Living in the Cave: Writing a First Draft

A lot of my friends online and elsewhere have asked me: what do I mean by living in the Cave? Obviously I don’t actually live in the woods, or even within a hundred miles of an actual cave. So am I on a writing retreat? Have I become a hermit? The answer is yes and no.

I am still living in my normal life, but like all writers in the midst of a first draft, I have withdrawn from the world in a lot of ways. I don’t go out as much, or see as many friends, which is a definite drawback. Because even when I am not actually in the chair, my mind is going over the book I’m writing, thinking of what is going to happen next, what the major conflicts of the novel are, and how my characters find ways of resolving them. With Eleanor, these questions are usually political in nature. With my Regency romance novels, the conflicts are more personal, but always the struggles are important to the men and women involved. Other writers will understand when I say that I become completely absorbed in these conflicts, watching as my characters fight their way through them. One positive aspect of writing romance is that the problems eventually lead to a happy ending. I find myself more and more grateful for the love and joy in these novels as I write them, because with historical fiction, as in real life, love and joy do not always appear.

Even writing this, I have lost the thread of my original thought and descended into the thoughts of my novel. This post is a good example of what the Cave means to me…no matter where I am or what I am doing, I am working on the book. So though I see less of my friends and spend less time online, the work makes it all worth it. In order to write a book worth reading, my characters have to take me on a journey first. While I’m in the Cave, they tell me their story for the first time, and I do all I can to make their story come through clearly for my readers on the page. The Cave is the state of mind into which I enter where my characters and I hope to make living art.

6 Responses to “Living in the Cave: Writing a First Draft

  • I came out of my cave to read your post. In fact my week has conspired to keep me out of the cave, and I am definitely feeling the inner conflict, wanting and needing the cave time when other matters keep calling me out. Thanks for posting on this subject!

  • Christy
    9 years ago

    Sandy, you are so right…it can be tough when we want to dive into the Cave and can’t. I’m glad it’s there when we need it…yours is waiting for you.

  • The Cave — what a great description of the first-draft state of mind! Reminds me a bit of Jennifer Cruisie’s “girls in the basement” analogy, too. Here’s hoping your cave stays warm and dry, and free of the mess Irene has left behind… 🙂

  • Christy
    9 years ago

    Thanks DeAnna…I love the Jennifer Cruisie idea of “Girls in the Basement” A basement is a cave, possibly a cave with cable TV for much needed breaks :)I hope your own work and Muse is smiling on you.

  • I enjoyed reading this post about the cave.It is a very good analogy. However,what I most wanted to comment on was your generosity with fans & colleagues who write to you. I admire your kind & generous spirit,for taking the time to respond to these comments,emails or letters, (if anyone still uses snail mail.) 🙂 especially when you are in the midst of writing. I am sure that your own Muse will continue to smile upon you, both because of your own talent as a writer & because of that generosity & kindness. 🙂

  • Christy
    9 years ago

    Laura, thank you so much for your sweet words. I love it when people take the time to comment on my blog, or on Eleanor’s Facebook page. Interacting with readers and writers is one of my favorite things. It makes the Cave a lot less lonely. 🙂 Thank you for coming to visit me there.

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