My Writing Process Blog Relay

Posted at Jun 2, 2014 4:08 am

I’m continuing the internet phenomenon of the My Writing Process Blog Relay. The lovely Leslie Lynch, my 2013 Golden Heart® sister, tagged me last week. You can check out her writing process here. I’m excited to report her first book, HIJACKED, comes out TODAY!! WHEEEEE!!!! I know I’ll be hitting the buy button on this Golden Heart® finalist manuscript. Thanks for the tag, Leslie!

So here goes – WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

Revisions! I sold my 2013 Golden Heart® manuscript SOUTHERN COMFORTS to Harlequin SuperRomance. I got the call April 30th and received my revision letter on May 8th. There were 177 comments from my editor.

I’ve been focused on ripping apart and adding scenes. And am just about ready to hit send on this set of edits. I had two revise and resubmit letters from Megan Long, my editor, before they took a chance and bought the book. (I still get a little zing every time I say my editor) Silly me—I thought the next set of revisions would be lighter. But writing isn’t for the weak. My publication date is December 2014. I’m so thrilled and grateful Megan Long took a chance on this book and for Laura Bradford, agent extraordinaire, for representing me!

I’ve also been working through revisions on my 2014 Golden Heart® finalist manuscript POETIC JUSTICE with my critique group. It is a finalist in the Short Contemporary category and is Romantic Suspense. Once I send the revisions for SOUTHERN COMFORTS off, I have to dive back in and finish those revisions.


Wow – this is a hard question. I write families. Either groups that eventually find and form families or actual families. SOUTHERN COMFORTS is set in a Savannah Bed and Breakfast run by three sisters. Although much of contemporary romance is set in small towns, I tend to set mine in cities like Savannah or Minneapolis, although I have started a series that I set in a ski resort in Montana. It’s actually fun creating a town and if Touch the Sky Montana reminds you a little of Big Sky, its’ because my parents had a condo on the mountain.
I do tend to write too much business in my manuscripts. It is what is familiar. I was a VP of Finance for a pharmaceutical company and also a CFO of medical group. In the current revisions I’m pulling back on tons of the business bits I had included.


I didn’t know the first hot mess novel that I wrote was a romance. It now lies gathering dust bunnies under the bed (or sitting on diskettes if you remember those). But once I joined my local RWA chapter, I figured out I was writing romance. (Even when I joined, I thought I was joining a Fiction Writers group. I was clueless!) I don’t think I’d ever read a true romance, but the books I loved usually included a relationship with a happily ever after. Now I devour romance books, because I finally embraced reading my genre. Love it! What’s more powerful than love overcoming all odds and healing the emotionally wounded?


I usually have an idea—a what if idea. What if four sisters were struggling to turn their family mansion in Savannah into a B&B? (My sisters and I were visiting Savannah on a sister weekend.) What if a woman was helping a sister by shuttling poets to a conference and was kidnapped. (I was doing just that when I came up with the premise for POETIC JUSTICE) What if three men find out they are almost triplets, but they were born of three different mothers? (THE PERFECT CHILDREN was inspired by a BBC radio story on genetic modification when I was driving home from dropping my daughter off at college.)

I used to be a dedicated pantster. But as I learned more craft, I began to document more of the plots before I began the first draft. Initially, I used a Big Beautiful Worksheet from an online class by Laurie Schnebly Campbell called Plotting Via Motivation. For the last several books I’ve revised and drafted, I’ve begun using Blake Snyder’s Beats. I may not be 100% true to every beat, but my books now have more form in the first draft.

When I begin a book. I complete a GMC for each character. I also create a background document that contains their physical attributes. I give them a birthday and use Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs to get character traits that fit with their GMC. In my background document I keep character names, locations, key information, hyperlinks on research I’ve done, and any other information that I want to be able to access without searching my manuscript. I keep both documents open when I am drafting or revising.
I also log in and out of a spreadsheet as I work. And because it’s data, I might even make a graph or two. Here’s one I made while working on revisions. I may not be a financial executive anymore, but I still love numbers and charts.

I also set goals, another residual activity from my business background. I love to check off completed activities on my To Do lists.

There are a number of groups that keep me going. I’ve been lucky enough to final in the Golden Heart® five times. I’m a proud member of the Unsinkables, The Startcatchers, The Lucky 13s and this year’s class—The Dreamweavers. The women in these groups are inspiring, resilient, fabulous cheerleaders and wonderful consolers. I’m also very active in Midwest Fiction Writers and somewhat active in WIsRWA . But I learned how to write in my fabulous critique group which currently consists of Ann Hinnenkamp, Kathryn Kohorst, Leanne Farrell and Neroli Lacey.


I’m tagging the fabulous Kay Hudson a three time Golden Heart® Finalist. We’ve been Starcatchers and Lucky 13s together. I’m also tagging Ellen Lindseth. Ellen’s a chaptermate at MFW and a 2014 Golden Heart® finalist with her WWII historical novel. So happy to be on this wicked fun ride with her this year.
Be sure to visit them next week on June 9th.

Thanks again, Leslie, for tagging me!



32 responses to “My Writing Process Blog Relay”

  1. Nan, your capacity for merging creativity with graphs boggles my mind! Not many people can do both, never mind do them well!

    I’ve enjoyed reading about your journey and your process. Isn’t it funny how many great ideas come to us as we’re driving (or flying, in my case)?!

    Wishing you the very best future and great success in your authorial career!

