WRITERS ON WRITING
Have you ever wondered how authors write their books? Heather Haven, a hysterically funny mystery author, asked me to participate in a blog hop devoted to how writers go through their process of writing. New writers frequently ask me for the secret to how they should write. The secret is that there is no secret. All writers eventually develop their own style and a process that works for them. Even though I’m almost finished with the fourth book in my Laurel McKay mysteries, my own writing process has continued to evolve. I’m far more efficient now than when I started. However, one thing remains constant for every author I know – we can find 101 ways to procrastinate. The other constant is that tenacity is our middle name.
WHAT AM I WORKING ON AT PRESENT?
I am eighty percent finished with the first draft of Dying for a Dude. Part of my growth was learning to be comfortable with that “sh***y” first draft that author extraordinaire Anne Lamott discussed in her book, Bird by Bird. Once I realized that every one of the 80,000 words in my first draft could be revised (and they frequently are) I felt free to explore the many paths my protagonist wants to take. I still marvel at the magic that occurs when my fingers hit the keyboard each day.
Please note my laptop is on my wet bar, conveniently located next to the wine refrigerator!
HOW DOES MY WRITING DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN ITS GENRE?
I specialize in what one reviewer referred to as “feel good” humor. My protagonist, Laurel McKay, is a thirty-nine-year old single soccer mom, the kind of woman you want to have as your best friend. She has plenty of foibles, but she is a decent person, intent on raising her kids properly. Eventually she hopes to settle down with that special man, the one who makes her heart and body sing. Of course, I keep messing with Laurel, forcing her to stumble over a dead body here and there. But if it wasn’t for those dead bodies, Laurel would never have met Detective Tom Hunter. I feel it’s important to have several relevant themes going on in the book as well as a basic whodunit mystery, all of which will enrich the reader’s experience.
WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?
Every day we hear about heartbreaking stories or tragic events that have occurred, sad tales of loss and despair. We all need something to brighten our day and that is part of my mission. While I love to solve a good puzzle myself, I also want people to enjoy an occasional laugh-out-loud moment when they are reading one of my mysteries. Many people have purchased my books as gifts for friends coming out of the hospital. The only requirement is that the patient does not read them until their stitches have been removed.
HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?
Process? I’m supposed to have a process? Come closer while I share a secret. I don’t write every day. Gasp! Except for emails so maybe that counts. In the early years, I was known as a binge writer. No, that doesn’t refer to the excessive amount of Kit Kat bars I consumed. My preference is still to carve out a week where I can write all day and night, with no social or author events to distract me. I can produce ten to fourteen pages daily in that type of immersion environment. I’ve also learned to treat my writing as a profession, so most days I churn out from two to six pages. Then there are the annoying days when I delete more words than I add. It’s all part of the process.
As far as plotting, every author occasionally reaches a point where he or she is stumped. I find it helps to plot and plod. I walk around the house with my cat, Zoey from the Bronx, following right behind me. I call this my creative exercise program. But it works for me. Then if I’m still in a plotting funk, I go look at open houses. Seriously –– whatever it takes to get those creative juices flowing! Chocolate works wonders to fuel your word count!
I would love to know more about your writing process, or any other creative endeavor. Leave a comment by June 22nd and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a $10 Amazon gift card. Next week two of my favorite humorous mystery authors will discuss their writing process. Check them out.
Congratulations to Mary Beth Magee, the winner of the $10 gift card!
LIZ JASPER writes curl-up-on-the-couch-with-chocolate paranormal humorous mysteries. Her first novel, Underdead, about a science teacher who is turned almost into a vampire, won the 2008 EPPIE Award for Best Mystery. The sequel was Underdead In Denial, The third in the series, Underdead with a Vengeance, is a new release. She also has published the first novel in a humorous demon princess trilogy for teens. Liz is currently working on the next book in her Underdead series. Visit her at www.lizjasper.com.
DIANA ORGAIN is the bestselling author of the Maternal Instincts Mystery Series: Bundle of Trouble, Motherhood is Murder, Formula for Murder, and Nursing a Grudge. She is the co-author of GILT TRIP the next book in the NY Times Bestselling Scrapbooking Mystery Series by Laura Childs. Diana’s new Reality TV Mystery series will be published by Penguin in Spring 2015. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and three children. Visit her at www.dianaorgain.com.
