The Perfectionist Ghoul

Perfectionism: rigorous rejection of anything less than perfect (Encarta Dictionary).

Perfectionism can lead to misery, frustration, and long nights of ranting to the dog because he’s the only one who will listen. Meanwhile, Fido wonders why he ever wanted to leave the pound.

Once you’ve finished the chapter (or paragraph, or manuscript), gone over the grammar, tweaked the dialogue, and clarified plot points, how do you decide it’s time to let it go? Or, until the date it’s accepted by an editor, do you continue to go back and do rewrites?

How obsessive are the WinR’s??? How obsessive are YOU? We’d love to hear how you handle this dilemma.

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Bonnie Schroeder

Since I haven’t been published a lot, I have the luxury of continuing to tinker endlessly with my work. My short pieces usually get at least ten revisions. After a few rewrites I read them aloud and/or get trusted colleagues to give feedback and then revise and revise and revise. (Does the word “perfectionist” starting resonating about now?) Longer pieces I probably rework at least five times. The first draft is generally so hideous I don’t show it to anyone except maybe the dog; I revise until it’s fit for human eyeballs and then workshop it two or three times, and even then I find little things (sometimes not so little) that I’m shocked to have missed before.

At some point though, quite honestly, I just so darn sick and tired of the piece it that I can’t face another read-through. It goes in the drawer, and some things have sat there for years. Then one day I’ll drag one out, take another look, and go, “Well, this isn’t so bad. If I just changed . . . . “

Does anyone ever get a message from the Muse that says “enough?” If they do, I’m jealous! I don’t like to read the published version of my work, because I’m always afraid I’ll spot some huge flaw that snuck past the editor and me. I’ve gotten pretty good at disconnecting from the writing by then and can (almost) pretend it was written by someone else.

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GB Pool

One Last Polish

“Only God is perfect.” The rest of us strive for just being good at what we do. As a wise man once said, “You might be stupid, but you don’t want to look stupid.” So we keep polishing that sentence, or paragraph, or novel to make it not only look good, but also, surprise, surprise, it might actually be good. And if you persevere, it just might be great. So each pass of the polishing cloth gets us closer to “good.”

Here is another saying: “Don’t beat a dead horse.” If everybody tells you something doesn’t work, start over with another approach. Or maybe bury it. Lazarus had help coming back from the dead. If you don’t have Divine help, get over it and move on. Time’s a wastin’.

But don’t polish you work for so long that the toes fall off. The Pieta in Rome has had the feet of Christ replaced numerous times because people keep rubbing the toes for good luck. I hope they got their good luck, but your work will only end up toeless if you don’t finally say: “I’m done.”

But as with all wise sayings, here is my favorite. My father told me after I had moved to California to write, “No matter how good you think you are, I think you’re better.” So my friends, find people who are in your corner. People who will give you heartfelt encouragement and constructive criticism. You need both. And then, do the toughest thing of all: trust yourself.

After all it’s your work. Have faith, do your best, and let it go.

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Jacqueline Vick

My Work of Art!

Have you ever gone back and read a piece that you “finished” last month (last year, last decade) and been horrified by the errors? What happened to your clever story—the one that was going to win the Pulitzer? Who the heck broke into your computer and destroyed your masterpiece!!!
Experiences like that make writers neurotic. The fear is that we’ll send out substandard stuff and that editors will add our name to the Black Book of the Damned—writers they would only read with a pitcher of cocktails and their BFF’s with the intent of having a giggle.

There has to be an end point or you’ll drive yourself mad. (An insane writer—is that redundant?) 1. Always set your work aside and get back to it after at least a week’s rest.

2. Expect that, when you pick your piece up again, it will have errors. This is good. You’re finding them before it goes out!

3. After this edit, you can allow yourself one more rest and read cycle. Unless you rewrite the whole thing from scratch, trust that you’ve found what needs to be found.

