically, I start with a scene and a character with an issue. Gentlemen Prefer Succubi started with the heroine waking up in a dumpster and finding out she’d been turned into a succubus. At that point, it becomes problem solving – how did she get there? How does she cope? My brain loves to play with that sort of puzzle, and I steam full ahead on that idea alone.
About two or three chapters in, my steam goes away and things start to get overwhelming. I subconsciously add characters and subplots and after a while it becomes too much to mentally juggle. At that point, I have to stop and bullet-point out everything I want to happen, which is already in my head, but feels like too much unless it’s on paper, if that makes sense. And as I type, if I finish a bullet, I delete it. By the time I finish the novel, I’m out of bullets and everything is more or less tied up (though I leave some things unresolved deliberately).
Of course, pantsing means that the stuff I don’t figure out until the last chapter? All has to be added back in during revisions. So my first drafts are pretty horrible. After the first draft is fully written, I go back and plug in all the holes until I’m happy with it, and then revise over and over again.
3. Describe your writing routine. Set time of day? Set word count goal? Or do you squeeze writing in whenever possible? How do you juggle work, life, and writing?
Set time of day and set goal – I wish! I’m not that organized. I basically squeeze in writing where I can. I have an idea of how much I’d like to get done that week and I prioritize. If I’m on a deadline, the writing comes first. If not, I give myself permission to slack as long as I make it up later. And if that means spending a beautiful Saturday at the keyboard…well, I made that decision. As for juggling work, life, and writing, it’s hard. The day job can be overwhelming sometimes, so on those weeks I just resolve to not write at all. Luckily my husband is a freelance artist and we have no children, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility for both of us to spend the evening at our computers, working on projects.
4. How long does it take you to complete a draft? Do you revise as you go or write straight through to the end?
Oh, I can’t revise as I go. I get bogged down in details and then I have a really clean beginning and never write the end. 🙂 I have to plow right on through to the end, no matter how bad it is. If there’s something I want to go back and change, I leave myself notes in the manuscript mid-stream, like [GO BACK AND CHANGE THE POV IN CHAPTER THREE, DUMMY. WRONG CHARACTER] or [OMG this is so not sexy, pls fix in rewrites, stupid!]
My husband laughs at my notes, but there’s nothing quite so attention getting as finding a highlighted note in your manuscript that says HEY MORON. It makes sure you don’t miss it. 😉
Completing a draft – every book is different! I’ve written an 80k novel in six weeks, and I’ve written one in 6 months. I’m averaging about 3 months right now, less if I have a deadline. More if there’s no deadline, because then I give myself permission to slack off. 🙂
5. What aspect of writing the first draft do you find the easiest? The hardest?
Worldbuilding and description. I don’t know if I’m oblivious daily or what, but I have a very hard time setting the scene. I have to go back and make a conscious effort to sketch out scenery. I’m the type of person that passes the same street every day for ten years, but I don’t know the name of it. Oblivious. So adding in tiny details that really make things zing makes it tricky for me.
6. Tell me a little about your revision process.
I have to ‘talk’ myself into revisions by doing the easy stuff first, because I hate revisions!
Here’s my process — once the manuscript is finished, I print the whole thing out. I can’t read/revise on the computer, because it never reads quite the same as a manuscript page does. I sit down with the print out and do nothing but read (hopefully in one sitting). During that read, I circle anything that reads as ‘jarring’ or ‘off’ and make myself notes in the margins. Places where I need more detail, more conversation, places that a sentence reads awkwardly. Usually my marked up manuscript just consists of a million circles and "MORE" written in the margins, over and over again.
And then because that pile of changes looks so daunting, I pull out all the easy ones and do those first! 😉 By the time I get down to the hard ones (total scene rewrites, etc), I’m so close to the finish line that it more or less propels me onward.
As many as it takes. I usually do about 4 drafts before I let anyone look at it. One major one and then progressively smaller drafts. It doesn’t change all that much until I turn it in to my agent and my crit partners. From there…well, it can get ugly. I have one YA that my crit partners and I knocked into shape that had 100 pages or so removed and rewritten. I sent it to my agent and she made me remove the last 100 pages and rewrite them. 😉 Not much of the book is the original story anymore!
8. Do you have critique partners or beta readers? If so, how do you generally work with them? Do you exchange a whole book at once or chapter by chapter? What do you do when you don’t agree with their advice?
We exchange whole books. I have a friend that is a reader, not a writer — she gives me feedback on what she liked and did not, but it’s more broad overview. I have 3 other friends that I exchange manuscripts with, and we mostly hand it over and say things like "Okay, I’m really worried about the relationship in the book. Can you read it and tell me if it bothers you?" If something major comes up that they dislike that I didn’t bring up, I trust them to tell me…even if I don’t want to hear it.
That being said, it’s my book. If I don’t agree with the advice, I weigh it and see how much I agree or disagree with the person. Sometimes I change it anyhow and trust them, and sometimes I decide to go with my gut and skip it. I’m pretty easygoing with revision, though — my ‘baby’ is my first draft. I refuse to take feedback at that point. After it’s on the page? I don’t care *nearly* as much.
Thanks for stopping by, Jill! Great answers!
Don’t forget to leave a comment on this blog to be entered into the contest. Also, make sure to check out the next stop on the blog tour at Hilary Wagner’s blog tomorrow, where she interviews Jill about dealing with rejection and working with an editor!