A binge writer, huh? I’ll have to try that! Like you, writing is my job…something I work at every day (yes, including weekends!). Some days I only manage a few hundred words, or write a couple of guest blogs or try to catch up with the social media. Then there are good days when I manage 3,000 to 4,000 words. My overall goal is 10,000 words a week, then time for critiquing, rewriting, polishing…and looking for all those pesky typos.
Writing in two different genres (traditional mystery and paranormal romance) means that I always have another set of characters hammering on the door in my head saying “Let us out! It’s time to tell our story!” I can’t really sit down to begin the other genre until I’ve wrapped up the one I’m currently writing (in this case, SNAP: All That Jazz, the eighth book in The Kandesky Vampire Series), but the story is there. The other day I had my eyes dilated and sitting in forced blindness in the dark, I wrote the first two pages of the next mystery The Delta for Death in my mind. I now have a file of the beginning. But I also have the idea for SNAP: I, Vampire swishing around.
It’s a little like having to split the holidays between two sets of parents. “If your parents get Thanksgiving, mine get Christmas.”
Stress…and a lot of love!
So that’s how you manage two series. I always wondered if the Kandesky Vampires would leave Kiev and show up in the Central Valley. I love both of your series!
Since I only write short stories, for me it is all about the story. And the twist at the end. Everyone talks about the “writing” but it is really about a story well told. The most amazing part of writing a story is the way it evolves – sometimes out of the blue to the utter amazement of the author. I’ve just finished Dragon Tales, about anything and everything “dragon” and loved the diversity and challenge of finding numerous “dragon” items in everyday lives, from dragonflies to dreams.
Terri, you are one of the most amazing as well as prolific short story writers. Your endings are always a complete surprise!
Well, as usual, Cindy, you brighten my heart. You are so funny and I love reading your work. I never thought of placing myself nearer the wine bar. How clever. I do think of chocolate, but lives there a soul so dead, who never to herself has said, ‘what I need right now is a Hershey’s bar’? I think not.
It never hurts to incent oneself. The only problem is when my carb count for the day exceeds my word count!
Well first off, I don’t write in the morning before breakfast. I can barely discipline my mind to have the coherence to leave a comment here, much less get my characters organized (disorderly, contrary things that they are.) Actually, much to my surprise, I have found that writing on my commute can often be productive, even if it’s in ten-twenty minute chunks.
I do firmly agree that chocolate is important to have on hand. Always. And Cheese Crunchies. And walking is a great way to get the plot ideas flowing.
Cindy, Thanks for inviting me to be next on the hop, and with Diana (awesome) no less.
Liz, I am so impressed with your chunk writing process. It must be your wonderful sense of humor that keeps those words and plots coming!
Cindy – great post. Love your binge writing process. I do every process imaginable. When one isn’t working I move to the next. Right now I’m on a long-hand writing kick. I LOVE filing my notebook with my characters – it flows so nicely – the tricky part is converting it into text, but for the wonders of technology- I hear the iPad has a great app for that.
Diana, thanks for commenting. I can’t imagine writing long-hand again. But it’s interesting to see what fuels our creativity. I’ve often thought of trying out voice recognition software. I talk so quickly I figure I could finish a book in a month. I just don’t know if the magic would still be there.
Fabulous and funny, Cindy! And thanks for mentioning the proximity of laptop and wine refrigerator. I want to go out and buy one–wine refrigerator, that is. So I can tuck it under my computer table and maybe, by osmosis or something, be able to churn out a whole book,like you, in a couple of wild weekends! Wow! I’m just one of those writers who am compelled to plod upstairs, daily, to write a little, think a little, procrastinate a little, work on a poem or blog, and finally manage to get a single page done on a new book. Bad, bad! But my 20th book has just been published. Of course it’s because I’ve been writing/publishing for over 30 years! You are just a young thing, Cindy. Keep up the laughs! My god but the world needs them.
You have me laughing, Nancy. After publishing 20 books, I don’t think you need to change any part of your process. I love your multi-faceted work!
