Tweet chat 2nd July 2021 Your Writing Life


Participants: Gerald Hornsby, Elizabeth Holland, Maria Johnson, Kathleen Marple-Kalb, Beth Hudson, Cheryl Whiting, Mordecai Martin, Karen Heenan, Odessa Rose, Susie Kearley, Deborah Klée

Please introduce yourself by telling us where you write and the drinks and/or snacks you need to fuel you.

Maria: Hi! I’m Maria, from NW England. We moved a couple of months ago and I’ve converted one of my spare bedrooms into a study/office. It now has a library and a window seat so I’ve got my dream writing place! I fuel up with coffee, tea and often have Go Ahead fruit biscuits.

Karen: I’m Karen, and I write literally all over my small town – I dictate my first drafts while walking. When I come home, I clean them up at my computer and then I require buckets of coffee, and occasionally cheese crackers.

Deborah: Hi Karen. I am reading Songbird now and loving it! How do you dictate when walking? Do you have a headphone/mic?

Karen: Thank you! I dictate into my phone – I have a cloud-based notes app – and download it to my PC when I get home to clean it up. Speech-to-text doesn’t get everything, and if I don’t look it over quickly, I’m reduced to phonetic detective work.

Chris: I once dictated a chapter of a book into an old-fashioned Dictaphone while driving on the M1. No, I didn’t crash…

Karen: Luckily, I’m a walker. And strangely, having written most of A Wider World on foot in my town, I identify certain areas with the scenes I wrote while walking on them.

Beth: Hi! I’m Beth Hudson, fantasy author in the USA. I write almost exclusively in my office/library which is studded with books, knickknacks, artwork, toys, and other things which give me inspiration. However, inspiration I can get at anytime from anywhere. Oh yes – I don’t eat when I’m working, but I do drink tons of coffee.

Gerald: I would say 95% of the time I work in the study (aka the 2nd bedroom). My fuel is tea, toast, and coffee; I generally stop ‘work’ at around 5pm, although I’ll still be thinking, noting ideas, and so on.

Deborah: Hi Gerald. I know your study has plans and charts over the wall.

Gerald: Hi Deborah! Yes! Two photos of my daughter, cycling medals, and a little piece of artwork showing a small cat, saying “F***ing hell, what’s the point?” which makes me laugh every time I look at it. And loads of other ‘aide-memoires’.

Chris: Hi folks, Chris from the leafy London ‘burbs. Whilst I have a home office, I seldom write there. Often it’s somewhere else in the house, or (pre-Covid) in cafes or on holiday. Inspiration is best when away from the ‘normal’ spaces. I mostly run on water.

Deborah: Hi Chris. I hope you stretch to more than water when writing in a cafe!

Chris: Oh yes, but I don’t run on caffeinated drinks, unlike many writers and – coincidentally – most of my MCs! The key is that I don’t “need” ingredients or routine to write, other than a keyboard and words waiting to pour out. Again, unlike many!

Deborah: I write in a small room in the eaves of our house. I love my writing space. Maltesers and decaf Earl Grey tea.

Kathleen: Hi! I’m Kathleen! I write anywhere I have five minutes and a flat surface for the laptop — coffee is my fuel.

Susie: Hey! Late to the party, but I’ve just had Pringles and green tea.

Mordecai: Hi, I’m Mordecai, I write in my office or at the piano or kitchen table or in my bed . . . Really anywhere my typewriter fits. I’m not much of a snacked, but I try to hydrate while writing! It’s more of a hybrid machine, called the freewrite. It writes digitally and uploads to the internet, but otherwise doesn’t let me look at anything online

Elizabeth: I’m Elizabeth and I’m very late as I completely forgot it was Friday I alternate between tea and coffee to fuel my writing!

What does a typical writing day/ week look like for you?

Maria: I usually write Mon-Thurs and Sat mornings (Fri is day off). I have 2 slots about 2-3 hours, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Work involves writing and/or editing, trying to market, weekly blog posts, bimonthly newsletters, website and admin stuff, etc. 

Deborah: It is a good idea to schedule a day off each week. I don’t and have lots of set commitments with the blog, castaway Books and Friday Salon. I need to address that.