4. Have an objective set of eyes look at it. This is where a good writing group is invaluable.

5. Let it go.

There’s a line of thought that says you have to let things go in order to attract new things. Imagine all the writing projects you’re missing out on by obsessing over this one piece. Is it worth hanging onto for the rest of your life?

We all want to do our best, and that’s all we can do. I will make mistakes. I’ll learn from them, forgive myself and move on. Nobody’s perfect.

Meeting Your Writing Needs Through Blogs

There are so many writing blogs available on the web that it’s difficult to decide which ones to read. Fortunately, there is something available for every taste and need, as reflected by the variety of Favorites we have listed on this site.

1. Looking for Inspiration

Writing is solitary by nature unless you’re part of a team like Morgan St. James of the Silver Sister Mysteries. When you need to connect, there are blogs available where writers share their process, write about everyday events, and simply offer a connection to another creative person.

Under the Tiki Hut mixes writing advice and life observations. Carol Kilgore shares her writing processes in a personal way that leaves one feeling that they’ve been privileged to share her day with her. The same can be said of Kristol Holl at Writer’s First Aid. The observations at God’s Teeth are a bit more biting, (I couldn’t resist) but I’m working on making my point without indulging in self-righteousness.

For those who write for children, What a Mystery! will take you straight into those young minds. Read stories written by kids and get a feel for what they like.

If you need to jump start your imagination, there is nothing more interesting than the truth. You can read all sorts of fascinating and sometimes creepy articles by Dr. D.P. Lyle at The Writer’s Forensic Blog.

Good writers also read, and it helps to have dependable reviews to guide your buying (or renting) habits. Jackie Houchin’s News & Reviews is such a site. Whether you’re looking for a good book to read or you can’t decide which play to see this weekend, Jackie can point you in the right direction.

Other book review sites include Kevin’s Corner and A Book and A Dish. At the latter site, reviews are accompanied by recipes!

2. The book or story is done. Now what?

The Rose City Sisters is a flash fiction anthology that’s a delight to read and also a place to submit your work. In between the stories are quick bits of information including contests looking for submissions and writing tools.

When you’re ready to promote, Number One Novels is the place to go. Make sure you read the guidelines before submitting your work. Interviews are posted on Monday, and you can link to Rebecca Chastain’s personal blog from here for a closer look at NON’s author/creator.

Go to The Official Site of GB Pool and check out her Events & Signings page. This is what it looks like when an author gets involved in the writing community. Hopefully, you’ll be inspired to get out of the house and network with other writers.

One of my favorite blogs JA Konrath’s A Newbie Guide to Publishing. Here, I can laugh at his observations about both critics and writers or giggle over one of his outrageous author interviews. What the site is best known for is the amazing amount of information about marketing. I consider Mr. Konrath a genius at self-promotion, and writers would do well to observe and take notes.

3. The crème de la crème

Backspace lets you sample blogs from all over, with new posts every day from different writers. If you can only take time to visit one site, this is it.

Whenever you visit a blog, make sure to sample from the sidebar of Favorites. You’ll discover new blogs that provide what you’re searching for, whether it is information, inspiration, or a chuckle to help you out of a funk.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Ripped From the Headlines!

The question this week for our WinR’s and readers is: How much do real world events–from natural disasters to political fiascos–impact your writing?

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Jackie Houchin

The “real world” has a lot to do with the kind of writing I do, in fact my web site is titled “News & Reviews.” But I tend to go for the softer sort of news, i.e. art gallery openings, classic car shows, author panels at our local library, and interviews with interesting business and career people.

Yep, you got it! I’m a chicken. The two or three investigative stories I’ve written – while providing good “press” – resulted in some nasty backlash for me and even a few threats. Yikes!

I did learn two things however. Confirm EVERY detail you get from your sources no matter how reliable they are, and be sure to cover BOTH sides of the issue thoroughly. Then take your punches like a … woman. (Oh, and be sure your editor doesn’t add his two – unconfirmed – cents to your article!!)