Incentives are the key to success! When I’m working on a draft, I’m only allowed to check email and social media every thousand words. I actually do it on a separate computer, so I have to get up and walk ten feet. I also agree with the going out and looking at houses (or whatever). When I get stuck, usually around Thursday or Friday (if I’ve kept myself cooped up M-W), I head out for some sort of field trip. The would outside of the apartment is a fascinating place, filled with creative triggers. (The world inside the apartment is mostly filled with laundry and dirty dishes.)
Thanks, Diane. It is amazing how expanding your universe from the tiny one inside your head and home can bring so much inspiration. BTW, you are my idol. You have to be disciplined to write four different series!
“You have to be disciplined to write four different series!”<–or you have to be a little bit insane…!
So that’s what I’ve been doing wrong! I don’t have a wine bar next to my desk! These days, my biggest motivation seems to be my writing group. If I didn’t have to keep coming up with new content to share with them every two weeks, I’m sure I would have given up a long time ago.
I’ve been with the same critique group for 10 years. I wouldn’t be published today if it wasn’t for their support and wise advice, especially in the early years. They were so nice to me:-) So hang in there, Pam.
I wrote Ghost Orchid in one continuous sitting. I wrote about 8,000 words in one sitting and didn’t change them much for the final. Around that grew the rest of the story. I was submitting it to a contest and had two weeks off work during which I wrote day and night with cat naps, sitting on my bedroom floor with my laptop. I was on one of my perpetual diets so I had handy diet snacks.
The amazing part is that it started as a story about Mel and Jack, star-crossed lovers whose lives went in separate directions for decades until a series of events that should have ended with happily ever after ended tragically instead, with a rare and endangered ghost orchid creating an aura of mystery. The amazing part?
During the writing, a younger woman appeared to interrupt the original plot, apparently the daughter I never had born in the pages of Ghost Orchid. Her story parallels and intersects with Mel’s as a deeper and more satisfying mystery unfolds, one coincidence at a time. Neev, the beautiful younger woman was nowhere in my thought process when I wrote Mel’s story. In fact, the model on the book cover resembles me uncannily as if she was related, totally designed by the publisher.
Writing flows – it’s the edits that require discipline and a set number of pages per day – discipline.
Since I write for a newspaper, their deadlines take priority and my novel writing has slipped. Now it’s in bits and spurts. http://www.dkchristi.com author of Ghost Orchid and more
Thanks, D.K. You are a beautiful writer so I’m looking forward to the day when you release another evocative story.
Great post, Cindy! Once again, you’ve reminded me that what we do is great fun, and the process is part of the joy, even with word count goals! I’ve discovered that editing is often where my real creativity emerges, diving a little deeper into a character or motive, or even finding a better word to describe something. And I do my best thinking on the way to and from the refrigerator. 🙂 I can’t wait to read Dying for a Dude!
Hi Linda. I love, love, love to edit. I can edit anytime and anywhere. Once I discovered the joy of editing, it made writing the first draft so much easier. I can’t wait to finish DYING FOR A DUDE!
Hi Cindy, Like you, I don’t think of myself as having a process. I write because the story calls, and as I get into it further it calls louder. I sit at my desk in the afternoon and I look at what I’ve written and I add a little more, then a little more until I run dry. Then I find something else to do on the computer–can’t leave the desk–until I give up. Then I wait for the story to call, a few minutes or a few hours later. It calls and says re-do this in this way, or go here, and then I’m rolling again.
It’s something that’s in me and makes me happy. My book, FLINT House was a joy to write because it always called; others take more work, but there is always joy in the work.
Kathy, you can tell from the beautiful writing and storyline that FLINT HOUSE was a joy for you to write. And a joy for your readers. Still waiting for that sequel!
Like you, I also write regularly. I have my computer set up on my desk so that it’s always ready for me to use. I start writing between 5 and 6 a.m. each morning, stop for breakfast, and then continue until ten or eleven a.m. By then, I ready to do all those necessary things like shopping, cleaning and/or taking a long walk to clear my head. I’ll write again in the evening, usually after dinner for another hour or so until I’m really tired.
You are so organized, Jacquie. That’s probably why you have such excellent output of your wonderful romantic suspense stories.
