Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Writing Tip Tuesdays: Embrace Your Process by Cara Bertrand

Welcome back for another round of Writing Tip Tuesdays! I'm very please to welcome one of my oldest "blog friends" (hers was one of the first blogs I ever followed) and a super talented young adult author, Cara Bertrand!

Cara told me that she hopes the following post is helpful to at least one reader. Well, mission accomplished because I found it super helpful. I'm sure you will too 


I have a confession: sometimes I suffer from writer envy. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true. I do. See, when it comes to writing, cooking, and just about anything at all, I am a complete and utter pantser. Planning and I just seem to be on different wave lengths. I prefer to dive in and do something, even if I know it might be faster or less messy if I did some advance prep.

But you know what? I wish I was a plotter.

I’ve tried to become one. I’ve read eagerly and, sometimes, with envy all the blog posts and tweets and anecdotes and how-tos that I stumble across from those curious creatures who plan everything out. They talk about their glorious daily word counts and I imagine how, if only I could implement their process, I too could write like the wind.

Yet despite all my wishing and reading and trying, I still haven’t attained that magic. Four complete novels later and I’m still (mostly) a pantser, the turtle to the hare. And I’m (slowly) learning to be (mostly) okay with that. To accept my process and appreciate others. We can’t be any other writer but ourselves. Believe me, I’ve tried. But it doesn’t mean we can’t improve. Instead of trying to become a different writer, I now try to become better at the way I write.

And even a pantser can benefit from some kind of directions. Blank page? Okay. Blank brain? Oh no. So try this trick I gleaned from Rachel Aaron:

Before you begin your writing session, set yourself a timer for five minutes, pick up a pen, and wake up your brain by jotting down notes—a basic plan, a list of what’s about to happen, bits of inspiration, dialogue ideas—for what you’re about to write.

Here’s an example of my brainstorm when I was sitting down to write the main character’s first boxing match:

-In the training room
-nerves more than first flight test
-Ivan not 2nd à opponent
-wanted to ask Willa à afraid /Shell volunteered /went with Quinn
-Kell’s first reffing (W asked not to) / “looked as nervous as me”
-masked, shorted, gloved / “bizarre Zorro”
-first tap “didn’t hear the silence”
-circle, circle, circle à practice  patience, better endurance
-See W in crowd?
-didn’t hear the crowd for ears ringing
-advice from Q “maybe throw a punch”

Just five minutes (more if you want, but not less!) with the pen and paper can do amazing things for your focus and, ergo, your word count when you finally put your fingers to the keys! Even I can manage to plan for five little minutes. I still don’t write like the wind, but this trick has helped me increase my gentle breeze to a moderate one with occasional strong gusts. I’ll take it!


Isn't that great advice? A big thanks to Cara for sharing.

Please plan on stopping by next week when I will host the red-head herself, none other than the unconquerable, uncomparable, unstoppable Morgan Shamy!


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you for the great post!

    2. Thanks for this blog, Cara and Adam. I once got an opportunity to chat with Margaret Edson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit (or W;t), and I asked her about her process. She said she does something very similar to you, Ms. Bertrand. She sets a timer, writes for 30 minutes, and then she deletes everything she's just written. This is her warm-up for the rest of that day's writing. She believes if what she's just deleted was good, it will return to her, and she found that it often returned stronger and leaner.

    3. What an opportunity! Thanks for sharing!


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