  2. Nan Dixon says:

    Thanks Leslie! And thanks for tagging me. (Should you be thinking about anything other than keeping the plane in the air while flying???)
    Congratulations on your debut book! So, so excited for you!!

  3. Amy says:

    How did I know this would include spreadsheets? 🙂 Loved reading about your process. I’m also a Blake Snyder beat sheet fan and I do Michael Hague’s inner and outer journey worksheets for my characters, too, before I begin. So happy for you on your book deal and can’t wait for its release!!

  4. Nan Dixon says:

    Tee hee – what would the world be without graphs?
    It took me 3 workshops – but I think I finally understand Hauge’s Identity to Essence. When I started this writing gig – I didn’t realize that it would be soooo much work!
    Can’t wait to see you in San Antonio!

  5. Sandra Owens says:

    LOL, Amy’s right, knew spreadsheets would be involved, Nan. I’m a panster who is trying to learn to do some plotting.I just discovered the beat sheet and plan to use it with my next book. The birthday and sun signs is a great idea, and I’m going to steal if, if that’s okay. 🙂

    See you in San Antonio!

    • Nan Dixon says:

      Of course there were spreadsheets – how else does the world revovle!

      Go ahead and steal away the sun signs. It was from a Cherry Adair workshop! You can even get character wounds out of the book.

  6. Kay Hudson says:

    OMG, Nan, you’re so organized! I’m afraid I’m over on the chaotic end of the scale. That’s what’s so interesting about this blog tour. And I’m so looking forward to reading the rest of Southern Comforts!

    • Nan Dixon says:

      I forgot — you read the 1st 50+ pages. I think they have been revised beyond recognition by now.
      Can’t wait to see your chaos theory on writing for next week!

  7. Sharon Wray says:

    You have to be the most organized woman I know. And I knew there’d be spreadsheets involved. I am so happy you sold and I cannot wait to read you book. Your story gives hope to all of us multi-GH finalists out there!

  8. Nan Dixon says:

    Thanks Sharon – I wish I had your process! So much layering! You will sell and soon. Romantic Suspense will cycle back and there you will be — with all you’re fabulous complexly plotted books!

  9. aej2011 says:

    Nan –

    My wonderful friend! Have I told you how happy I am that you got the CALL! So amazing and about time. I love reading about your process and even though it has already been mentioned (a time or two) I laughed out loud when I saw your chart in this blog! Show off…

    • Nan Dixon says:

      You are so kind!! I have just sent the revisions off. No need to slap me! (See I kept it clean for the blog).

      Final Pass Pages %
      6/1/2014 230 70.8%
      6/2/2014 325 100.0%

      A little spreadsheet action — just for you!!

      Where are the bars at RWA??

  10. Pintip says:

    Ha ha, Nan. I love your spreadsheets and your super organized methods! Congrats on getting those revisions off! Looking forward to reading your books — they all sound amazing!

    • Nan Dixon says:

      Thanks Pintip!

      Now I have to catch up on everything I dropped to work on revisions.

      Sure wish you were going to be in SA! If you could just deliver a little early ….

  11. Gail Hart says:

    Nan – Megacongrats on selling one of your Lucky 13 books!

    I too use “Laurie’s Big Fabulous Worksheet,” as well as the worksheets from the follow-up class to Plotting Via Motivation, From Plot to Finish.


  12. It’s hard to ever imagine you as a pantster, Nan! You are so organized. You even have graphs, gasp! 🙂 Love the Savannah and Montana settings – looking forward to reading your books soon!

    • Nan Dixon says:

      Oh Jacqui — I was a dedicated Pantser – would think up the next scene on my commute! Well Hopefully my editor will like the revisions and I will still get to publish Dec!

  13. Wow, Nan, you’re so organised! Can you please come over and sort out my hot messes?

    Looking forward to your Savannah story — that’s where I got married!

  14. Jodie Esch says:

    Wow! I’m impressed with your attention to detail and your incredible focus. I use Michael Hague’s tips and Blake Snyder’s beats. I turned a lot of Blake’s tips into a giant poster that I stick to my closet door.
    Congratulations on your success.

    • Nan Dixon says:

      Thanks Jodie! – I like the idea of the giant poster – I wonder if it would get lost in the paper explosion that is my office!
      Interesting that some of the best fiction teachers are really screenwriters, isn’t?

      Thanks for stopping by.

  15. Thanks for describing your process, Nan. I learned a few craft things here and I love learning about new craft stuff!! I don’t think I like Excel enough to go with the charts though….

  16. Anonymous says:

    Great article, Nan! Thanks for sharing your process. Love that graph.


  17. Anonymous says:

    PS Also love the amt of editing you’re getting. Two revise and resubmits plus a 177-comment revisions request? That sounds fantastic.


  18. Lark Howard says:

    Nan, I love your organizational structure. As COO, CFO, CEO (depending on who the Big Guy is talking to) of a financial services firm, I love tracking details on spreadsheets, too, although I’m not quite as adept as you are on the follow-up. You’re an inspiration! Looking forward to seeing you in SA.

  19. Hi Nan! Congrats on your upcoming Superromance! Can’t wait for it! Funny, as I’m reading how authors talk about their process, how many of us began as punsters and as we learned more, got some structure. Love your bar graph–it’s awesome!

    • Nan Dixon says:

      Thanks for stopping by Miranda – I guess that’s why there are so many craft classes – sigh … although I learned a ton about story structure when I first joined my critique group.

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