Monday, December 26, 2011

My Writing Routine

I’m often ask about my writing routine. How it evolved, whether it breaks down from time to time and how I jump start it when it does.

I consider myself fortunate to live on a mountaintop at 7,000 feet—and no, I don’t need oxygen. (I’ve been asked that question.) What better place to write? I rise between six and seven each morning and go straight to my computer in my pajamas with a bowl of cereal. By fortunate I mean all those hours of uninterrupted writing. We only have cell phone service available here and that doesn’t work half the time, so I’m usually not bothered by telemarketers. My life may sound boring to some but my husband and I are basically hermits who make a trip to town once or twice once or twice a month to buy supplies and visit friends; less often during the winter. It takes planning but the solitude and beauty of the landscape are well worth any inconveniences isolation may cause.

A cup of chai tea topped with whipped cream opens my eyes in the mornings while I answer email and check on my books’ sales numbers. I then launch into one of three books I’m currently working on: my fourth Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense novel, (tentatively titled Magnets for Murder), second historical (No Escape: the Sweetwater Tragedy), and another book of interviews (The Mystery Writers) from my blog, Mysterious Writers. So, when I occasionally hit a blank wall—I hate the term “writer’s block”—I switch from the manuscript I’m currently working on to another. And if all else fails, I sit on the back deck and watch deer and antelope roam our land. I also enjoy watching the neighboring rancher’s horses as well as the mountain scenery, whether green with grass or covered in snow. That always gets my creative juices flowing. But, because I began my writing career as a journalist and was trained to sit down and write, I rarely hit a snag.

I’m also asked how I develop my ideas. Do I plot in advance or write by the seat of my pants?

I’m defintely a pantser. My characters are so familiar by now that they’re old friends whom I look forward to visiting every day. I always read the chapter I worked on the day before, making minor changes, which carries me into that day’s work. I use the film strip method, which means I watch and listen to my characters in my mind’s eye and type as fast as I can to keep up with them. I rarely plot in advance and only outline my nonfiction books. I sometimes write myself into a corner although not very often. I also enjoy doing research at night while working on a book.

When asked for advice from fledgling writers I usually tell them that when I finish a book I place it aside for a few weeks, then take it out and read it as though someone else had written it. I then edit again before I consider it finished.

The best advice I’ve received from other writers over the years is to never send out a manuscript before it’s finished. Aspiring writers are so anxious to see their books in print that they send them out too soon. If a freelance editor is affordable, by all means hire one before you seek publication. And make sure that your manuscript is the very best you can produce before you send it to a publisher or go the indie route. Especially if you self publish.


  1. Your mountaintop sounds wonderful. There are times I'd love the solitude -- other times not so much. And your writing routine sounds way too familiar. Nice blog!

  2. I'd love to have such peace and quiet. Unfortunately, I write in the cacophony created by four noisy children. Give me the deer any day when it comes to writing!

  3. One of my goals for 2012 is to find more time to write. I also agree with your advice to make sure a manuscript is complete before sending it out in the world. A good reminder for pubbed and un-pubbed alike!

  4. Thank you, Marja. Solitude is addicting and the older you get, the more welcome it becomes. :)

  5. I understand, teamoyeniyi (fascinating screen name). I tried to write with five noisy children, which is probably why I enjoy my solitude so much now. :)

  6. Thanks, Anne. There are so many other activities that vie for time with our writing that we have to closet ourselves for a few hours every day as though it were a "regular" job. Which it is.