Enjoy Cindy and her clever, smart and wonderfully humorous
mysteries. Her “Dying” series are “to die for”
and a wonderful escape from reality. She has
supported me as an author, early on telling me there
were no rules on when or how to write. I am a
super-binge writer. However, I cannot start writing
until the dishes are done, bed made (gasp),
writing desk clean, and commitments resolved
or rescheduled. Once I start writing, the fingers
fly, I forget to eat, hold my bladder until it nearly
bursts, and may write until 3:00 a.m. Might be
back at the computer by 6:00 a.m., hair askew,
jammies and socks on for the day, and the process
repeats until 5000-20,000 words are on a roll.
It is like watching a movie in my head. Can’t stop
until intermission. Research sometimes has to
be done in the middle of the plot. Editing is something
I prefer not to do until the 1st draft is done,
because once the critical voice starts, the creative
story-telling voice goes missing. Re-reads involve
dialog changes, killing darlings, and a search for
better words to describe scenes. May do 5-10
revisions, and enjoy the smarter ideas and plots
that creep into my story. Writing is the most
exhausting, wonderfully energizing experience
Can’t wait for Dying For A Dude. Every novel
Cindy writes gets better and better. I hope the
same will be true for me.
I can just imagine a wild-eyed Sherry at the computer, day and night. I can even relate to forgetting to go to the bathroom. Now that truly is a miracle for me. I can’t wait for your sequel so keep at it!
I love the humor in your stories. I write urban fantasy/mystery, and humor is really important to me, because I want to escape through fiction, but I don’t want to be depressed!!
For me the first draft is the most fun and freeing. Deep in the revision process is when I want to give up on the whole thing–but I know if I power through, the end result is often different and better than I even imagined. The whole thing is an exercise in faith and belief in oneself.
Thanks for sharing your process!
It’s fascinating reading the varying perspectives. I love the creativity of the first draft but as you know, mysteries can be complicated. I tend to worry that I might have some plot holes lurking here and there. But editing and beta reader comments should take care of all of that. Once I finish the first draft, I outline each chapter to make sure it all makes sense. Sometimes an important piece of information hasn’t made it from my creative mind onto the typed page. We can’t have that!
I am trying to write – not necessarily a mystery, not necessarily even fiction – but I keep saying I don’t know how to start so I don’t. I realize that the way to write is just do it, but looking at that first blank page is terrifying. I think I”ll have to force myself to do it and then maybe I can do something – I have several first 2 pages from when I was younger and I never could figure out where to go or how to get there. Maybe I”ll have to set out a few hours a few times a week to JUST DO IT.
Sara, I hear that same comment from people over and over and I totally get it. I’m so glad you chimed in. Honestly, just write anything on that page because trust me – that first line will not be the same when you’re done. In fact, my first chapters never remotely resemble the original version. But it’s a way to get started. I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s okay to just type in XXX and know that I’ll go back and deal with that particular issue later. Now start typing – that’s an order:-)
Rita here, chiming in. In all the years I’ve been writing (40 years? oh, my god…) I have always had an office next to the kitchen. If not, anxiety would set in as to where or when my next meal, snack, candy binge could happen. Even when I worked in movie studio offices, I had to face west to the commissary, basking on the smells wafting over from their litchens.
Oh, about writing. I love doing it, love editing. When I feet like kvetching about how hard it was I would think of the jobs out there I might have been stuck with; I would comit suicide rather than doing. Then I would snap out of it!!! And write my little heart out.
Love your books and your humor. You’re almost as funny as I am. Tee hee.
Rita, I miss you. And you’ll always be the Queen of the humorous mystery. BTW, on the other side of the wine refrigerator is the pantry, fully stocked with M&M’s. Just the sight of them keeps me calm and on task:-)
Cindy: Super-fun blog! I wish I could write as you do, in big spurts, but I am a plodder. Every day (mornings are best) for me. I so appreciate the humor you impart in the most ghastly murder mysteries. And Laurel is such a sympathetic protag–divorced, mother, klutz,, vulnerable chick who seems to accidentally become involved in each sinister event. Like you, I revise and revise and revise and then again, revise. Sigh. Thanks for voicing the writers’ life.