Maria: Yeah, having a day off is important the hubs has his day off on Fridays so it’s been good to block that off too. Although I did do some work today as ended up having a day off on Wed. I count #FriSalon as pleasure rather than work sometimes I listen to a podcast on a Fri too.

Kathleen: I’m not good at days off either. I need to address it too — breaks really ARE important!

Karen: (To Maria) You sound like me in that “writing” means anything to do with writing. I consider lying on the loveseat, plotting and staring at the ceiling to be a form of writing. If I get something done, it counts. 

Maria: Yeah, there’s a great quote something like ‘a writer is working, even when looking out of the window’. In my head plotting, research, drafting, editing is all writing, then blog posts, newsletters, website stuff, social media presence etc is all marketing-writing

Chris: yes, the actual words-on-paper first draft phase is only one part. I haven’t made progress on any #WIPs for weeks, but I’ve done days and days of editing, covers, reformatting and Grammarly on old titles etc etc

Karen: That still counts!

Chris: Absolutely. Most of the #WritingCommunity chatter is about progress in terms of word counts, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. One school of thought is that you must write words every day to be a writer. If so, then I’ll happily remain not being one.

Maria: I disagree with that – I don’t do any writing on a Friday or a Sunday, so I’m not a writer either apparently, it’s great if writers want to do words every day, but it’s not necessary. I find taking days off resets the creativity

Gerald: I try to be at my desk by 9am. Work-work-work. Then about half to one hour lunch at 1am with the news. Then work-work-work until 5pm. There *may* be some use of Twitter during those times We try to get a walk in during the afternoon. Weekends tend to be mornings off with Saturday Kitchen and the Sunday Politics shows. Afternoons might involve shopping. Sometimes background stuff on writing and marketing, and brainstorming project ideas.

Elizabeth: I try to stick to ‘working hours’ for writing. The morning is when I complete any admin or freelance work and then afternoons are often dedicated to writing. I’ve fallen out of my schedule lately and it’s had such a negative impact on my writing!

Cheryl: I try to write in the morning so it’s ‘banked’. I find if I leave it until the afternoon I never really get started. Continuity of routine is key. On the days I have to teach I find it hard to get into any sort of routine.

Elizabeth: I love that approach! Would love to write in the morning but always feel as though paid work should take priority 

Cheryl: It’s the same for me. As I teach part-time I have no say in when classes are held. Where I have control, I try and take control and be a bit selfish in achieving my personal ambition.

Beth: It’s a little chaotic, since I have a different work schedule on M, W and F. M I have a good chunk of the afternoon, but Tu I’ve got two different activities, W my work cuts across stretches of time, and F is downtime. So, I squeeze writing into the evenings a lot.

Cheryl: slowly getting into a routine and try to fit work commitments around writing. Coffee then I ‘write’ for 1hr in my pj’s try to capture thoughts in some way, more coffee, shower, back to writing until 12. Chores until 2 and more writing/research ’til 5 at least 4/7 days

Odessa: Mon-Fri I write from 5 am to 7 am then I go to work. Or I take at nap around 9pm, get up at 12am and write until 2-2:30. Last night I pushed it to 3:20 and had to get up at 6am for work

Chris: Easy – there’s no such thing!

Kathleen: I get up early, exercise, and go over the previous day’s pages — then do the school run and start work on new stuff. That’s the ideal day…subject to change with whatever family/school/job issues are in play!

Karen: I work from home – started pre-Covid – because I couldn’t take cubicle life anymore. Writing is my least profitable but most important work. I’ve always fit it in around my “real” jobs, and I still do. I can write in 15 minute bursts if that’s what I have.

Deborah: It is an important skill to be able to grab 15 mins here and there. Not everyone has chunks of time to write.

Kathleen: Totally agree! That was something I had to improve during Covid — I was used to having the school day, and suddenly, I didn’t. I had to get a lot more flexible.

Mordecai: My best writing days start with working on paper until my thoughts out pace my hand writing, and then switching to my writing processor, then finally revising on the computer

Varun Kulkarni – Pixabay

What were your writing goals this week and did you achieve them?

Chris: I only have a quarterly To Do list – weekly targeting is too much granularity for me. For a logical, ordered person, it’s odd, but there’s too much fluidity outside of writing that affects my schedule. I make forward progress of some sort most days though.

