What’s Your Writing Process: Jerri Ledford

Jerri Ledford‘s answers here proved to me once again why I wanted to do this interview series so much. I love her thoughts about the writing process and think that you’ll be able to pick up a tip or two that will help you as well.

She’s also a gal after my own heart: a working writer who is spending time establishing herself in the fiction world. Bravo.

Enjoy this interview.

Do you tend to write nonfiction or fiction?

I write both.  I write non-fiction for a living. It’s how I pay the bills.  I write fiction because it’s what I love to do, and eventually I hope to be making a living from it.  But it takes time to build a name, so that’s what I’m working on right now.

How long does it take you to finish a book?

When I’m writing a non-fiction book, the process is a little different. I usually write those under contract, so I have a set amount of time in which to write them. Since I focus heavily on technology, that time frame is usually pretty short – about 2 months from start to finish. It sounds terrible, but if all you’re doing is writing, it’s not bad.

The non-fiction schedule has helped me to build a good bit of discipline when it comes to writing, so a fiction book for me take about three to six months.  That’s from idea to publication. Because I self-publish my fiction, I have to allow time in the process for editing, reader input, cover design, and layout. Actual writing takes 2-3 months.  The rest of the time is production.

What’s your usual approach? Seat of your pants? Outline?

Speaking strictly about writing fiction, I’m a bit of a hybrid writer.  I usually have an idea that’s been stewing around in my head for a while; sometimes years. When it comes time to write, there’s a good chunk of the story already there, so I start as a seat of the pants writer. I just put my fingers on the keyboard and let the story start to flow.

About a third of the way into it, though, I find that I’m a little mired by all of the details, unanswered questions, and general uncertainty of what’s happening and why.  That’s the point that I go back and create a rough, working outline.  I usually do that in the form a storyboard.

I use a board divided into 8 sections (a screenwriting tool, really), and I place cards or sticky notes on it with one or two sentences about each chapter.  The cards are color-coded, according to my POV character, and they’re divided into one of those 8 sections to help ensure I have the pacing right. The whole thing helps me to figure out what I have and what I need, in a very visual way.  At times, there are only ideas on the cards…like what I want to have happen, so that I can glance up and see where a particular scene needs to go.  The more I write, the more filled in the story board becomes.

How many rough drafts do you usually go through before you’re satisfied with the final version?

I’m not a constant reviser. I tend to write about a third of the manuscript, then I revise it and work in the things that I’ve learned along the way.  After that, I’ll finish the book before I do any additional revising.

Along the way, I have critique partners reading as I write.  When the book is finished, I’ll go back and make those changes.  Then I send it off to readers.  I have three or four people who pre-read all of my books just to make sure everything from pacing to loose ends are covered.

If those pre-readers have any input, I’ll go back through the manuscript one last time to make changes or additions per their suggestions.  After that, the story editing is done.  All that remains is line editing, which I farm out to an editor. When those come back, I make the changes that are necessary, do one more read through for flow and to make sure everything works as I think it should, then it’s off to formatting.

Do you have someone you give your manuscript to for feedback before you give it to an editor or agent?

I do have several people who are pre-readers for me.  And although I don’t send my fiction manuscripts to agents and editors, I still go through the same process. I don’t want to put out a product that’s less than professional.

For my non-fiction, my pre-readers are editors and technical editors.  These are the people that make sure my voice is clear and not confusing, that the instructions I write are clear and easy to follow, and that everything comes together without leaving gaping holes in coverage.

On both sides, fiction and non-fiction, my pre-readers are my saving grace. They represent the audience that I want to reach, so what they say matters to me.  I don’t always agree with them, but I always listen and weigh what they have to say carefully.

What’s your latest project?

Currently I’m working on Book 2 of the Biloxi Series – Biloxi Blues.  Some of the characters from Biloxi Sunrise (The Biloxi Series) are coming back. But there are some new characters that I’m having a lot of fun with, as well. This book (Biloxi Blues) should be finished by the end of this month and out in all electronic formats by the end of April.

I’m also working on some small non-fiction pieces, but nothing that’s notable. I recently finished up a two year project with a corporate client, so I’m riding the wave right now, just trying to get back into some type of normal routine that doesn’t include staying up for days on end to meet deadlines, traveling for weeks at a time, and sacrificing life in order to complete my work.

Where can we catch up with you online?

Oh I’m all over the place!

Books from Jerri Ledford:

 

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