Susan, I’ve been wishing I was better at maintaining a daily writing schedule as you do. I love your work so you just keep doing what you do so well!
Cindy, did you tidy your writing table for the photo? Where do you throw the crumpled candy wrappers?
I continue to be impressed.
What, Vinnie, you don’t think I’m that neat? Yes, I moved three stacks of papers over to the kitchen table. All evidence of any nefarious chocolate activity has been hidden by the perpetrator!
Cindy: Thanks. Being connected to colleague writers via electronics is one of the true joys of being a writer today. You invited us to plug our own books, so I would like to mention my cozy mystery/Southern Gothic A Red, Red Rose and my YA anti-bully novel EAGLEBAIT for the record! Love your blogs and FB posts. Aloha!
Susan, you are so right about how wonderful the author community is about supporting one another. And I love promoting all of my favorite authors’ work!
Cindy, Laurel is a delight, and I most definitely would want her as my friend.
I’m always writing. If I can’t get to a device or a pad and pen, then I’m writing in my head. Because one of the things I write is book reviews, I also read a lot. As I read, I try to learn: what worked well in this book? What didn’t work so well? What interrupted my immersion in the book?
My own debut novel, Death in the Daylilies, took a year from initial inspiration to release. As you know, it was a labor of love dedicated to my late mother. I have whole file folder on my computer of deleted scenes. I cut and save them for future use either as part of something else later or a reminder of a direction NOT to go.
Best advice I can give is, get other writers and readers involved. The wonderful advice I received from mentors and beta readers helped me to fine tune and stay on track. Whether you belong to a local writing group or connect online, you need feedback from others who don’t have the story rattling around in their heads so that you don’t make ghastly errors in your story.
Licorice provides my food boost, wonderful chewy black licorice. Wish I could go back to chocolate, but allergies prevent that indulgence.
Can’t wait to see Laurel’s next adventure. Luv ya, buddy!
Thanks, Mary Beth. Your years of reviewing books definitely provided the acumen to write your wonderful cozy mystery. I completely agree that beta readers are critical to fine tuning any book. Thanks for your continued support of the author community.
What I marvel over is your clean desk. I can’t start writing until mine is at least straightened up. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but I guess I’m also a binge writer. It’s all or nothing some days.
Carole, it’s nice to know another binge writer. I suppose I should admit that I removed three piles of papers to my kitchen table. I’ve learned not to let anything land on the floor, though, because my cat loves to snack on paper!
Deadlines are my main incentive so if I don’t have a real one I make one up. Because my kids are grown and I don’t work elsewhere, I write whenever I feel like it and take short rests when necessary. I don’t really worry if I get bogged down, because I know in a day or two I will somehow un-bog. If I don’t un-bog after a couple of days I just get back to work anyway, which means I might write some junk before I hit my groove again. In then end, it all works out during the editing process when I find those random paragraphs that don’t seem to fit. M&M peanuts are a really big help when my brain needs a boost.
You are so wise, Kathleen. I hope new writers read this because it takes years of experience to realize it’s okay to get bogged down because eventually we’ll work our way out of it. I’m very deadline oriented myself so I always plan a big launch party. That way I know I have to get my butt and my fingers in gear to meet my self-imposed deadline. Thanks for commenting.
Love your work space, Cindy!
I have a desk, but I hardly ever write at it.
I do a big chunk of my writing sitting in a chair in front of the TV with my feet up. Eventually the TV fades from background noise to nothing. But I’ve become very flexible with my writing process and schedule and I can now write any time any place as long as I can steal a few minutes and get a running start from where I last left off.
It’s best when I can string lots of days together because with my spacey memory if I’m away from my story too long I start to forget things, like the hero’s name, town where the story is set, minor details like that–
I’m still evolving my process after seven novels, but at least I’m picking up speed!
Stephanie, you are my idol. While I can edit anywhere and anytime, my first-draft writing needs are more structured. I also require complete quiet. Of course that’s due to the fact if I put any music on, I can’t help dancing around the room:-) Congrats on seven books and I expect many more to come!
I’m a binge writers. It’s the only way I’d ever be able to write as I have a full-time day job and a family who expects things when I get off work. I usually write for several hours at a time in one long sitting (usually getting 5-6K words in that one day) and then don’t get back to if for about a week. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I can write for 2 days in a row. Those are special times.
