Writing and the magic of hard work

Magic Book BackgroundI’m often asked how I come up with my story ideas and what my writing process is. Honestly, I don’t know. It’s a mystery to me.

I’ve written 24 erotic romances now, and while a few knit together effortlessly, most of them felt like work. I stare out the window over my desk and think, “what happens next,” “what should he/she do/say now,” and hardest of all, “how do I convey that?” Since I’m a “pantser,” I do my plotting on the fly while I’m at the keyboard.

When I get hung up, I leave my computer and go for a walk. That usually breaks the ideas loose. I try not to stall out on individual words or phrases during the first draft. My goal is to get the story out. But I probably delete as much as I type, writing a sentence, no, that’s not right, then backspacing over it.

Like my cat who will suddenly sprint around the room, I get bursts of inspiration and speed, but it burns out and then I plod along at 500 words per hour, 750 if I’m truckin’.

But out of labor and toil, magic happens.

At some point, especially if there has been time between writing and editing, when I read the completed story, I am amazed by my own creation, by characters who seem as real as people I know, snippets of dialogue, bits of humor, clever scenarios I never dreamed I could have thought of. There is a point in every story where I sit back and say, “Damn, this is good! How did I do that?”

♥ ♥ ♥

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14 Responses to Writing and the magic of hard work

  1. LOL! I love that last part! I’m a pantser too and I have tried to become a plotter, but it’s a no go for me so I understand what you’re saying and how you have no idea how it all kind of happens. I think we have similar processes and agree most of it is hard work. I love being a writer and there’s no other job I’d choose over it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not work. Hard work. But when you read the story once it’s been revised and finalized, it is sometimes a ‘wow’ moment. I just hope I can repeat those moments!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      It’s weird, isn’t it? To be amazed by one’s own creation?

      That’s what was so cool about doing the audio book of Stranded with the Cyborg. My reaction to listening to it was, “This is real! Wow!”

  2. Lisa Medley says:

    It IS weires and magical, almost an out-of-body experience sometimes. Man those slow days are soul-crushing, but the good days are amazing.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      When you hit that inspiration, it’s like flying. The slow days are like a quagmire. You wonder if you’ll get out of it. But you do, and then you see magic.

  3. Rollin Hand says:

    That sounds about right. I think the main thing is to get the story down and worry about wordcrafting later. Commit the sequence to paper, sort of like a Reader’s Digest condensed version then go back and flesh it out. If you’ve figured out A, B, and C, then you can insert D and E if they make sense. I’m not a total pantser. When I start I have two things, a sense of a rough plot outline, especially the end — how the whole thing resolves and I know who my main characters are. Then everything is designed to converge on that end one way or another. Then it’s easy to add detours and side trips.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Yeah, when I start, I know the first 2-3 opening chapters, who the main characters are, and usually how it ends. I know the final destination, the uncertain part is how to get there. Part of the reason I don’t plot it beforehand is because it feels forced and unnatural. I have this sense that the plot points that come to me in the shower, when I’m driving, when I’m out walking, that wake me up at 3 a.m., are better than what I would come up with by “hard-plotting” in advance.

  4. Kimberley Hellmers says:

    Thank you for this! I’m always keeping an eye out for writers who explain what they go through when they work. As a reader it’s great to think it’s all magical, but as a maybe/someday/possible writer, I keep getting all kinds of advice about outlining and plotting and pre-structuring? I don’t even know what that means! I tend to just purge. It’s in my head, and needs to get out. I imagine I’m not alone when I say how great it is that you share this kind of stuff with everyone. Thank you again.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      You’re welcome! Once a story gets started, and the characters start to develop, they help me plot–they tell me what needs to happen. That doesn’t occur if I “cold plot” before writing. My books are written by committee, co-authored by myself and my hero and heroine.

  5. Excellent! I agree. When I try to plot, it feels forced. If someone asks me for a synopsis, I have to tell them to wait until the book is done if they want more than the very basics.

    The other challenge, I’m finding, is that after so many books, am I repeating myself?

    Sometimes the parts that actually slow me down are the sex and spanking scenes. I know it’s time for one or both, but I’m not sure how it’s going to happen…the choreography. So then I just type “Insert Sex/spanking Scene here” and use a giant font so I don’t forget.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      The sex and spanking scenes take me longer to write too. I worry about repeating myself there. How many ways can you describe a spanking?

      And sex scenes? “Anybody” can write a sex scene. But write 3 or 4 per book multiplied by 24 books? I’ll bet I’ve written more than 75 sex scenes.

  6. renee rose says:

    Im a pantser but I’m trying out the plotting thing next time. Who knows? Maybe it will be easier. .. love when magic happens!

  7. Laurel Lasky says:

    My reading goal at goodreads was 75, just counting reviews it is 169.
    I am a panster. I get an idea and then am stuck after about 8 pages so I leave it until I get another idea. I am not great with writing sex scenes or spanking scenes. When I wrote with Maggie Ryan I would send her pages some had a blank space so I would say insert sex here or spanking here, yada, yada, yada.
    I have some great ideas but putting it together is harder. Maggie was awesome and able to fill in the blanks. I must say it was fun.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      That’s something I’ve never done — co-written a book. I think it would be a big challenge.

      Not all ideas are ready to be made into books. They need a certain maturity before they can support a story, and that’s one of the pitfalls of pantsing. You can start writing too soon.

      I’ve never not finished writing a book I started — but I do have dozens (?) of story ideas scribbled on paper that I’ll probably never write.

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