Eloisa and Diane’s Writing Habits (Not that those are the same)

I remember meeting Eloisa for the first time. It was in Chicago, I think, and I was just planning to start writing a Regency set historical. I was at the RWA National Conference and I was introduced to Eloisa whose first book, Potent Pleasures, was coming out in hardback. Needless to say, I was very impressed!

Eloisa, in addition to being a wonderful author of great books, is also very generous to other authors, sharing her expertise in all parts of the publishing process. I never met anyone who was so smart at the business side of writing. She is also a terrific speaker and very generous to New Jersey Romance Writers, of which I am a long distance member.

I’m thrilled that we Riskies have had the opportunity to sing the praises of Eloisa’s Pleasure for Pleasure and to have her visit with us!

And I am sure Eloisa’s work habits are a lot better than mine!

I generally allot myself four to five months to write a book. I come up with an idea, usually based on a character. My characters generally appear in a previous book, but when I write that book, I never know what their story will be. The next step in the process is to write a synopsis, because my editors want to approve the story before I write it. This means I have to at least figure out the main plot of the story and I have to dip into the research books enough to make sure I can fit the history in correctly. I also write them the first chapter, which is usually an easy chapter for me. I like to start out my books with something very exciting and that sort of scene is fun to write.

When I sit down to write the book, I never really know how I’m going to bring the book to the end. I usually know the hero and heroine fairly well, though – I could probably sit for hours and tell you incidents from their lives before the book starts, but I really have not figured out “what’s next.” I also have to think up secondary characters and subplots, otherwise it is going to be a short story, not a book!

I always write on a laptop, usually in my den on my couch, although I also might sit on the top of my bed, spreading research books around me. I try to start writing by 9 am and I pretty much continue until about 4. If I am very good, I will go to Curves at noon for a break. If I’m not worried about my deadline, I try to take weekends off.

I’m making myself sound very virtuous. I also check my email, play scrabbleblast, see what’s for sale on ebay…..there are a bunch of ways I can waste time when I should be writing. Blogging, the reading of it or the writing of it, is not a waste of time, however!

I research as I go along. I mostly research online (one favorite site www.answers.com), but I have a brazillion research books up in my “book room” a bedroom turned into a …book room, lined with bookshelves. My bookshelves have only cursory organization. Someday I’ll figure out how to arrange them so I can find things in an instant. Name a research book you like and I either own it or my fingers are tapping out abebooks.com and I’m going to buy it (right, Kalen???)

I have two lovely critique groups who read my stuff as I write and my favorite way of doing things is to take their suggestions and fix the chapters we’ve discussed before moving on to write a new chapter. This last book (I’m almost finished!!) I had to write in only 2 1/2 months so I tried something new. Just write and fix later. That works pretty well, actually. I may do things this way from now on. So I wrote the whole thing and then went back and revised that draft.

I am definitely not someone who plots out everything ahead of time, but I stopped worrying about that when Nora Roberts said she also does not plot ahead of time.

So with this book, I am finishing the revision of my first draft and should turn it in by Thursday. Make that will turn it in…

Ask me questions about what else you might want to know! And, those of you who are writers, tell us how you do it, too, this week.


About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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20 Responses to Eloisa and Diane’s Writing Habits (Not that those are the same)

  1. Cara King says:

    I had to write in only 2 1/2 months so I tried something new. Just write and fix later.

    So did you just not send bits of this to your critique group, Diane? Or did you work out some way to balance the critique group schedule and your new writing schedule?


  2. I actually meet, face to face, with each group, every other week, so I burdened them with however much I had completed in the two weeks.

    A few days before we meet (or the day before, sometimes) We email each other the work we want to have critiqued. Then we each print it out and bring our critiqued copy to the meeting. There are only four of us in each group.


  3. Lois says:

    It sounds like you did a really good job at explaining your habits, so I haven’t a clue on any questions to ask. LOL But from my writing experience with school papers, I could never plan or plot it out, even back in high school on the first year we wrote big term papers — we had to show the cards and outlines and whatever else there was. It was part of the grade, so sure I had them, but don’t think that most of that stuff actually made it into the papers. LOL I’m sure once I get back to school and move on to my next college that I will face a paper that I really need to do it, but admittedly, I like it when I hear (well, read since it’s the internet) an author doesn’t plot it out before. . . it sounds so nice to my ears. LOL πŸ™‚


  4. I always hated the index cards in high school, too, Lois. My brain just didn’t work that way. I still can’t wrap my mind around concepts like “scene and sequel.” I understand them. I just can’t analyze my writing using them.

    I’m also very linear. I start from the beginning and go to the end. I could never write the last scene before all the others. Just couldn’t do it!

  5. Judy T says:

    I’m even more curious now to read the story. I can’t help but wonder if there will be any style differences. You’ve said that you like it better, but have you noticed a difference yourself?

    I hated the index cards too, until my second round at college, when I had a linguistics teacher, whom the librarians dubbed the toughest teacher in the school. He required every detail, but was willing to work with students every step of the way if you asked. I did. I learned a lot in his class about writing.

  6. Judy, I have no objectivity when I’m writing the book. I have to wait for readers like you to tell me if I’ve succeeded. Even my crit partners can’t tell, because they rarely see the finished product (having read it in its raw state).

    So I will be curious to see if you like it. Funny, whatever book I’m working on at the moment is the one I love/hate the most!

