Cara’s Writing Process (With Interpolations)

First, the idea: if I’m going to write a novel (or even a short story), something about the idea has to really grab me. It can grab me in an odd way — or an obvious way — it can be a character or setting or twist or something I can’t even name, but something about the idea has to make me excited.

Then I work it over for a while. I pound at it, and try to work out a basic plot. What if this? What if that? But wouldn’t that then…? I may end up with most of the plot, or I may not — some of my novels are more intuitive than others. Sometimes I don’t have much plot beyond the opening, and I go from there. (Though sometimes I think that, for me, that’s always an error. But I’ve done it. Who knows… Jury’s still out.)

Then I write. To write, I need Earl Grey Tea, hot, with milk. And it helps to have gingerlily perfume. Then I sit at my computer and write. (And it helps just a bit to have the book written by someone else.)

Excuse me? Oh, is that you, Bertie? Where’d you come from? (And why don’t you go back there?)

Of course it is I. No one else could blog with such exquisite grace. As to where I am from, you know that perfectly well — London, two centuries ago. As to why I repeatedly fail to return — it is merely because whatever time-travel mechanism brought me here seems to have vanished.

As to why I am here now — I had the overwhelming feeling that the Risky Regency Readers were sadly missing my presence. That, coupled with the blatant falsehoods you were telling, drew me here.

Falsehoods? What falsehoods?

You forgot to mention all that moaning and groaning and complaining about how little you write, and how much you should write.

They don’t need to know that!

Too late!

Ahem. One thing I have found that is useful, is my Alphasmart. I sit on the balcony in nice weather and write. No email to distract me, no YouTube, no solitaire. No temptation to revise when I should be drafting.

On a good day (no comments needed, Bertie!) I can write about ten pages. I try to draft fast, and then do all the editing and revision later.

No comments needed? I am always needful. Or if I’m not needful, I’m at least decorative, which is much more important.

If I need to do research, I generally do that before I even begin drafting — at least, the major things. If I come across things I need in the progress of drafting, I know I really should make a note and do the research later, but I usually just do it then. (I’m always afraid it will seriously change the plot!)

Oh, come now! How much was the colour of the upholstery in the Theatre Royal Covent Garden going to change the plot of My Lady Gamester? Not one whit, and you know it. And yet you stopped everything to find out.

Have you been spying on me, Bertie?

Now that you’ve limited my TeleVision time, there’s nothing better for me to do.

I do beg your pardon, readers of the blog! My post today seems to have been hijacked by an exquisitely elegant egomaniac, and I can tell I’m not going to get any more serious work done today.

Oh, yes, and that will be such a change for you.

Hey! That’s it — no pie for you. And no James Bond!

Pardon me, ladies and gentlemen. I need to go reason with my landlady. She’s gone off in a huff, and I really do want to find out just how elegant this new Bond is. And I need my pie.

Good day!

Exquisitely yours,

Bertram St. James, Exquisite

Signing my post? The cheek!

Cara
Cara King — www.caraking.com
My Lady Gamester — the name is James, Atalanta James

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Cara’s Writing Process (With Interpolations)

  1. Lois says:

    I”ve been wondering where he was!! Hi Bernie! ๐Ÿ™‚ And yeah, I want to check out the new Bond too, but alas, will have to wait for DVD.

    And distractions. . . yep, I remember a bit of those once we got the internet at home and I had to do stuff on the computer. It’s so easy for a couple second break to check the news or email to turn into a half an hour or so.

    And back in high school, my ex-friend and I also drank a lot of earl grey tea. And for one reason only. But well, we never did stand in front of the microwave talking to it. . . . though I’m sure we were tempted. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Lois

  2. First, Cara, I thought you said you liked Earl Grey hot. (I was a bit shocked)

    Second, I just have to say that I am pleased Bertie is at your house. I would be very annoyed to have him looking over my shoulder—and snitching on me.

    Cheers!
    Diane

  3. Cara:

    Your process sounds a lot like mine, only I think I might drink more diet Coke than you do.

    I’ve missed Bertie, too!

    And I really want to see the new hot Bond. Like Lois, I might have to wait for the DVD. Wah.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The Incomparable Bertie is back! I’m delighted to read your reports from Regency London, snarky though they may be to poor Cara.

    Pssst. A word of advice: Humble Pie might be all you’re going to get, unless an apology is forthcoming.

    Cara, what does the gingerlily perfume and tea prepared in a particular way do for writing? Does it set the mood? The tone? Allow you to block out distractions?

    I try to draft fast, and then do all the editing and revision later.

    Ah! There it is again. Draft first, edit later. This next project is going to be soooo hard!

    Why don’t I join a gym while I’m at it, then I can get beaten mentally and physically? Hm.

    I love the Alphasmart. I have a Neo, and I do write faster on it. But, but, but… Who says you can’t edit on a 4-line screen?

    the name is James, Atalanta James

    I take it blue-eyed Daniel Craig is your newest hottie.

    Thanks a bunch, Cara!

  5. Keira,
    If polishing as you go works for you now, then do it that way. If it keeps you from ever finishing the book, though, try something different.

    I did my first books that sold to Mills & Boon and Warner that way, by polishing and changing and revising as I went along. It is just slower for me.

    Diane

  6. Judy T says:

    LOL!! Now I’m curious, is Bertie your muse or simply amusing? What an introduction for me! And fun! It’s interesting learning about the different writing processes.

  7. Elena Greene says:

    Hi, Bertie. We’ve missed you! But was it that special Christmas Pie you were hoping for? Perhaps Cara has just left to buy the ingredients. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Cara King says:

    Cara, what does the gingerlily perfume and tea prepared in a particular way do for writing?

