Tags: a day in the writing life

A Day in the Writing Life: Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Well, here it is...I wake up, open my eyes at an ungodly hour and off to work I go...

When I get there, I start the coffee machine in the teacher's lounge...teachers appreciate a good cup of coffee in the morning. As soon as I have mine, I rush to my room, where I meet...THE DESK. At this desk, I check my e-mail, prepare lessons, and take care of my teacherly "business" before my students arrive. Nothing Writerly here, just teacher stuff.

Once the bell rings, I start doing what I do best...I get 8th graders interested in literature. Right now, we're in the middle of our poetry unit. We read, discuss, analyze, and write poetic things... beautiful things that make our hearts sing with happiness. I love reading my students' work! This, of course, is my favorite time of my workday...the actual class time.

Once the students are gone, I sit at my other desk...the WORK DESK. This is where I grade homework assignments, stack files, and sort through important papers.

At around 4 pm...I pull myself away from one desk and head home to sit at another...YES...my WRITING DESK. And here it is, my little piece of heaven. At this desk, I check emails again, do a bit of research, and take care of the "business" part o writing...like putting together this post. See that bit of paper on the wall, that's my "brainstorming" wallpaper. It's Christmas wrapping paper (the back of it). I use it to prewrite / plot/ plan/ revise. Oh, and that's the cover of my book (a postcard of Under the Mesquite) framed on my tower. 

Here's a closer look at my Creative Writing Wall...it's got post it notes with the plots of my Works-In-Progress, Six Little Sisters, and Daughter of the Locust...You can also see some character sketches of the sisters and a map of Coahuila, Mexico (the setting of Sisters) with their journey outlined in pink.


Once, I've had a chance to revisit story and peek at my Creative Writing Wall, I take a journal and pen in hand and head outside. I don't actually write at the computer too often. Most days, I like to sit on the porch and watch the sun set in the west while I meditate and do what I love to do most of all... create!

So there it is...a day in the writing life. Not outlandish or glamourous...but thoroughly rewarding! A blessing.

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A day in the writing life: Allan Woodrow

This is my Writerly Desk.

Notice how roomy it is? See the fun knickknacks around it? Or the big leather chair that looks very writer-esque? I even have Zachary Ruthless (the main character of my book) wall paper on my computer, and a picture of  him hanging on the wall, exuding inspiration (shout out to the illustrator, the awesome Aaron Blecha, for sending the artwork to me)!

Isn’t this the kind of place you imagine writers writing all day? When I converted our living room to my home office I knew it was going to change my life. You can practically feel the depths of perfect prose spilling out into the air.


Now, compare that with this train bench. No desk space. Unfriendly. Not comfortable at all. So where do I write?


Yep, the train. That was an easy one. It’s much better than that intimidating desk, don’t you agree?


This is where I sit every morning on my train to my non-author job in downtown Chicago, and again back home every night. Well, not this exact seat. That depends – see how fun this is? I have like a totally new desk every day!


My total daily commute time (train, bus, walking) is about 3 ½ hours (yes, feel free to pity me), but over two hours of that time is on the train writing, unless I’m tired then I read which makes me feel guilty about not writing. So usually I write. (The train isn't always as empty as it looks in the picture above ... it's from last week when people were mostly still on holiday break).


I’m up at 4:27am (yes, that's a "4" in front of the ":27"). Off to work. Write and commute. Work. Surf the net. Work some more. Sneak in some writing time at lunch, maybe. Work. Work some more. Surf the net again. Watch the clock. Work.


But then I’m back in my mobile office.

Look—the chair is a different color and everything. Usually the train home is louder than the train to work. In the morning everyone is sleeping (except me). But on the way home, people think having a loud conversation on their phones where fifty strangers hear your every annoying word is fine even though I CAN’T WRITE WHILE YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT YOUR CAT SO BE QUIET!!!!!!




Then I’m home. It’s after 7pm. Everyone has eaten already. I say hi. Eat dinner by myself. Help my kids with their homework if they need it. Tuck them into bed. Check email. Surf the net. Help clean and cook. Work for an hour or two, or try to squeeze in some writing time. Watch TV for a few minutes. I can’t watch for very long because …


I have to be up at 4:27am and get ready to go to my mobile office early the next day, and begin my glamorous writing life all over again.


(And count the days to the weekend … when my life really gets busy)

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A Day in the Writing Life

We've all heard the phrase "Butt + Chair = Pages".  (At least I think so.)  And in theory, it's a great one.  One that I SO wish was true for me.  But I require a few more steps in my equation, and the first one is actually the exact opposite of putting my butt in a chair...