Thanks for sharing. I’m going to have to get me a wine fridge installed conveniently close to my desk. Although that does give me an excuse to get up and move around a little while I’m writing.
w/a Jansen Schmidt
What fun you’ve generated here, Cindy! I love your stories and can’t wait for the next one. How’s the cover coming along?
I’m with you on the binge writing. It’s always feast or famine, and these days it’s been a famine due to family situations. Maybe I’ll rent a hotel room for a week to pound out the first draft of a story that’s been bugging me for nearly a year — my first mystery! I can’t wait to start working on it.
There are trends in the posts above — chocolate and food are very important, and many of us need to invest in a wine cooler and a box of Depends to keep close to our laptops.
Thanks so much, you’ve brightened my day!
Gemma, I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with some family issues this year. I cannot wait until your first mystery is released. My fingers are poised to hit that BUY button so get busy! An author friend of mine goes to a hotel for a week to write once or twice a year. You should do it. Or come here and stay in my guest room!
You are such a sweetheart, Cindy, thanks for your support and generous offer. I’ll find a hotel where there is a spa so I can get a daily massage to ease my stiff neck and typist shoulders… I’d come visit you but we might end up emptying your wine cooler and that would not be so cool! 🙂 As soon as it’s ready to be released, I’ll let you know!
Creativity has a lot to do with pulling ideas out of chaos and reintegrating them into something that fits together. You’d know that by one look at my messy workspace. Even though I have tremendous organizational skills, I’m not comfortable in a pristine writing environment. Micki Michaels, the protagonist in my humorous mystery series, is far tidier than moi, which proves that our first novels tend to have heroes or heroines that are an improved version of ourselves.
Due to carpal and chronic eyestrain from living in front of a computer, I have my laptop attached to a huge hi-def screen, a drop shelf for my ergonomic keyboard and an ergo mouse that’s so odd-looking, you might mistake it for the real kind that makes women shriek. Stuff is stacked on either side on top of my scanner and besides label printer, and the whole mess is very comforting to me. Because of my ergonomic considerations, I don’t like to move the equipment itself, but the crap around it is varied and the stuff on my walls inspirational. Once in a while I take the advice of Natalie Goldberg in her wonderful book, Writing Down the Bones, and I take a notebook somewhere naturey or caffeine-intense and scribble. But I always love coming back to my familiar Fibber McGee’s office, where plots thicken–probably due to the dust balls and snack crumbs and stickies.
No one would ever guess I’m a Virgo–and in my other life, an astrologer with a blog called The Radical Virgo. (Oscar masquerading as Felix.)
You are a messy Virgo, Joyce. But that comforting space produces a wonderfully creative mind! My laptop also might have a crumb or two trapped between the keys. One must feed that creativity!
How do I write? That’s a really good question, one that I haven’t thought about in quite a while. Initially, when I wrote my memoir “I Can Dance: My Life with a Disability” I was very disciplined. I started out by organizing an outline of the direction I wanted my story to go; present time, back to the beginnings-birth & infancy, early childhood, elementary school, middle school and so on and so forth. Once I had that figured out, they became my chapters and then I came up with a cute title for each.
From there, I made a list of everything I wanted included in my story and of course, I added to that list all the time, as well as removing things once I wrote about them in a particular chapter. I did some visiting of childhood places and talked to many friends to trigger more memories.
I was working full-time when I first started writing, so I made it a point to spend at least one hour every evening writing and more on the weekends. Since I enjoyed writing and it relaxed me, it became my downtime before bed. Going to bed with my story fresh in my mind, often enabled me to think about other ideas I wanted to talk about.
It actually took me two years from the time I started writing until completion. Once the book was complete, I had to come up with the title on that did so by tracking things ahead mentioned several times throughout the book. I did have a two month period in those two years, where I didn’t write it all, but kicked myself into getting started again.
Presently, I am working on a second book and I must admit, I am not nearly as disciplined as I should be. I think part of the reason is because I devote so much time to promoting my memoir and I get busy, leaving myself no real writing time. In addition, I maintain a blog, which requires me to write two posts a week and that takes time.