Politics? I avoid discussing them like the plague. Of course when controversial issues appear in the books or plays I review, I address them, but it’s in the context of the story presented. My personal convictions do occasionally leak through, however.

I write more about human-instigated disasters than those presented by nature (God). I interviewed an elderly shop keeper once who had been robbed and beaten by a gang of punk kids for the few bucks in the till. Terrified by the incident, he decided to close the small neighborhood market. You see, he knew the boys; had watched them grow up.

I also chronicled the burglary of a local Catholic Church, where the thieves walked off with the entire safe. The Priest’s pleas that the safe or at least the communion instruments inside it be returned went unheeded even though he promised “no questions asked.”

Another story was about a woman who was injured by an inattentive mechanic while having her car repaired. The owners and employees conspired to make her look the fool. Thank God for a part-time worker in a neighboring business who was willing to come forward.

These are the things that “get my dander up.” But I just report on them. If ever I were to write fiction, the sense of injustice I feel when interviewing these victims would assure a very nasty “reward” for my antagonist. Take that, you scumbag

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Bonnie Schroeder

The biggest effect real world events have on my writing is as a sometimes unwelcome distraction. Bad news scares away my muse, so I try not to read the paper or turn on the radio until I’ve done my morning’s writing (easier said than done). It’s hard to write if you’re worried about some unfriendly country launching a nuclear warhead at us. And politics is endlessly fascinating but more of a time-waster than a useful tool for the type of fiction I write.

I have used an occasional local story in my fiction. Key scenes in my recent novel take place during one of Southern California’s notorious October wildfires, the Santa Anas roaring in the background. And I keep a clip file of events that might sometime pop up in a story – a murder or a particularly flagrant white collar criminal, usually. I keep trying to find an irresistible heart-warmer to use, but so far that hasn’t happened.

Since I also publish an online newsletter for the local Red Cross, disasters do have a direct and immediate impact on that side of my writing. Our chapter deploys volunteers to national events like last year’s Gulf Coast hurricanes, and they also come out for local disasters like brush fires or even single-residence fires, to support the victims and the responders. I’m always attuned to news reports because if our chapter volunteers are deployed, I need to know and to report it to our readers.

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Jacqueline Vick

As far as story line, real world events don’t really impact my mysteries or children’s books. However, I can’t resist some commentary.

I wrote “Logical Larry” (an early-middle reader) out of disgust for the way children are targeted, whether it’s by commercials luring them with “must have” toys or a rogue teacher forcing young elementary students to wear pink shirts to support the union’s opposition to pink slips, threatening them with “NO PLAYTIME”. Larry attempts to teach children to think for themselves. They need to learn to question things at an early age.

In my mysteries, characters may make comments that address issues rather than actual events, such as when Deanna Wilder, feeling left out, considers calling herself a Euro-American.

Events tend to come out more in my blog, God’s Teeth. This is where I raise issues that drive me nuts and find a way to make them a useful writing exercise. The difficulty is how to make the point without being flat-out mean.

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GB Pool

Real life incidents are a great jumping off point for many of my stories. My first novel, Media Justice, was a conglomeration of all the wall-to-wall news accounts of every “trial of the century” last century. It was that super saturation of media frenzy and instant experts that seemed to come out of the woodwork that made for a compelling story.

But I prefer to pick my own villain rather than use the one in those headlines. It makes it far more interesting to develop the character when I can create their personalities. It is the essence I am looking for, not the facts from any particular case.

And what is even more fun is to take a well-worn news story, one of those that the media beats to death, and rework it so the bad guy ends up the victim and the original victim turns out to be the villain. It makes the story fresh and it keeps the reader guessing. Fact is great, but fiction is better. (Sometimes.)