Kathleen: I had to do a major edit on my contemporary cozy on a tight deadline — and I made it! Even got my regular blog posts written too. But my brain’s a little fried!

Odessa: My writing goal was to finish listening/editing my first novel, which I will be re-releasing this month, hopefully. I have 40 more pages to go and I’ll be done. So, I should achieve my goal by Sunday.

Beth: At the moment I’m finishing up a gig writing a series of blurbs for a client, so I haven’t gotten a lot done on my own writing (the reason I’m trying not to take too many gigs). So not a lot done (sigh) but ready to gallop off into chapter 6 of Runedance!

Gerald: My main goal this week was to finish and publish my latest novel: Body Under The Pier. Which I did! And it’s the first novel written following my @EfficientNovels programme, from start to finish. So Double Win!

Maria: Yes, I did! This week I hit my goals for my historical fiction novel, writing 20k since May and over 70k since Jan. I also wrote a blog post, newsletter and started July Camp Nano yesterday. Also popped into my local library to ask about interest for my books

Deborah: How did the library respond?

Maria: They’re interested! I have to email someone but they said they’d be happy to stock my books and there’s also some creative writing stuff I can get involved in. One of the librarians was also a writer so I had a really cool chat!

Susie: I’ve written four articles and submitted two of them, so that’s pretty good. My goals are simply to be productive and earn what I can. The pandemic has been challenging and I cannot control the situation economically, so as long as I do my best, I feel I’ve won. This week was good.

Karen: I think I did! I worked on my 1930s draft, wrote about 4k on the project I’m NOT supposed to be working on, scheduled social media posts, drafted my June newsletter and booked a podcast. I also caught up on podcasts sitting by the creek (too hot to walk this week).

Cheryl: I had hoped to finish my second chapter of the month, but I got invited to Newquay for 4 days so went there! Came back refreshed and ready to rock n roll once more. Inspiring book coaching session yesterday and Twittering with you all, are all have achieved.

Mordecai: oh dear, I forgot to make writing goals again. This explains a lot.

What do you do to take a break from writing when you need to stimulate creativity?

Karen: Reading, sewing, gardening, walking. Going someplace with my husband – doesn’t matter where, so long as it’s not home/around the neighborhood. Gardening is probably the most useful because it’s exercise, it clears the cobwebs, and in the end we get food.

Maria: go for a walk, doodle/fill in a colouring in book (sometimes I sketch but often end up frustrated with the results lol). Puzzle books, jigsaw puzzles, my exercise bike, reading. I’d love to get back into swimming again too.

Deborah: Yesterday I had a swim for the first time in 16 months at my leisure club. I swam 50 lengths. It was bliss! As we welcome each thing back into our life it is with such gratitude. Something we must hold on to.

Gerald: Get out of the house. We’re lucky to be surrounded by a lovely park, so sometimes my partner and I walk around there for half an hour or so, talking about our writing projects, teasing out the knots in the process.

Kathleen: Walking is good…or board games with the Imp. But I also sometimes just watch TV to relax my brain. (I’m currently addicted to Law and Order UK.)

Odessa: I watch horror movies.

Elizabeth: Getting outside always helps with my creativity! A nice walk and some fresh air

Chris: I don’t actively take breaks from writing because there’s no need. However, when I need to stimulate ideas I’ll maybe go for a walk or just lie down and stare at the ceiling (really!). If it’s during a #WIP I’ll read through the outline again, or previous chapter.

Cheryl: I run, if I want a break I listen to music, but sometimes I run without so I can think and process ideas. I’m doing a charity challenge this month 200k so plenty of time to be alone with my thoughts!

Deborah: I get the best ideas when I’m running. 200k is a long run!

Gerald: I used to do a lot of cycling, at around 2-4 hours on my own, and it was brilliant for emptying my mind of ‘issues’ and thinking about good things.

Cheryl: I can’t ride a bike. I bought one when I was 22 and kept falling off, so I sold it! I run between 5 and 10k most days so get good 30mins – 1hr of headspace.

