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Ms. Author, how does your book grow? #writingtips #RT2014 #wcgoals

During the Romantic Times convention, I had a chance to sit in on numerous workshops. One of my favorites was titled, “The Tortoise and the Hare”.  For once the title actually matched the discussion points. It centered on the writing routines of the gathered authors. To get an idea of who was on this panel, the lovely and talented, Charlaine Harris (of Sookie Stackhouse fame), Angie Fox (Accidental Demon Slayer), Darynda Jones (Charlie Davidson series), Suzanne McLeod (Spellcrackers series) and Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires). Impressive, no?

We got settled in and Leigh Evans of the Shifter Justice novels and moderator, started the ball rolling.

The question every writer asks: what’s your word count like?

D. Jones–outlines, does a fast first draft, takes maybe 2 weeks   (Yeah, I’m gasping for air on that too!) Daily word count= 500, EVERY DAY, which gives her 2 books per year. (In case you didn’t know, she also holds an outside full time job, and is a mama). Generally makes deadlines early.

S. McLeod–small outline, writes one, pretty clean draft,  3-9 months depending.Word count = 1000K/day, maybe 3K on weekends

A. Fox–has an idea sprinkled with character motivation gets through 4-5 chats, then outlines. First half of story takes 4-5 months, during which she will hit a panic point, then story topples into last half, which speeds by. Writes from 8 am to noon, no word limit. Generally hits 5-7 pages/day. Sets time limits, not word count.

C. Harris–sets a word count, which could render 10 pgs of crap or 3 pgs of great. Doesn’t outline, because she gets bored, she knows her key scenes, mid-point issue. Generally rubs right against the deadline.

C. Neill–needs a motivation for her story, then does synopsis (close your mouth, I’m with you!) Putting together the mystery elements of story is full time job, writes during evenings and weekends, averages between 2-2 and1/2 books per year and maybe a novella or two. Word count = 6-8 pgs/day. Doesn’t do much editing.

Next question: How do you get unstuck?

C. Harris–kill someone (my kind of gal!)

C. Neill–take a walk, get out away from computer, but always come back. No matter what, good or bad, sit your ass in the chair and write. You can’t get better if you don’t write.

A. Fox–never knows how her stories end. Every time she worries, “This is the book that will suck, my readers will hate me/it won’t sell”, has to set it aside for a couple of days to get distance.

S. McLeod–generally if she gets stuck it’s because she’s trying to make her characters do something they don’t want to do. So she steps away, a week/days/hours, let’s subconscious mull it over and comes back.

D. Jones–if she get stuck, it’s because she did something wrong, so she’ll have to go back, find it, and fix it before moving forward.

And lastly: Do you use critique partners? Beta readers?

C. Neill–no crit partner, have great continuity editors, time editors and they hold it all together. If my editors says “Nope, not working”, then I listen, go back and figure it out.

A. Fox–1 crit partner in a different genre, allows a wider view on work, which also results in arguments, but it works. Beta readers are great–identify throw away lines and those who know your universe are the best for helping when you need that little something.

D. Jones–no crit partner, relies on her editors and beta readers to keep continuity, Okay to disagree with editor, but pick your battles wisely. Plus, doesn’t have time to run WIPs through crit partners to make deadlines.

C. Harris–2 beta readers, no crit partner, relies on betas and editors to help keep it all together and catch what she doesn’t.

S. McLeod–1 crit partner, and they exchange work.

So there you have it, a fantastic cross section of NY Times authoresses and how they spin their magic. Realization from workshop: write your damn story, whatever you have to do to do it, DO IT. What works for you, works for a reason so stick with it and don’t worry what the others around you are doing.

Want to know mine:

Six days a week I try to hit between 1200-1500 words, generally at night when the Prankster Duo and Knight are busy defending their computerized worlds from domination.

What works for you?

 

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