Chanel Cleeton writes contemporary romances, women’s fiction, and thrillers. She is the author of the International School series and the Capital Confessions, both contemporary romance, as well as the New Adult thriller series Assassins. Her newest novel, Fly with Me, is the first in the new Wild Aces contemporary romance series and pubs next month, with the second book, Into the Blue, following in July. Chanel is published by Harlequin HQN, Penguin/InterMix, and Penguin/Berkley.
Chanel’s interview follows the Rafflecopter form/entry link for today’s Free Partial Edit by the Editor Giveaway. Scroll down for her full interview.
How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you made? Each manuscript varies for me, but I typically feel pretty good about major arcs fairly early on and then I go through many, many drafts cleaning up the manuscript until I can read though it without finding anything I want to fix. I’m a pantser, but I spend a lot of time thinking about my characters and developing them and the story threads in my head, so by the time I start writing I’m familiar with the world I’m building and am able to follow the threads as they unspool. I spend a lot of time tweaking my manuscripts for things like dialogue, sentence construction, etc., but big picture items usually don’t change very much from first draft to final.
Do you use critique partners or beta readers? I typically don’t. I tend to work best in my head so I like to finish the draft and then send it off to my agent and editor to get their thoughts. My traditional publishing schedule often makes it tough to get feedback from critique partners or beta readers if I’m on a tight turnaround for a book.
Which draft typically gets shown to your editor? How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft? This varies by book, but I would say at an absolute minimum, I go through four drafts before I send a book to my editor. Sometimes the number is higher. Once I’m through with the first draft, I ALWAYS edit once on my computer, once on a printed draft, and once on an e-reader because changing formats always helps me to catch new things. Sometimes I’ll go through this process a few more times if I’m still catching things. My editor can see anywhere from my fourth to twelfth draft. When I get edits back, I typically like to go through each stage of edits (developmental, copy, and proofreading) three times to make sure I’ve caught everything.
Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did? I find a lot of writing solutions when I step away from my computer so I’ll often find that some of my best ideas come when I’m doing something else. For some reason, I seem to be super productive when washing my hair. 🙂 I think about my characters and story all the time when drafting and often letting the story live in my head a bit helps me to think outside the box and come up with a solution for whatever might be stumping me.
Would your ideal writing day consist of original drafting or revising? Why? That’s a great question! It definitely depends on my mood. I LOVE revising because there’s something rewarding about polishing your manuscript and whipping it into shape. At the same time, I love the magic of drafting and watching my story unfold and take me in unexpected directions.
How do you know you’ve got the final draft? I try to read through my manuscript as a reader would and flag anything that pulls me out of the story or doesn’t flow properly. When I can read through the manuscript without flagging anything and I’m happy with it, I consider it my final draft. From the first moment I sit down at my computer to the moment a reader has my book in their hands, I’ve typically gone through about fifteen drafts of the story.
Thank you, Chanel!
I’m happy to announce the winners of yesterday’s giveaways: The winner of the signed copy of Salina Yoon’s new book DUCK, DUCK, PORCUPINE! is Leah Leonard. The winner of the Free Partial Edit by the Editor is Vivian Kirkfield. I’ll send you emails, Leah and Vivian. Congrats!
Fifteen drafts sounds like a lot, but I’m sure I do that many too.. I’ve never actually counted.
Enjoyed your interview! I just wish I knew how you managed to finish so many manuscripts. You must write fast!
I love the advice of reviewing the manuscript on multiple formats to catch errors. Thanks!
So interesting! I’m impressed by the amount of work it takes to get a manuscript into tip-top shape!
I’m a pantser too and I spend SO much time living the world in the my head before it ever sees paper! Glad to hear I am not alone! Thanks DEAR EDITOR!
A very persistent approach to revisions. I was fascinated she doesn’t use a critique group.
Thanks for sharing your process. I love learning about how other writers work.
I’ll have to mention those 12 drafts when I do school visits (I don’t go through as many writing non-fiction)…kids think books are an instantaneous process!
Congratulations to yesterday’s winners and thank you Chanel and Deborah for another wonderful post! I love that you work so much out in your head before starting.
Chanel’s revision process is so thorough. I particularly liked the way she noticed she thinks things through while washing her hair when her mind can wander a bit.
Love the idea of reviewing a manuscript in multiple formats.
If I had any hair, I suppose washing it might give me an idea or two. Instead, I have to walk the dog for the Muse to visit.
Thanks for this great series, Dear Editor!
Ha! At least you get exercise your way.