I have made a commitment to myself however, promising to finish my second book by the end of the year. Attending my authors group meetings is also helpful, because it’s a type of accountability to my colleagues, as well as they inspire me to keep writing.
I am using the same process for my current writing project, as with the last. I have my chapters outlined in my list of things to include, as well as my chapter titles and title of the book. I have completed seven of 12 chapters, so I guess my timeline is good. I can generally write a chapter in one sitting if I have no major interruptions.
As with Cindy, I try to include humor in every thing I write, even in a serious piece, because humor enables people to relate, understand and accept most situations. Having a disability is best treated with a sense of humor, or one would be sad all the time… Not a good place to be.
So, now that I’ve thought about it, I guess I do have a process in how I write and I hope some of this can be helpful to others. Thanks for the invitation to comment Cindy.
Laurie, you are truly one of the most remarkable women I know. Your story is an inspiration to all of us. Now let’s get that next book out!
I agree with Cindy, Laurie. And, as you know, I love your memoir.
I am definitely a morning person, but it takes me a while to wake up. I do this by drinking tons of coffee, checking my social media and meditating. Then, and this is getting to be the norm for me, I gather my net book and head off to one of my four favorite coffee shops where I write until my brain quits functioning.
This can get pretty expensive gas-wise and because I feel obligated to spend lots of money for using their space. The other thing is, I have to rotate cafes so as not to wear out my welcome.
I worked in cafes on my first young adult novel, This Side of Forever. And I’m working in cafes on my current manuscript, another YA,–Street Girl–due out by year’s end.
Cindy, thanks for asking us writers to share our writing habits. What fun.
Jo, I am fascinated by your roving approach to writing. I can write in airports and on planes (more or less since my antique laptop is HUGE). But I definitely prefer writing at home. Probably because I can work in my cat-fur-covered sweats! I’m so glad your next book will be out soon.
I’m sitting here, Cindy, fascinated by all these comments, and all the different ways we authors come up with our stories and books. I love your Laurel, her humor and her caring about the people in her life which often gets her into trouble. She reminds me of my Carrie in my “Other Deadly Things” series. It’s amazing that we can have such fun writing our characters into the worst situations, but that’s probably because we save them in the end. Ablaze has been a challenge for me in that it’s a romantic suspense written third person and is a darker book than I’ve written in the past. Well, we all need to challenge ourselves, right?
I’m a seat of the pants writer. I don’t outline, wish I could actually. But I do edit and re-edit and re-edit. I’ll write a few pages or a chapter, then have to go back over it before I can begin the next. And I write in the morning mainly even though I’m a night person. My head seems the clearest then. I used to belong to a wonderful critique group when I lived in the east and have just joined one here. Essential, I think for getting valuable input.
Thanks for your blog and the opportunity to share with so many fine authors.
Thanks, Nancy. Our writing is similar so it doesn’t surprise me that our process is as well. I tried outlining once. It lasted for 20 pages and then Laurel just went off on her own as she prefers to do. I’m also a night person and used to write until midnight but then my active brain kept plotting until dawn. Now I write during the day usually stopping around twilight. That’s when the chardonnay tells me it’s time to stop for the day!
Cindy, you have great ideas for getting people involved. Since I write how to books, I have to be organized. I do an outline first and then do a lot of research for each chapter. With my book, “Becoming Soul Mates”, I wanted to include wisdom I had learned from 30 plus years of counseling and 50 plus years of marriage. I always wonder if God made a mistake. Just when you get wise after years of learning, you die and hopefully you don’t lose your memory before you can pass along the wisdom. I relate to the old saying, Just when I know the answers, nobody asks me the questions. I have lots of answers in my two blogs as well as my books.
Hi Elva, thanks for your insightful comments. We are all happy that you’ve chosen to share your excellent advice accumulated from years of professional and personal experience. We need you!
Chocolate chip cookies are excellent for long writing days!
Thanks for your post, Cindy.
You can’t beat chocolate cookies any time of the day, Sandra! Thanks for commenting.
Cindy, seeing all that chocolate might motivate me to start writing. Love chocolate.
LOL, Pat. Some people write in coffee shops. I’m wondering if I should move into the Candy Strike Emporium!