I do have a spy trilogy, as yet unpublished, that follows my father’s military career and actual historical events. Most of the events I depict, at least from my father’s POV, are fictional, but there are many things I don’t know about his career. He was cleared to Top Secret, was a command pilot in the Air Force, and he didn’t talk much about his exploits. He did read the first draft of the first book. He sent me a letter and mentioned a few things that I got wrong. And here I thought I just had a great imagination.

But history and the headlines are a great source of ideas for any writer. I just prefer to rewrite aspects of it for a story. I don’t want to misrepresent history. That happens enough without my help. But I do like to flavor stories with real things so the reader doesn’t know where the facts end and the fiction begins.

Writing: A Solitary Profession?

Writing is generally a solitary act. But does it need to be? What do you think about writing groups? Are they beneficial or a waste of valuable time?

After you read the responses from the WinRs, let us know what you think!
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GB Pool

The Loneliest Profession

Writing is basically a one-man operation, unless you write for television or the movies, where a committee does it. But the traditional author sits in front of a computer, typewriter, or a piece of paper and writes all by himself.

Belonging to a writers’ group, above and beyond the constructive criticism and brainstorming sessions, gives you people to talk to about your work, this precious commodity that you have created, nurtured, and hopefully someday will send off into the world to entertain and enlighten other people.

Having “a second pair of eyes” is a perfect way to see things that you missed, hear things that you didn’t know were there, and point out things that aren’t working. And if you are in the right group, they will see the good things in your “baby” as well.

I originally belonged to a larger group of writers. Their styles ranged from Science Fiction to experimental to Women’s Fiction to Mystery. Good writing is good writing. I can read anything and enjoy it if most of the basic rules of English Grammar (and Common Sense) are adhered to.

There in lies the rub. When a portion of the group doesn’t recognize the basic Parts of Speech, proper syntax, and know how to use Spell Check or even a dictionary…Houston, we have a problem.

A few of us broke away from the herd and started our own group. Two more writers joined us and we have the group we have today. We have watched each other grow, improve, learn, and it has made us all better writers. We learn from our own and each other’s mistakes and achievements.

But of all the things a group, any group – sewing circles, car clubs, collectors’ groups – brings to their members, the best thing is it gives you a place where people who are doing the same thing you are doing can come and talk about their dreams, their learning experiences, their frustrations, and their successes. It lets you know you aren’t really alone in this wonderful world of writing.

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Bonnie Schroeder

I belong to the Alameda Writers Group (AWG), Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC) and the awesome WWW — which I think stands for Wednesday Women Writers, even though we sometimes meet on Thursdays.

Have I found these groups helpful? A big fat YES!! I have gotten honest, kind and insightful feedback that has (I hope) improved on my fiction immeasurably. Equally important, I’ve received encouragement and the immense comfort of knowing others share my Terror of the Blank Page.

From a craft standpoint, I believe it’s essential to have other writers read your work and give notes, and the people in my critique groups are serious readers as well as wonderful writers. They know what makes a piece work, and what brings it down, and when I’m too close to my work to see the most glaring errors, my fellow writers gently but honestly let me know where I went wrong. One of our wise members has remarked that she learns as much by reading others’ work as she does by getting feedback on her own, and that is so true.

When I see another writer struggling with an issue of plot, character development, or just trying to get those words in the most effective order, it teaches me something about my own process. My writing groups have supported and inspired me, and I can’t imagine life without them. Heck, I’d hang out with them even if I didn’t write.

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Jacqueline Vick

One of the best moves I ever made as a writer was when I accepted the invitation to join the WWW writing critique group.

The only writing feedback I had received prior was either paid for (I highly recommend Pilar Alessandra of On the Page for screenwriting) or anonymously delivered through contests, and sometimes the latter feedback was either vague or snarky.

I can’t stress how much my writing has improved from the perceptive comments of my group, all delivered in a caring way. If someone were to tell me that I was indulging myself in a certain passage, I could be confident that it was a valuable bit of information, not a personal criticism. And a writer needs people who will tell her when she’s amusing herself and not her audience!

