A peek beneath the surface



I love this image of a novel. The book that a reader holds in their hands is only the visible result, the majestic iceberg soaring out of the water. Underneath the surface is all the work and layers that support the story, out of view.

Since I’m currently in the heart of edits on Secret Courtship, I thought I’d give you a peek under the waves, and talk al little about my process for creating a finished book.

Brainstorming, Dreaming, Worldbuilding, Research

At the beginning, in the darkest depths, there isn’t a story so much as an idea. I pull story prompts from all kinds of sources—striking news articles, old myths and daily life. I flip through books on character archetypes, and dream about who I want to write about. Before those ideas can even become a draft, I play with them. Brainstorm what-if chains, think about how character and plot interact. Do a little research–or a lot! All of this stuff is almost the ocean that the iceberg floats in, some of it nebulous and disconnected, some of it starting to freeze, starting to form.

Plotting and Drafting

Once I have a good sense of the direction of my story and a solid understanding of my main characters, I start to draft. Some authors will spend a good chunk of time outlining a plot before they jump into to writing. I’m more of a pantser (so called because I write by the seat of my pants) and will start writing actual scenes and chapters once I have a few plot points.

I do a lot of discovery at this stage, uncovering new facets to my characters, exploring their backstory and modifying the plot as I go along. Drafting is very messy for me, and not a process I would recommend for anyone. I tend to overwrite, sometimes drafting an entire scene before realizing it is unnecessary, or taking the story in a direction I don’t want to go. Whether messy or clean, linear or quilted, drafting—getting the words on the page for the first time—is a necessary step for every novel.

black and red typewriter

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Rewriting and Editing

After the raw material is there, the next step is editing—fixing the prose to better serve the story, in ways great and small. There are a lot of stages to editing, and every author has a different approach depending on their strengths and weaknesses. This is also the stage where authors usually pull in outside help, whether it is beta readers, editors or proofreaders.

My drafting process is so messy, that I have to do a round of extensive rewrites before my work is ready for beta readers. Once my manuscript looks and reads like a novel, I send it out to trusted readers and author friends for feedback. At this stage, I’m mostly looking for a sanity check, to make sure the plot holds together, that the character arcs are satisfying and the worldbuilding keeps the reader engaged.

After I incorporate the feedback from beta readers, my story is ready to send on to my editor at Soul Mate. At that point the story truly becomes a collaborative project, with both of us working together to create the best story possible. The book goes back and forth, as we strengthen the prose and polish the story in other ways. Depending on the manuscript it can take multiple rounds of edits to get it just right.

A lot of authors complain about the editing stage, and to be honest it can be a slog, but for me this is where a lot of the magic of storytelling happens. I love the satisfaction of the story getting better and better with each draft, as I work with outside eyes to make the novel the best it can be.

It has been a real pleasure to dive into the details of Secret Courtship, to really make it shine. Even better, we’re getting so close to the end of this stage of editing!

photo of woman running on fishing line

Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

Final touches

Even after the manuscript is polished, edited and ready for readers, the process isn’t quite over. I confess I don’t know all the steps that the manuscript goes through once the editing is done, since I leave the formatting and other publishing pieces in the capable hands of the Soul Mate team.

One important final piece is the creation of the cover, which is an entire process in and of itself. I’ve really enjoyed working with the art director at Soul Mate and been amazed at how well the artist brings the heart of the story to life. I’ve received proofs of the cover for Secret Courtship and I’m thrilled with how it turned out!

I hope this has been an interesting peek into my writing process—and now I must get back to editing…

RWAsigningJaycee Jarvis has been an avid romance reader since devouring all the Sweet Dreams books her middle school library had to offer. Also a fantasy fan from an early age, she often wished those wondrous stories had just a bit more kissing. Now she writes stories with a romantic heart set against a magical backdrop, creating the kind of book she most likes to read.  When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children and a menagerie of pets.

Jaycee is a Golden Heart® finalist and author of the Hands of Destin series. The award winning first book in that series, Taxing Courtship, released in June 2018.

Learn more about her around the web:

This entry was posted in Chatter-Time With Jaycee!, Soul Mate Publishing, Writing, Writing career and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A peek beneath the surface

  1. Beth Carter says:

    Great post. My first drafts are very messy as well, and I’m a huge overwriter. But that has really helped me to get a head start on each novel in my series. Cut, paste, and repeat! Best of luck. I can’t wait to see your cover art! I love that part of the process too.

    • JayceeJarvis says:

      I think I’d rather overwrite than underwrite for sure, and a lot of those scenes do find a home–even if it is not in the same place I originally wrote them!

  2. bookish68 says:

    Being a bit of a pantser myself, this hits home. Thanks for the post. I’m in the final steps of editing now. I’ve found a couple of minor plot holes to fill, added some stuff, deleted other things, and even found a bit more depth in the hero to put on the page. So yes, editing is where we really get under the hood and fine tune. Even when it’s out in the world, it’s still a bit like leaving a conversation with that feeling of, “Gee, I wish I’d said that.”
    ~ Brenda Nichols

    • JayceeJarvis says:

      Exactly!! I’m such a tinkerer, I have a hard time reading my books once they’re out in the wild–I always find something new to change!

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