How I Write

Most authors are asked at some point or another about their writing style, and how they best write.  Everyone is different, and I don’t know there is one right way, or one wrong way.

A pretty famous author I am a fan of, Sandra Dallas, has a method I tried, but didn’t work for me.  She writes one page a day.  Sometimes she writes more than one page a day, but she does at least one page a day.  When she’s done, she goes and does other things.  The next day, she reads what she wrote the day before, and does some editing, then writes another page.  Sounds simple enough.  But even though I’ve tried the method, it doesn’t work for me.

Other authors write by chapter.  Some by number of words.  Like I said, everyone is different. But I have learned a few things about myself over the last ten years or so when it comes to writing.

Deadlines

First, I work best under a deadline.  The shorter the deadline, the better off I am.  This is why National Novel Writing Month is so good for me.  30 days, 50,000 words (or more).  There is a hard start date, and a hard finish date.  There are no excuses, no extensions.  It is perfect.  Telling myself I want to finish something by a certain day is not a hard finish date.  I have a lot of trouble forcing myself to finish on the deadline I set.  Editing Fairest of the Faire was difficult, but also easy, because I had deadlines set by the publisher.  When I received edits (and I did three rounds of them), I had ten days to return the edits.  I work full time and generally only had weekends to work on any edits (and most of my writing).  Deadlines work, for me.

Never at Home

Second, I also write better when I’m not at home.  I have a perfectly serviceable office at home, which I’ve not had consistently in the past.  Our current home has an entire garden-level guest suite.  It has a small kitchenette, a bedroom, a large living area, and its own full bath.  I have set up one corner of the living space with a good sized desk and all of the books I use for reference.  The view out the window is of my green back yard and giant thornless locust tree and my shade garden.  I cannot hear sound from the rest of the house when I’m there, and you would think that I would be ready to write up a storm.  But when I am home, there is the housework that calls me, and the laundry, and the empty refrigerator.  There are all those “mom” things and “wife” things that need to be done.  when I am at home, I feel like I cannot write without guilt until I’ve finished all of the chores.  But you never actually finish all of the chores, no matter how hard you try.

So I find myself writing from a coffee shop in town.  I live in Boulder county (but not the city of Boulder) so coffee shops are ubiquitous and open at all hours.  I never have to step into a Starbucks, although they do have their purpose.  I write at Panera Bread if I need to eat and write, but most of the time, I’m hanging out at one of several great coffee shops nearby.  Sometimes I ride my bike there, and sometimes I drive.  Despite the busy-ness at a coffee shop, with people coming and going, and conversations going on all around, I still write better.  I put on my headphones, sip at my coffee, and write away.  It is not unusual for me to burn up the keyboard and write several chapters at one two- or three-hour writing session at the cafe.  I like to say that I have tried every coffee shop in town, which is probably close to the truth.  The criteria for visiting one a second time is whether or not they have decent chairs for long-term sittin’, and the coffee must be good.  There are a handful of shops that have failed on one, the other, or both counts.

I have two favorites at the moment, but as I am a bit of a fickle pickle, these favorites have a tendency to change.  I’ve included a picture of one of my current favorites below.

But when it comes down to it, the only one who can make me write is me.  I can have the perfect surroundings and still fail to write anything substantial.  But I try, in varying degrees, and for the most part, that has to be enough.  Now, if someone would just set a deadline for me to finish my second book, which is definitely under construction and being worked on, that would be great.  Say, end of June so it can start the editing process in July?  That would be nice…

Caffe Luna, one of my favorite writing haunts.  It is in an old Victorian with a wonderful porch and original bubbly/wavy glass windows.

Caffe Luna in Longmont, Colorado