On a broader scale, I belong to Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators. The speakers made available by both SinC and MWA provide great insights and tips. All three have Yahoo lists that offer discussions on almost any topic, and you can ask others to share their experiences, which is priceless. Add to that newsletters chock full of information–writing tips, research advice, market guidelines–and the price of admission is well worth it.

As with anything, the more involved you get, the more you get out of it. I’m the type that has to force myself to attend meetings, but when I do, I’m always glad I did. I talk to other writers about what they are up to, find out the latest happenings in the publishing arena, and just enjoy my fellow scribes.

Writers have to fight the urge to remain isolated, and a writing group can put you in touch with others who share your passion.

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A Report Back on the CCWC

Late June, writers from all over the country met in Pasadena, CA, for the California Crime Writers Conference–a joint effort between the Southern California chapters of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Dozens of panels to choose from, high-quality speakers, and the comradere of fellow writers made the weekend worth every penny.

Though it’s difficult to sum up such an eventful conference, here are some highlights from the Writers in Residence who attended. We asked them to consider the following questions:

What was the best/most important thing you learned at the conference?

Which speaker (keynote or session) did you find most inspiring/helpful, and why?

In which way has the conference helped you the most – tangibly (facts, techniques, contacts) or intangibly (inspiration, support)?

Did you attend this conference? Let us know what you thought!

Pictures: MK Johnston and Rosemary Lord soak up information at a panel. GB Pool works the Forensic Track. Jacqueline Vick works the raffle table with Sue Stimpson

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MK Johnston

A good conference benefits the writer in many ways. You learn, you relearn, you’re invigorated, you’re humbled. You reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. That’s all part of the appeal, whether you’ve just decided to begin writing, you’re shopping your latest novel or any point in between. And, as has often happened to me, I found some of the most helpful information came from the least likely source.

Generally, I had no trouble picking which session I wanted to attend, but one session had nothing that interested me. At the last moment I chose Christopher Rice’s “Become your editor’s favorite author”. His message was simple – Know what your central premise (theme) is, and create very detailed character biographies. In other words, know precisely what and who you’re writing about. He also stressed the importance of creating an editorial staff to include your biggest fan (for pure support), target audience member, tough critic (knowledgeable in your genre), and proof reader. Rice also discussed the rewrite process, not just technically, but emotionally. His advice – never rewrite your book for someone who rejected it.

One concept that kept coming up was whether or not to prepare a story outline. I didn’t use one when writing my first novel. Although it allowed me the freedom to explore different paths with the story line, it also took many years to complete, a luxury I won’t have with the sequel. Several speakers gave great advice on how to get the advantages of an outline without outlining. Two good suggestions: write key scenes on index cards and add up or down arrows to note whether that scene is more or less active (to help with pacing), or rely on very detailed character bios to guide the story.

I came away from the conference with my creative juices flowing and the resolve to finish my rewrite. Can any writer ask for more?

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GB Pool

Since I had the opportunity to work on the conference from its inception, I got to see how much goes into putting on an event like the California Crime Writers Conference. But I think getting to interact with other committee members, attendees, and the speakers was priceless. I have met so many absolutely marvelous people and I realize how important networking is to anyone who wants to not only be a writer, but be a successful one.

I ran the Forensics Track at the conference and spent the entire time with that group. I got to pick who spoke and work with them and introduce them. That was a sheer joy. As for my favorite speaker, I thought private detective J. Corey Friedman was spectacular. He could literally get your mother’s underwear size by running a “legitimate scam” on her. And he showed us how to get information on nearly anybody via the Internet. One man gave him only his name and Corey found his wife’s Social Security number on-line.

Working on the conference showed how well organizations can do things if each person gets their assignments and does them. Nobody bothered me and I did my own thing. It worked for me. And then to see how happy people were who came to the conference made all the work worth while. Bernadine De Paolis said, “I pissed on the ceiling.” She explained that in her family that means I did the impossible. I don’t know about that, but I sure was glad there were so many happy faces. That’s what I wanted.

