A (Writing) Room of Her Own

Michele: There are two questions of the week this week. The first is, who won a copy of The Empty Chair, Murder in the Caribbean, the giveaway from Penny Goetjen’s appearance on Miss Demeanors last week. The winner is Nancy Novacek

The Question of the week for my fellow Miss Demeanors is the question readers never seem to tire of, which is When and Where do You Write? What is your daily writing process and where does that magic take place? You are in for a real treat!

Keenan’s writing corner.

Keenan:  I’m at the keyboard by 5 a.m. and write until 8 a.m. with fifteen minute breaks every hour on orders from the physical therapist. Before I sit down, I will have already dropped into Twitter, Facebook, and Miss Demeanors on my phone and try not to look at social media again until I’m done for the day but sometimes I’ll peek on the breaks when I’m otherwise shoving laundry through the machines, making the bed, or unloading/reloading dishwasher. 

When working on the first draft, I usually look at the last scene I wrote the day before, tweak that, and then write new material until I’m out of steam. Today I’m doing searches for crutch words.

The penultimate revision before sending it off to betas, I will print and do a quick read in the evening sitting in a reading chair, using a red pen, looking for the obvious, most especially scenes that don’t do anything and aren’t needed or scenes that aren’t engaging and need more work. On the final pre-beta revision, I will do a “read aloud” pass where I find so much stuff: missed words, sentences where I changed where I was going in the middle, more crutch words, and combinations of words that a narrator would hate me for (fingers crossed there is an audiobook). 

Above is my little writing corner, picture taken as the sun rose this morning. On the striped chair is an article I really mean to read. You can see the in-box is overflowing with things that I thought needed to be there and I may look at. In the window are Baby Yoda, RBG, and Sherlock action figures. There’s my Benjamin Dryer calendar, which I read faithfully every morning before I start writing. On the far right is the picture board for my last book. The bits of paper are from the wallpaper I’ve been tearing out of a bedroom and tracked all over the house. I’ll clean after the WIP is sent to betas. 

Tracee:  I’ve slipped back into a better routine as the pandemic ends. I do other morning things first, breakfast, which in my household is a sit down meal at the dining table, then a long dog walk. Afterwards, I answer email (probably a bad habit, but too many years of the ‘day job’ where people had to hear back won’t leave me) and do other business. I aim for 9 am writing start. I have three work places in my office. Computer, chair with footstool, and worktable. After many years, I realized that I need to move around, although it’s best if I’m moving around in a fixed space to avoid distractions. I work back and forth between paper and computer and like to change chairs for the switch. The worktable is critical since it’s where I outline, keep track of the current WIP, and use sticky notes to plan and to revise. (When we lived in California and had sliding glass doors on nearly every wall I would work on those.) For me, the critical part is changing positions, physically and mentally, even if it is only turning the desk chair in another direction.

Also, I have shelves for books I’m currently using for research, books I’m accumulating for the ‘next project,’ as well as a books I admire / want to reread shelf. The wall of books behind me are mainly my husband’s, many in languages I don’t speak well enough to read easily. No distractions there!

Connie: I, too, find it hard to dive right back into my WIP early in the morning. I get up at 6, enjoy my egg and coffee, take the dog out, and then work on peripheral stuff like emails and other commitments until late morning (usually). My actual productive writing time stretches from late morning until early afternoon, when I finish up any other work I need to do and then relax a bit before supper. 

One thing I need to take time for occasionally is a desk clean-up. While I’m writing—and researching as I go—I tend to print stuff out and throw it on the pile. Here are photos of my desk clean and messy. And since getting puppy Emmie, she is my desk companion—another photo!

Susan’s office.

Susan:      I work in a sort of controlled mayhem. Or I think it’s controlled. I like to write first thing in the morning, when my brain is still dreaming a bit. I work for an hour, then take the dogs for a walk. Then depending on the day I keep on writing, or I have to read manuscripts, or do something else. I’m often working on a novel and a short story, so I try to separate them out. Novel in the morning and short story in afternoon. As you can see from the photo, there is often a little dog lying at my feet, and I have to try very hard not to kick the poor thing. He doesn’t seem to be insulted, because he keeps lying there.

Alexia’s workplaces scattered around the country.

Alexia: I always squirm when asked that question because I feel like people want me to tell them about my sacred writing nook, filled with candles, incense, mood music, and my lucky coffee mug. None of that exists. The truth is, there is no magic. It’s hard work that happens whenever and wherever. Office desk, kitchen table, local park, airport lounges and hotel lobbies (in the before times), trains–anytime I have a moment. I use pen and paper, smartphone notes app, and laptop/tablet, whatever is at hand, to get words down. My process consists of deciding what activity I’m going to sacrifice to make time to write because there are only 24 hours available to juggle a seemingly endless amount of stuff. And no, writing doesn’t always win. Some days, something else takes priority. I’m learning not to beat myself up about that.  

Emilya:   I have a home office, but that’s for the day job. I very rarely write there because I associate it with work. Other than that, I write anywhere. In a chair, in bed, at the dining room table, outside when it’s warm. I like being near my family 
when I write, so often I’m in a recliner in the living room with noise cancelling headphones. And I always write at night, sometimes very late at night. This will probably change eventually, but for now, it’s always after 8pm or afternoons on the weekends. 

Michele: I write in a She-Shed because I live in a very tiny house. Before the pandemic, I wrote in a variety of libraries or en plein, often at a beach. It helps that I live on Cape Cod.

 I write first thing in the morning, which can be as early as 5:00 a.m. I have always been a morning person and become incompetent and cranky before sunset. But in those early morning hours when most of the world is still asleep, most days my brain is cranking and my fingertips can barely keep up.

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