Incentives? No. I’m much too self-indulgent for that. Even if I promise myself I can’t have something until I do X, it ain’t gonna happen. Procrastination? Every day. Makes me crazy. Ever seen the way a dog goes round and round and scratches at his bed until he finally settles down? That’s the way I attack writing. Do some sudoku, a couple of crosswords, a little Facebook, wander around….sheesh, it’s a wonder I ever get anything done.
But eventually I open my WIP and start typing. I can’t even call it “writing” when it’s a first draft. I’m just typing words, hoping that a few of them will actually be useful. My goal this week is 2,000 words a day. I don’t even care if the scene is in the right order. I just start writing. Mostly it’s in order, but here’s what I know: I don’t care how organized I am, how much I think I’m on top of a manuscript, when I start the edit process, the real work starts–and that’s the part I love. I hate first draft. When I hit revision time, my procrastination goes away and I can’t wait to get to it every day. I’m at 44,000 words on #4. Sigh. that’s why I’m procrastinating by reading your post and all the replies!
Chocolate? No. For me it’s peanut butter. On toast. On crackers. On celery. Or straight from the spoon.
Terry, I’m so glad you shared your process which is similar to mine. New writers are so fearful that their words must be absolutely perfect. I love, love, love to edit. I consider the first draft to be art and the editing process to be the science of writing. And is there anything better than peanut butter straight from the jar?
Hi Cindy! I’m pretty sure it was another procrastinating writer who dreamed up this process blog tour! ha! I too was tagged and responded just this Sunday. I love reading about how other writers get the job done. Who knows when we might find the *magic* way to do it right!
Hi Sandra. Thanks for commenting. When I figure out the “magic” way, I’ll let you know!
I write California history, so I don’t have to worry about plots. While I’m writing a book-length manuscript, I write/research eight hours a day, including weekends. I am not an early riser so my writing day usually begins at ten a.m., frequently interrupted by my17-year-old cat Annie who loves to jump up onto the desk where she sits right in front of the screen until I give her the pets & kisses she demands. Some days I spend at the library–and I count this as writing, too. Often–too often–I write in my head while driving, which has caused me to miss many a turn until I realize that the street I wanted was back there aways. Writing & researching at the same time makes the process a slow one, so I don’t count the number of words I’ve written every day, just my progress from one aspect to another. Luckily, my husband cooks our dinner.
Hi Cheryl. I find that walking and driving are perfect for plotting, although sometimes you get so lost in your story that you don’t notice you’ve been driving in the carpool lane without a passenger for 10 minutes! I discovered this fact two minutes before I passed by one of those sweet CHP officers. We better never carpool together because who knows where we’ll end up.
While writing my book, although non fiction, I usually got my ideas for how to present a story when I went to bed. As I attempted to rest myself, an idea would come to mind. Then I would have to get up, go the the computer, and start writing.
Of course I knew all of my stories, but using just the wright words to show the story mostly came after going to bed.
Thanks, Bill. It’s hard to shut an active brain off and it sounds like yours had much to say. BTW, great write-up in the Mountain Democrat today!
Thank you for reading the Mtn. Democrat.
I realized after clicking on “POST” that I failed to mention my Award winning book, “Invisible: PTSD’s Stealth Attack on a Vietnam War Veteran.”
See! I guess it it time for me to go to bed.
I will go back and read this post, but wanted to ask you to change my email address from Comcast to Charter – everything else the same. 🙂
After rooming together I can picture you doing your writing now. I haven’t had a ‘normal’ life for so many months now that I really don’t recall how I used to write. Now I am assembling a new office with a view of the river running behind our new home in a new state and cannot wait to settle down once boxes are emptied. Yes, I still have more to go. It seems I have no control over my activities yet. Right now I am polishing my fifth story that needs to be on my boss’s desk by August 1st. It is done and coming together quite well at the moment. I put a few more words on my next story when I can. At least while driving across country I came up with a plot…sorta. Mine uually change as I write. 🙂
Hugs to ya!
Driving is always excellent for plotting and you had over 2,000 miles to plot, Paisley. I think your new “river view” writing space will help you even more. I expect to see multiple books a year from now on!