    I admire people who can plot ahead of time. I think it is a very worthy skill, but, so far, it has not worked for me. I’ve taken Carolyn Greene’s Plotting course and bought her workbook (Prescription for Plotting) and I think it is a treasure, although I don’t quite use it much. I think most of that process just happens in my head.

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  8. Mina says:

    I hope you don’t mind, but may I ask a few questions? I am writing my very first story – a Regency of course! – and hope that one day I’ll be published. Though, I expect it will be my second or third or fourth that gets sold first :).

    How do you find a good critique group? What qualities should I bring to a critique group/how can I be a good critique partner?

    Also, do you know of any books or websites that can help me get a start on learning how to rewrite? I just finished my first draft and am clueless as to where to go from there!

    Thank you so much for any advice and for sharing how you work!

  9. Mina,
    I have been very lucky with my critique groups, but they both have happened by accident. One started after I took a creative writing course at my local community college. I met my friend Julie Halperson in the course and we and a few others wanted to keep writing. Julie and I are still together but the others fell away. We added two friends from where my husband works (the Library of Congress). The other group came about after I joined Washington Romance Writers. I went through two other groups before joining this one.

    My advice for a critique group is to join your local Romance Writers of America chapter and become active in the group. I’ve also known people to get critique partners in specialty chapters, like the Beau Monde (which also has a mentor program–or used to..I’m not sure now.)

    Congratulations on your first draft! You have accomplished more than most writers accomplish! For revisions, I’d suggest reading Goal Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon (you can find out a lot on this subject online) to make sure you have the best characterization.

    I’d also suggest you look at information about the Three Act Structure (just google those words and read) to be sure you have the right turning points and a black moment (when everything seems to be lost)and the ending.

    When you go through your manuscript, look for too much passive voice (“A shout was heard” vs “He shouted”), for repeated words –I used the word “shrugged” a brazilian times in one manuscript. See how many “he said” and “she said” you can get rid of by pairing the dialogue with an action,( eg Her eyes widened. “You don’t mean it.”); try to get rid of words like “got” “get” (ha, I just used that one) “just” (there I go again.

    Try googling “revisions romance writing” and see what you get. Romance writers write a lot about the process of writing. Everything I know about writing I learned through RWA.

    Hope that helps a little!

  10. Todd says:

    Diane, you sound so…so…organized. πŸ™‚ I generally get things done at the last minute. Or occasionally the minute after that. I sometimes try to lie to myself about when the last minute is, but it doesn’t work. The only thing that saves me is that I do seem to be able to take into account all the other things I have to do in calculating when the last minute is; but I can’t remember I time when I finished everything up and wondered what to do next.


  11. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful insights into your writing habbits Diane. I had always wondered about those things.

    I think the Library of Congress has such an elegant building and alot of history! Must be a wonderful place for someone to work at.

    Also, I read that you went to Regency Dances, and wore Regency outfits, will you be putting up any pictures of those things here on Risky Regencies? (being curious)

    Someone who’s always curious, Mallory πŸ™‚

  12. Anonymous says:

    Diane, thanks so much for the advice and encouragement!! I will absolutely take your advice. πŸ™‚

  13. Todd,
    What can I say?
    Nothing because I’m ROTFL! organized? Moi?

    I could post some photo of Amanda’s and my “Bath” night. Next Monday. Hope I don’t forget..Nudge me if I do.

    You are very welcome! The other Riskies are going to talk about their writing habits, so stay tuned and ask them the same question!


  14. Anonymous says:

    A huge THANK YOU!! to the Riskies for blogging about your writing habits.

    I try to start writing by 9 am and I pretty much continue until about 4. If I am very good, I will go to Curves at noon for a break.

    You are amazingly organized! I like how you break your day up by working out at noon. Do you find yourself working out more because it is in the middle of the day instead of in the morning (when you’re half asleep) or in the evening (when you’re dying to fall asleep)?

    Just write and fix later. That works pretty well, actually.

    I’m hearing this so much as I ask this question of various writers. Given that I find myself endlessly “finessing” that one perfect sentence or graf or chapter, I know this is going to be a huge struggle for me to change. But it seems to be the right approach to take.

    Please do tell your husband that I envy him his job at the Library of Congress. Ooh! Just, ooh!

    Thanks for the advice, Diane!

  15. Oh, Keira, I make myself sound wonderful, but I haven’t been to Curves in two months because of this book. Three months, maybe. But I want to start back next week. I’m turning this book in Thursday!!

    My husband’s job is not as glamorous as it sounds. He’s in their computer dept which is in the basement of the Madison building. Still, it is the Library of Congress….


  16. Anonymous says:

    Diane, hope you were able to accomplish your goal to send your m.s. in before the end of the week. How are you celebrating this weekend?

  17. Yep, Keira,
    I finished Thursday morning. Last minute!
    And today I went to my all day lecture at the Smithsonian about Jane Austen’s World. It was a great respite.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Hooray!!! Many congratulations on finishing your book, and from all accounts it looks like the treat was lovely!

    Do you start on a new project soon?

  19. Keira,
    I have to get a new proposal out to Mills & Boon asap, and I’m still waiting to hear what they want about Warner book #3

  20. Anonymous says:

    Mills & Boon certainly run a really tight ship. An m.s. just submitted and a new proposal already due yesterday. All the best on the synopsis.

    Other than Georgette Heyers, MBs (as I used to call them) were among my first romance novels. I still have some really old yellowing copies.

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