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Note: The elusive Jackie Houchin takes many of the pictures for our blog. We will capture her on camera…eventually.

Jackie Houchin

Writing (and Reviewing) Crime

Along with everyone that attended the California Crime Writing Conference, I was impressed by the four “tracks” of workshops available.

I chose the “Learning the Craft” track because it fit what I am interested in. No, I haven’t written any crime fiction since the junior detective series I wrote for my grandchildren ten years ago. But I do review mystery and thriller books, so I wanted to learn from the professionals what makes a terrific best-seller.

Jerrilyn Farmer used her book, “Perfect Sax” to illustrate how to plot a mystery. She kept us spellbound for an hour as she reviewed her reasons for choosing for the victim, the method of murder, a variety of suspects, false leads and red herrings, and then showed us how to add twists and surprises to keep the cleverest of readers guessing till the end. “But remember,” she cautioned us, “all your characters’ actions and reactions must be logical and believable.”

In her workshop on how to plot a thriller, Gayle Lynds explained the difference between a mystery and a thriller. Mysteries begin with a terrible crime, then go on to discover who did it and why. Thrillers begin with the knowledge that something dreadful is about to happen, then race to try to stop it. She also drilled us on the importance of the villain in a thriller. “Your antagonist is critical, he drives the plot. He must be a worthy opponent for your hero, a clash of titans. If you get stuck in your story, ask yourself what the villain is doing.”

The tips I learned in these two sessions will help me better understand and review the next crime or suspense novel I read…if I can just remember to apply them.

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Jacqueline Vick

For attendees of the recent California Crime Writers Conference, the most difficult task was to choose which panels to attend.

In the Writing Business Track, Carolyn Howard Johnson began the day sharing cool tips on how to market your book without spending a lot of money. With so many online options available, this isn’t as difficult as it seems. Carol explained how to efficiently produce both a blog and a newsletter by sharing information between the two. Many blogs allow users to schedule a future posting date so that the newsletter content doesn’t duplicate what’s online. She also mentioned the immediate feedback she’s received from Tweets—postings on Twitter.

I have to say that the information she gave on marketing was the most valuable concrete information I received at the conference because she was talking about steps I can take today to get my “brand” out to people so they will be interested by the time my book comes out.

Annette Rogers of Poisoned Pen Press reminded us that we writers are storytellers. She read examples of great opening paragraphs to demonstrate how to catch the editor’s attention. Editors look for stories that can compete against all media, including television, movies and radio. And we can’t sell something that isn’t out there. If a dreaded rejection shows up in the mail, tweak a few words and send the manuscript out again the next day.

Annette inspired me because writers sometimes see editors as a scary, separate piece of the publishing puzzle, and her personable approach and sense of humor reminded me that editors are simply people who would love to see good writing on their desk.

The E-Publishing Panel included Annette Rogers, Marilyn Meredith, and E-Publisher Marci Baun. While traditional publishing can take two years from acceptance to print, E-Publishers can do it in as little as four months. The standards are the same, and guidelines are still important.

This panel inspired me to think outside of the box. The opportunities to publish are out there, even though it seems that the business is contracting.

Everyone inspired me in one way or another–the speakers with useful information, the other attendees with their stories and eternal optimism. I learned long ago that mystery writers are a close community, always willing to encourage and share tips. I highly recommend that writers get out of their cloistered writing rooms and step into this conference in two years when it is offered again.

Finding Time to Write

Some writer’s snatch a few moments of time wherever they find it. Other’s adhere to strict schedules. Walter Mosley tells us to write every day. Peter Brett wrote his first novel on his smartphone during his daily travels on the F train. Do you follow a set writing schedule? Write every day? Have a favorite writing spot? Do you put butt to chair until you’ve finished a specific word count? Tell us about your writing schedule.

