Good Coffee – I know it sounds like a bad cliché, but I MUST have a good cup of coffee before starting my morning writing. I’m afraid I’m hooked on the one-cup Keurig … Café Carmel with the Carmel Macchiato creamer. Ugh… you have no idea how heavenly it smells – much less tastes. Okay – so every writer has a ritual that begins the day. If I’m writing in the evening (which is my Monday through Friday schedule) – I start with orange Sparkling Ice diluted with carbonated water. See, it’s like before turning a key to start the car; you have to put on the seatbelt and adjust the rear view mirror first. We all have these ‘habits’ that get us started. With coffee/water in hand – I read the last three pages of what I wrote last – it gets me in the mood and reminds me of where I left off.
Plan to write – I’ll be honest, I used to save-up blocks of writing time – for when I ‘could’ write. Some call that ‘binge writing.’ It took me a while to realize that if I was going to finish a book I had to learn how to write with ‘stuff’ going on around me. I still prefer a nice, quiet office and because I now have the ‘empty nest’ and a husband who has an evening work shift - I have more quiet time than ever.
Where should you stop? I’ve listened to other author’s share when they decide to stop writing for the day or night. They wait until there’s a paragraph that gives them a breather, they wait until they finish a chapter, or they stop only when the point-of-view changes. I stop when I’m tired. I’ve even stopped in the middle of a sentence. When I know I’m no longer coherent – I’m falling asleep thinking – I’m pausing for minutes and the words just aren’t coming . . . yep – that’s the time to quit for the day/night. Once I realize my productivity is compromised, it’s time to stop.
This may not work for everyone, and stopping in mid-sentence will drive some people nuts. But from my experience – if I push it further - one of two things will happen. One, I will force the writing and it will have to be rewritten the next day, or two, I’ll get a second-wind and will find myself recharged and writing until three or four in the morning. When I have to get up at six-thirty for my eight to five job, this is not a good plan.
Undisturbed Time - I used to make sure everyone in the house went to bed and the house was quiet before I could start writing. I still do time-control on weekends. Seven to ten early Saturday morning is the best writing time for me. I love it! Oh, I know I could be sleeping in – but that won’t finish my book. It’s important to give ‘yourself’ writing time. You deserve it and owe it to yourself. Make other members of your family understand they can give you quiet time out of respect. Let family members know you appreciate it when they give you this special ‘writing time.’
Diversions – Don’t forget to get up and stretch, go get a cup of coffee, or sit out on the patio for ten minutes. If you’re taking a longer break, eat breakfast or take a nice long shower. Sometimes I take the dog for a short stroll and think through my story.
A Story Board - I’m a visual person, therefore, a story board is crucial. I include pictures of what my characters look like and I include pictures of important family members or friends under them. I post maps and geography where the story is taking place on the board (a 6’x5’ cork board) and even include buildings, bridges, etc. It sets the mood and I use it for inspiration.
First Reader – I have that one friend I can trust to read the first draft of each book I finish. Her accurate and constructive critique is invaluable to me. I envy those writers who have the ‘reader spouse.’ Not the case with me. So I turn to a dear friend of fifteen or more years and allow her to grab the red pen and fire away!
Grab a book – My reward after typing ‘the end’ is a lovely glass (or two) of my favorite chardonnay and a good book. Yep, I can hardly wait to read the next book on my ‘reading’ list. I will read book after book until the critique on my just finished book arrives back to me. It’s true that one of the most important things a writer must do is read. Falling asleep with a book in my hands is one of my greatest pleasures.