Gerald: I learned to cycle when I learned to walk, I think. I cycled 3+ miles to grammar school and back every day for several years. I took it up again around 2010, did a couple of Ride London 100s and London to Paris. As soon as I sit on my bike, I’m in ‘my place’.

Beth: Reading, Role Playing Gamess, making jewellery, reading, watching movies (mostly ones I’ve got copies of, since I like a lot of obscure stuff), reading.

Younjoon – Pixabay

Where have you visited as research for a book and how did it help?

Gerald: I’ve travelled a lot in the past, but rarely have any of those places featured in my writing. Most of my stories are located in a fictional world near to where I live. I did have a research trip recently for a new series, which was excellent.…

Maria: My historical fiction series is set in what would today be Cumbria/the Lake District. I used to live in Lancaster, around the corner from the lakes, so that has really helped in me being able to visualise it when I’m describing the scenery etc. 

Kathleen: The setting for my historical mystery series is near my workplace — so I wander around the neighborhood when I have time, absorbing the setting and getting ideas.

Chris: Besides the internet and Google Earth?! One strand of my sci-fi series is set at a chateau we stayed at once. When we returned, I made sure to commit more of it to memory.

Cheryl: I don’t visit places for the place, more for the people. I’m writing non-fiction, business networks are good for meeting people and getting their insight on topics it helps me find suitable people to interview, that way I can illustrate with real-world examples.

Beth: I haven’t ever visited a place as research, because I have few disposable funds and don’t drive. That said, there is a beautiful stretch of country in southern Minnesota that inspired an entire novel (the one of mine that may someday see the rewritten light of day).

Odessa: The National Mall in Washington DC. It helped me write a scene in my first book in which the characters visit the Lincoln Memorial and other monuments and sculptures, including one the main character sculpted. That was really fun. I love research.

Karen: I haven’t visited a place as research, but I’ve visited lots of places which I used after the fact. Venice and Bruges in A Wider World. Hampton Court in Songbird. I wanted to go to Edinburgh, but Covid, so I researched it and wrote it into my third book for spite.

Deborah: I love Hampton Court but have not visited it in years. I will have to list after reading Songbird.

Karen: Of all the places I wish still existed, Greenwich Palace would be #1. It was home base for so much of my time period. It was demolished during the restoration (heavily damaged during the Oliver Cromwell years) and now it’s under the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. They found some rooms a few years ago when doing excavation

What do you love to do when you are not writing?

Maria: Reading, adult colouring in books, exercise bike, going into a coffee shop (so exciting we can do that again! Did that today and it was lovely) going for a walk in the park, puzzle books, spending time with friends, enjoying cuddles with the dog. I’m also a Christian so I love church related things. It’s been great going to a service physically and talking to actual people again!

Karen: My local coffee shop closed during Covid and the owner moved away. I’m so sad. Looking for another place I can walk to, because I used to love to sit in her window and drink and write and work on embroidery projects.

Gerald: What’s this “not writing” all about then? Crime drama on TV. Some reading. Doing a little bit of gardening. News and politics on TV.

Beth: Many of the same things I do when I am recharging creatively, since creative things refresh me. Write, perform, and listen to music. Read. Make crafty things. Photoshop mythical beasts. Play escape games. Play RPGs. Hang out with my youngest son or my best friend.

Chris: I have nothing else. Work, family and writing is the whole list, certainly in any quantity of note.

Cheryl: I like cuddles with my cat, and listening to podcasts and stories on BBC sounds rather than ‘read’ – I like to rest my eyes a bit and not have to concentrate too hard.

Odessa: I love hanging out with my family. Our kids are older now, though. So, most times now it’s just me and my husband chilling out together. But we do have movie night and that’s a lot of fun.

Kathleen: I love hanging out with my family. Our kids are older now, though. So most times now it’s just me and my husband chilling out together. But we do have movie night and that’s a lot of fun.

Cheryl: I’m with you, it’s ok doing things and having thrilling adventures but sometimes doing nothing is where it’s at in terms of switching off. A good film on TV with family and a bag of popcorn can be just as entertaining and relaxing.

Susie: Photography, walks in the country.

Elizabeth: Is it acceptable to say reading?

Deborah: Absolutely!

Elizabeth: If I’m not writing then I’m usually reading

Mordecai: Chess and Torah study!