    Well, Keira, I first got the basic idea in college when some friends and I went to a “how to study better” seminar. I was at a very intense math/science/engineering college, and it was very much sink or swim — and a good many always sank. Anyway, one thing the speaker said was that if you always wear certain clothes or have certain scents about you while studying, it will help put you in the right mind-frame. (That is, putting on that hat or perfume or whatever will clue in your brain what mode to get into.)

    So, when I started writing, I kept that in mind. I used to have a hat too, when I wrote, and wear lots of bracelets, but somehow that fell by the wayside. I’m a tea drinker, and a long time ago now I just ended up making earl grey my serious writing tea — I’m not allowed to have it unless I’m writing. So it does really sort of excite a certain part of my brain! (Not that it always works… But it does help.)

    The perfume is similar… This particular perfume (and I suppose I shouldn’t call it perfume because it’s one of those cheapo things) I guess I find sort of stimulating. It’s in one of those faux-aromatherapy lines, and it’s supposed to promote “positivity”, but really, I guess I just sort of find it stimulating. In fact, when I ran out, I could find any more, and sort of panicked till I found someplace online that sold it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Basically, I think both the earl grey and the perfume help get my head in the right place, and give me a little energy boost. A little bit of excitement.

    Okay, sorry, way more than you wanted to know! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Ah! There it is again. Draft first, edit later. This next project is going to be soooo hard!

    Well, I think the only hard and fast rule in writing is that whatever works for YOU is good. So if, as Diane says, you write differently, and are happy with that, then stick with it!

    Then again, there are many of us (including myself) who were very happy to discover the draft-first-while-not-editing mantra, because it really helps a lot of writers. (Not all, of course.) Those of us it works for, I think, tend to have two different parts of the brain, the drafting and editing parts. So if we edit and draft in quick succession, we end up writing way too slow — because every word that comes out gets an automatic “is that the best word? Isn’t there a better one?” which slows the flow… Sort of like trying to tell a friend about something exciting that happened to you on a cell phone that keeps dropping out, and you have to keep going back and repeating yourself… You quickly lose your rhythm, and your enthusiasm.

    Plus, it does seem a waste to get every word perfect, only to realize at the end of the novel you need to chuck out chapter 3 entirely — what a waste of polished prose!

    Anyway, that’s how it is for me. But tons of writers do revise as they go along, and it works great for them. I think the hardest part of writing is discovering just what works for you. (I’m still working on parts of this!)

    I love the Alphasmart. I have a Neo, and I do write faster on it. But, but, but… Who says you can’t edit on a 4-line screen?

    I guess that’s the one place the Alpha has an advantage over the Neo! (For me, anyway!)

    I take it blue-eyed Daniel Craig is your newest hottie.

    Oh, not so much…just keeping with the theme of the post! ๐Ÿ™‚ (Actually, don’t tell Todd this, but my newest crush is Peter Petrelli on the TV show “Heroes.” Love the hair.) ๐Ÿ™‚

    Cara

  9. Pssst. A word of advice: Humble Pie might be all you’re going to get, unless an apology is forthcoming.

    Apologize for honesty, Milady Soleore? Oh, what a sad, sad world we live in.

    Oh, very well. I am ever so sorry I was honest. May I have some pie now?

    Now I’m curious, is Bertie your muse or simply amusing?

    A muse? Oh, what a lovely thought, Milady Judy T! But I fear that I inspire utter delight at my manly beauty, impeccable taste, and insuperable elegance, more often than I inspire perfect prose.

    Hi, Bertie. We’ve missed you!

    As I have missed you, Madame Greene. Ever so much.

    But was it that special Christmas Pie you were hoping for?

    Oh, dear me, no. No, no, no. Could one possibly call that monstrosity elegant? Fashionable? Delicate? A thousand times no. A brazillion times no!

    No, there is some mincemeat pie downstairs in the ReefrijerAteR (or however it’s spelled). And though I do adore ever so many of the foods I have encountered here and now, I do confess this mincemeat pie brings me back to my childhood. That is, the good bits of my childhood. The bits which involved cinnamon, and mace, and ginger.

    Bertie the Beau (beautiful as ever)

  10. Todd says:

    Cara wrote:

    (Actually, don’t tell Todd this, but my newest crush is Peter Petrelli on the TV show “Heroes.” Love the hair.) ๐Ÿ™‚

    Aha! I knew it!

    Well, actually, I did know it. Bertie told me.

    I was planning to wear my hair that way, too, but I kept crashing into things.

    Todd-who-believes-honesty-is-the-best-policy

  11. Todd says:

    And actually, I like the new Bond reasonably well. (But in a manly way, you know.) Closer to the books…less of a superhero…unlike Peter Petrelli, I guess…not that I’m jealous, or anything! In fact, I don’t even care. And anyway, I think that Nicky character is hot. Or maybe her evil twin. So there.

    Todd-who-is-slightly-shaken-but-not-a-bit-stirred

  12. Anonymous says:

    If polishing as you go works for you now, then do it that way. If it keeps you from ever finishing the book, though, try something different.

    Diane and Cara, that was the problem I had with my last project. The last 20 percent was excruciating and boring and I’d become tired of the story. So, I’m thinking that if I can the story down as quickly as possible, then I might be able to fix the problems later,, but at least the bare bones of the story will be there. I’d like to try this method out to see if it works better.

    Basically, I think both the earl grey and the perfume help get my head in the right place, and give me a little energy boost. A little bit of excitement.

    Cara, I really like the idea of perfume and other rituals to help put you in the writing zone (or should I say zen?).

    Todd-who-is-slightly-shaken-but-not-a-bit-stirred

    You are absolutely hilarious!

Comments are closed.