Thursday, August 10, 2006

THE WRITING LIFE, or Close Out That FreeCell and Get to Work

I've always been interested in knowing how writers write their books (their process) and how much time they spend doing it (their schedule).

I know some writers who can write for twenty minutes at a time, get up and do something else, then write for another twenty minutes, and so on. My friend Linda Lea Castle (who also writes as Innis Grace) does that, or she used to do it that way because she home schooled her children. I really envied her discipline and powers of concentration.

My friend Linda Lael Miller writes fast, and it seems she can write a book every couple of months (best sellers, no less.) But I don't think she sits at her computer for eight hours every day, because she also travels, attends conferences, goes to church, works with the Humane Society, and spends a lot of time with her very large family. She used to be on the RWA board, and that alone was a huge commitment requiring a great deal of time.

Some writers I know have very strict work hours. They unfailingly begin at a certain hour and end at a certain hour every single day refusing to be interrupted. Other writers have told me they get up at three or four in the morning and write before the rest of the family wakes, or before going to a day job. That seemed impossible to me.

I'm willing to describe my writing schedule, and will admit in advance that it needs improvement. (I'll talk about process in a future blog.)

Okay. So, I get up between five and six every morning, make the coffee, and sit down at the computer usually while I'm still in my nightgown. I read the news—Drudge Report, then MSNBC headlines only clicking in to the big news of the day. Then the emails. This used to be overwhelming, but I've cut way back on my email lists. When the writing is going good, as it is on my current project, I often let my emails go for days.

I begin the actual writing between 7:30 and 8:00. On a good day, when the writing is really flowing, I'll write straight through with only a break for breakfast and lunch (at my desk) until about 2:30 or 3:00. That's when my back starts to stiffen and my creativity flags. At 3:30, I get ready to go to the gym. During the hour or so I'm on the treadmill, I write in my head. That is, I mentally run through my day's work filling in blanks, working out dialogue, scenes, and plot problems.

I almost never write after dinner. That's my reading time. But I do jump up to make a note if something pops into my head.

I used to keep a time sheet. You know, a log of the dates and hours spent working on a project, but that was too depressing. I got the guilts when I would see that there were days— sometimes many days—between work sessions. So, now I wing it and don't worry about it.

And along the way I've learned that I'm very poor at estimating how long it will take me to finish a book, or even a chapter. No matter how much time I think it will take, it always takes twice as long.

About the FreeCell. The only reason I haven't deleted it from my hard drive is because I need it when I'm on hold with customer service. Any customer service. It's the only thing that keeps me sane.

Albums added to my iPod:

- Freedom Fitness, Christian electronic rock workout music (really!) by Various Artists

Podcasts added to my iPod:

- The Street by Joe Frank
- Suicide Bridge by Joe Frank
- Telephone Prayer by Joe Frank (this one's absolutely hysterical)
- Controlling Your Moods by Joel Osteen

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Sage Cane's House of Grace and Favor

After taking several weeks off to catch up on my reading and regroup, I'm back to work on a partially completed Old West historical romance called, "Sage Cane's House of Grace and Favor," (formerly "Bad Girl of Fairplay Creek," formerly "Wild Mountain Honey.") I'd put the half finished manuscript aside on the advice of my agent when, according to her and everyone else in the industry, Old West romances went out of fashion.

The revamped title came about because Ann LaFarge, formerly of Kensington and now a freelance editor, commented that "Wild Mountain Honey" sounded a bit retro. Well, actually it was. It's from a song by the Marshall Tucker Band popular in the seventies.

So I had to come up with something else. I'm not very good with titles, and by this time, editors were looking for catchier ones. After much thought, I decided on "Bad Girl of Fairplay Creek," but shortly afterward put the book aside.

A couple of weeks ago, I brought the manuscript out again, and was dismayed to discover that while it was on hiatus, Jo-Ann Mapson had published a book called "Bad Girl Creek." So, again I racked my brain for a title.

Hence, "Sage Cane's House of Grace and Favor."

As you may surmise from the title, the book revolves around a parlor house. It's located in a fledging mining town in the Rocky Mountains, Fairplay Creek, Colorado, to be exact. And, as many of my stories seem to be, it's about a young woman who finds herself far from home struggling to make her way in a strange place. How she manages to do that in a rowdy, raunchy mining town where anything goes, and still manage to keep her moral values intact is what the story is about. The fact that it was indeed a town where anything goes is what actually encouraged and allowed her to take a risk. In the process, she turned the tables on the men in town while at the same time turning the town upside down.

The theme of the book is – A town will only rise to the standards of its women.

So, let's hear it for the return of the Old West historical romance. If, indeed, it was ever gone.

Album added to my iPod - Country Falls by Husky Rescue