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Writers Write by Bonnie Schroeder

I try (emphasis on “try”) to write every day, first thing in the morning — okay, I feed the dogs and make coffee first and then retreat to my desk with one dog underfoot and one cat in my lap. On my desk, I have a kitchen timer that I set for one hour. Some days I actually write for the full hour before the phone rings or the other cat barfs or my stomach starts growling. Some days I have to stop the timer until the aforementioned distractions are dealt with; then I try to finish the hour later on. I don’t always make my goal, but occasionally I actually exceed it.

For me the important thing is to try for it, every day — weekends included. It keeps the circuits open and the muse engaged. When I worked at a job 50 miles away with a two-plus hour daily commute, there were times when I could only manage 15 minutes a day, so an hour is a huge luxury for me now. But even with those quarter-hour writing sessions, I finished the draft of a novel. It took a few years, but that daily contact with the pages kept them in my mind, kept me plugged into the current. And that, to me, is the secret: write something every day, even if it’s just a paragraph, or even a sentence. Then I can legitimately say, “I’m a writer.”

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Lucky by Jacqueline Vick

I’m extremely lucky. I was able to quit my day job to pursue writing full time. (Well, writing AND homemaking full time). That means that every morining when I rise, my day is my own and my schedule is whatever I want. Sounds great, doesn’t it? There are a few downsides.

When I’m working on a novel manuscript, there is no boss handing me deadlines. There is no client with a specific need to fill. I have to set all of those goals myself…and keep them. Repercussions can be a wonderful motivator; without them, it’s more difficult to stay on course.

My deadlines consist of “finish the first draft by May 1st”. I’m always happy to find a short story contest, because that gives me a specific deadline and specific criteria to meet.

Yesterday, I was talking to my brother who is a personal coach, and he said that the difficulty most people run into is keeping promises to themselves. They don’t value their own time and their own goals as much as they value other people’s time and goals. I’m starting to get around this by making more specific goals and deadlines, and then pretending that I work for a fabulous author named Jacqueline Vick. She has high expectations and I don’t want to disappoint her. I imagine her asking me to have the rewrites on chapter one on her desk by Friday. It’s a bit kooky, but it works.

I write every day including weekends. My butt is in the chair for about 8 hours on weekdays, a few hours here and there on Saturday and Sunday. I write in the only place available to me–the dining room table. It’s a pain to keep cleaning off the table each night, but the thought of my husband reaching around a stack of papers for the pepper mill helps keep me organized.

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Writing Away by Jackie Houchin

For an organized, everything-in-its-place, kind of person, my writing schedule is very haphazard and irregular. I mostly write when a deadline looms, so I’m thankful I have those. I write reviews for magazines and articles for a newspaper and newsletters. If I don’t get my copy in, it doesn’t get printed. Simple as that, and no amount of boo-hoo’ing will fix it. The next issue already looms on the horizon.

If I were to write a book, I fear I would find myself writing franticly for 23-hours every day during the last weeks before the agent/editor/publisher’s scheduled deadline. I admire my fellow Wonder Women who persistently, faithfully write for months and even years to bring their creations into the world. Their ultimate satisfaction will far outshine my instant bursts of pride.

So which style is best? “Whatever works for you.” Yeah, you’ve heard that before, but it’s true. Whether it’s dedicating specific minutes, hours, and days to craft a novel, or franticly writing and rewriting and “ripping the paper out of a typewriter” before rushing it to an editor…it doesn’t matter. If our words, opinions, ideas, and stories are read (sooner or later), well, that’s what counts.

That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it. Now, let’s see… when’s my next deadline?

PS: Where do I write? Either at my dinosaur desktop PC in my office until the “backside” can’t stand sitting any more, or more recently, standing at the breakfast bar in the corner of my kitchen with a 6-foot cat tree behind me (usually occupied by three cats lounging and looking over my shoulder, and trying to foil my thought processes with their diabolical purring and mind games) while I pound away on my laptop.