Monday, 9 December 2013

MY WRITING PROCESS #mywritingprocess

Today is Blog Tour day, when writers answer questions about their writing process. Last week, fellow author Penny Grubb posted hers. You can check it out at
 Penny is a hard act to follow, but I thank her for the invitation.

So, what is my writing process? I always have a notebook and pencil but the main area for work is my study. I would blush to let anyone see inside but all those books, papers and maps are lying around for a purpose. The cat enjoys prowling among them to find a cosy nook to sleep, until he senses I'm totally absorbed. I draw a veil over the language used when he pulls me out of my other world.

1 What are you working on?

I'm writing the second story about brothers in a half-French, half-Turkish family. The period is 1811 - 1813, so the background is the Napoleonic wars and the general turmoil throughout Europe. My main character is a Rake but he longs for a proper role to equal his older brother, the skilled diplomat [whose story is told in Scandalous Lady]. I'm sure his brother would have cautioned him: Be careful what you wish for! In his eagerness to undertake a noble quest, he becomes entangled with a pair of vicious spies and faces one crisis after another in a fast paced chase across England and France.

2 How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I'm a great fan of all Regency stories but I particularly like tales set in exotic places. There were plenty of independent women who set off to discover the world, so I combine those two elements. I've written two tales set in Constantinople [which was on the tourist trail for rich aristocrats with a yacht ] and my current novel begins in the Pyrenees, from where the hero travels to meet with the French royal family who were in exile in England in 1813.                                  

3 Why do you write what you do?

My family were great storytellers and I always had enough imagination to add further episodes to the tales we told each evening around the fire. And if I read a story I particularly liked, I couldn't part with the characters, so I made up further episodes for them. Long ago and far away were my favourite places. So I'm simply carrying on the family tradition. Also I love accounts of intrepid women adventurers, and model my heroines on them. Currently, I feel very at home in the wider Regency era, although I also love - and write - medieval adventure stories.

4 How does your writing process work?

A story always begins from a picture or two. I have an ever-growing collection of faces and places, found in magazines. Suddenly one face stands out and his or her story begins to take shape. Some scenes are clear immediately although I don't know at that point where they will be in the novel.
I scribble a working synopsis, about half a page. This grows and changes as I go along. By Chapter 3 the characters are dictating what they will and won't do. It's a weird process but it truly happens. Of course, there is plenty of research, which may lead to some revision. 

For In All Honour I walked the streets of Bath to be sure the timing of the characters' outings is right. 

For Scandalous Lady I visited a delightful palace in IstanbulAs well as being a royal pavilion, it was used for official business and the signing of treaties. It is now the State Music Museum.

For my current story, [gulp] I ventured a kilometre inside a vast prehistoric cavern in the Pyrenees, then transferred my fear of this adventure to my heroine. Most recently, I made a visit to Hartwell House in Buckinghamshire, which was absolutely wonderful and inspired extra elements for the plot. 

Editing and revision take place as I write. If something feels wrong, it disturbs my sleep. That means that the following morning I grab paper and pen before even getting out of bed to rewrite the scene or move events to a better place. Normally, I prefer to write in the late evening, until the inspiration gives out.

Thank you for visiting my blog. Please leave a comment.


Jane Riddell, editor and writer of short stories and novels. The photos of her travels on her website are wonderful.

Elizabeth Hanbury writes historical romance with swoonworthy heroes, sparkling heroines and a dash of wit and humour.

Paula Martin, romance writer and contemporary romance author. Http:// 


  1. It's always fascinating to read about other writers' writing process and how stories develop and characters come to life! I always carry an exercise book with me too and have quite a collection now. It is true that there's nothing like visiting the setting yourself to get a feel for the place, topography, smells, light etc..My second romance was set in the Sahara so I had to rely on photos - lots and lots of them, stuck everywhere on the walls in my makeshift study! And imagination does the rest! Thank you for a very interesting post, Beth.

  2. I look forward to reading that story, Marie. I wrote a story set in Romania, using guidebooks. Later I visited and was very proud to find my topography was accurate. I'm sure your Sahara will be as dramatic as if you'd been there.

  3. Beth, you are so right about the characters telling you what they will or won't do. I tried to push mine down one path, only to find it was a dead end. Serves me right for not listening to them!
    Must admit I've never written a historical story - the research scares me, even though (or maybe because) I'm a historian by profession!

  4. Forgot to add- thanks very much for inviting me to take part in this blog tour :-)

  5. You're very welcome, Paula. I hope it draws more readers to our blogs and books. As for research, it's always so interesting. The hard part is knowing the topic but barely mentioning it in the actual story.

  6. You're right, Beth. One of my heroes was a volcanologist, and I did masses of research about volcanoes. Only about 5% went into the story, but I had to do the other 95% to make sure the 5% was right!

  7. Fascinating blog, Beth. I was especially interested to hear how you get ideas from pictures. But I'm also very impressed at the level of historical accuracy you get into your books.

  8. Actually, Penny, if I'm sitting next to an interesting 'face' on a plane or train, that inspires an identity that might well shock the poor person if they had any idea what I've turned them into.... Fortunately, they never know. I do love the research, it's as much fun as having the world of the story to go to - and I like to feel it's accurate as to place and time.

  9. Hi Beth, when I led a group in an addictions' unit, I used to take them out for a wander to 'collect' a face to bring back and make up a character around. It was a really popular exercise. For my own regencies, I have a postcard I bought at an almshouse museum. It features a Georgian family in their best clothes and reminds me what those fashions really looked like. I'm going to be one of Jane's followers, so thank you from me, too. Anne Stenhouse

  10. Hello Anne, thank you for visiting. I'd like to have heard what characters your group created.... It's wise to keep it secret about just who inspired which character.
    Good luck with your stories.

  11. Hi Beth, I know. Actually, I find my characters are such an amalgam, it would be hard to track back to the moment of inspiration. Anne