I’m curious about how many of the featured authors don’t use critique groups. Did they ever? Does there come a point when critique groups aren’t as valuable during the process? (I see most of them use BETA readers post-draft.)
You know, I’ve never asked the “Did you ever?” part? I will do so in the future. I imagine the answers are varied and interesting.
The washing hair comment is interesting. I find that water helps me to think, too.
Walks tend to be my time for writing epiphanies.
Love the hair washing comment — and really find it interesting how many authors don’t have critique groups. Thanks for sharing! Very helpful for my first NA romantic thriller.
It’s great to hear the variety of methods that work, lets me know that maybe there is hope for my method at some point!
Like many people, I also get the best thinking while in the shower (though not specifically washing my hair…but maybe the scalp massage helps with thinking?). 😀 I have trouble reading my own ms like a reader would though. Are there any tips and tricks for stepping back far enough from one’s own story?
The distance you get from time away from a project is a commonly used tactic, of course. Chanel’s method of reading her mss on an e-reader as she would someone else’s ebook or printed-out is another. I like to print my work out at some point and go sit in my favorite reading spots. If it’s a picture book manuscript, it’s helpful to have others read it aloud to you as they would read it to their child. I did that with a friend of a friend in a coffee shop once: we happened to be at the coffee shop at the same time, were introduced by the mutual friend, then I made my request and handed her my ms. She got a huge kick out of doing it, and I got to hear the rhythm of what I’d written when some comes to it cold. Would love to know other tips, too.
I don’t write picture books, but by reading my own middle-grade book out loud, I find issues that don’t show themselves during a visual edit.
Bob, I thought about something similar the other day: that I’d read my stories aloud and record myself and then maybe I’ll catch off things when I listen to the recorded reading. 🙂 Glad your method works for you!
Deborah, thanks! I’ll see if I can rope someone into reading my stuff aloud to me (and get over my mortification at having my writing read aloud…LOL!).
I don’t find that it helps to read the story in a different format possibly because I know it so well, I can still predict what’s coming.
Different format as in paper vs MS Word vs Scrivener vs ereader. 🙂
It’s interesting how much of the writing process happens away from the computer/notebook for many writers. Like others, the shower works well for me and also long car rides!
Ooh, yes, the long car rides. That’ll spark my ideas, too.
I’m so persistent I will often sit at my desk doggedly trying to fix something, but it is true that when I take a break from the computer I often stumble upon a solution – thanks for reminding me!
I like the idea of listening to a PB ms from someone who has not seen the text, without feeling the need to stop and explain the story that is being told in the illustrations. I think this is where I’ve derailed the usefulness of this technique in the past. Thanks for the tips!
I think it’s important to establish with yourself and with the other person that you’re not doing this to share your book with them but rather for you to hear the text. If you both know that from the get-go, maybe the temptation to stop and explain will be less?
Often the best ideas do seem to come when I’m away from a computer, whether it’s in the shower, gardening or talking a walk.
It’s cool to see I’m not the only one who reads over and over. Some of us need more chances to get it right.
This is much closer to what I’m writing compared to the other authors this week. I just started working on my WIP this weekend after a 6 month hiatus. I can’t imagine having to come up with something so quickly. That’s definitely a particular skill set!
Oh good! I try to feature voices from a variety of categories and genres; it’s great to know that doing so has been particularly helpful to you.
I find it interesting that three authors this week have mentioned not using beta readers or critique partners. And then there are authors who have sold many books and always use them. Shows how varied the writing process is for everyone, just like outlining vs. being a panster. I’m curious what other writers will say about this.
Of course I know what they’re going to say but I won’t let the cat out of the bag. *wink* You might find it interesting to look at interviews in the Revision Week Archive and see where those authors landed on the “critique group – yes or no?” topic: https://www.deareditor.com/revision-week-archive/
Thanks for sharing!
I agree about reading the manuscript in different formats. Also reading aloud helps me. And my best ideas always come when I’m in the garden. Or turning compost. Anywhere but at a desk.
While you’re working with your hands. Interesting….
Hello from Greece! I just got it today about the Revision Week!Great interview Channel Cleeton, SUCH UNIQUE suggestions on characters and revising!
Great interview. It’s always fun to read about another author’s process.
Thank you for sharing about your process!
I appreciate getting an idea of how many drafts it typically takes you to get to the completed story. Thank you for giving us your time.
I also love revising. I thought I was just weird. Glad there are others like me!
We fly our Revision Freak Flag over here! 🙂