After the morning dance of getting the kids ready and off to school, I usually have need to clear my head.  So I throw on my trusty Sauconys and hit the beach for a run with a playlist that's tailor-made for my WIP.  Right now, it's made up of Tom Petty, John Mayer, Kings of Leon, Dave Matthews, Dierks Bentley, Taylor Swift, and Gaslight Anthem.  Each song  on the list puts me into an important scene from the story and brings back all the feelings I want to convey.


After a run and a shower, I'm ready to get to work.  Almost.  Generally I need another cup of coffee, some email checking, blog cruising, maybe even breakfast.  I'm a terrible, awful procrastinator.  Luckily I have my husband, who usually says something like "Aren't you writing today?"--which is enough to get me into gear and finally retire to my office.  And because I'm now legit (depending on who you talk to), I actually have one!  I used to write in the Teen Center at the library because of its cushy couch and ocean view, but this is much nicer because it's convenient and I don't get kicked out for "not being or working with a teen."  Apparently, I don't look as young as I feel, and writing for them doesn't count.  I checked.

Anyway, my writing cave is much more glamorous I think:


Okay, glamorous may be pushing it just a little, but inside it has everything I need:  cozy chair, lap desk, candles, and a giant bulletin board I use for outlining, which I tend to be bsessive about.


Once I'm installed in my chair, I get down to work.  I almost always start by reading what I've written the previous day, tweaking it a bit, then looking over my notes and diving in where I left off.  I used to be very conscious of word count, but I've eased up on that and realized that I may be the slowest writer ever and that's not the worst thing to be.  Or I might not be-- who knows?   I feel pretty good when I can get at least a thousand words down in a sitting, but sometimes that takes me a few hours.  I seriously marvel at those amazing people who can do three or five in the same amount of time.   In any case, once I'm out there, it's to write, and even when everyone gets home I can do it relatively uninterrupted.

But my favorite treat, when everyone is gone, is to sit at our little dining room table and write and watch the beach.  There's never a shortage of things to see. 

Case in point:  Earlier this month, I was sitting in this very spot when I looked up and saw this.  Yes, that is Santa on the beach, directing some outrigger paddlers who couldn't get their canoe out past the waves.  And it's hard to tell from this photo, but one of them is wearing reindeer antlers.


No matter where I write, I always depend on the same things--yellow legal pads, GIANT Post-Its, and my favorite orange pen that's so close to empty I'm going to have to schedule my kids' dentist appointments just so I can go to the office and snag another one.  Thanks Dr. Hersch. 

I also need my two best coworkers around:  chocolate and caffeine, which are even better when mixed.


Some days, I stop because I've gotten stuck on a scene or bit of dialogue or feeling I can't quite get right.  Others, I triumphantly snap my computer shut, sure I've just nailed it.  (Usually this feeling only lasts until the next day when I read it over again.)  But EVERY day, when I finish "work," I smile at the fact that I get to call it that, and thank my lucky stars for letting me have a go at the dream I've had since I was a kid.  There's nothing else in the world I'd rather be doing.

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A Day in the Writing Life: Jessica Martinez

I'm a writer with a day job: herding wild monkeys.  They climb on me a lot.

I get my words in when I can...

and where I can.  Yes, that's a lightsaber I'm sitting on.

Sometimes I kill plants (note the lime tree), but I'm doing my best to keep the humans alive and the characters real.

I've found I actually get a lot done while being climbed on.  I just keep my laptop with me...

and my fingers crossed...

and occasionally the monkeys sit still long enough for the magic to happen.

Once everyone is in bed I get a chance to write uninterrupted.  That's when the writer's block sets in.  Just kidding.  This is me getting a really incredible idea. 

Oddly enough, after a couple of hours of writing, I start missing the monkeys. 

I almost consider going and waking them up, but I'm too tired to move... 

or to put myself to bed.

A Day in the Writing Life: Lisa Rondinelli Albert

Good day, people! I’m excited to be a part of the Elevensies Debut Authors! I’m an author of nonfiction and fiction and it’s my turn to share a glimpse into the life of a writer. In case you don’t already know, here’s a line up of my books:


-Lois Lowry, The Giver of Stories & Memories, Enslow, (2007)
-So You Want to Be a Film or TV Actor?, Enslow (2008)
-Stephenie Meyer: Author of the Twilight Saga, Enslow (2009)
-Mercy Lily, debut YA novel coming Fall 2011 from Flux Books – wahoo!


Ah, the glamorous life of an author. My butler greets me with juice and coffee. Then I glide to my office and write 5,000 flawless words in an hour.


And then I wake up.


I pour my coffee and shuffle to my office. I’m a big list maker so my day always begins with checking my day calendar and to-do list. Depending on where I’m at with a project, my days vary a lot.


Right now, my editor at Flux Books has my latest revision of MERCY LILY, my debut YA novel, so this means I’m checking my email a lot. Here’s a screen shot of a page during the revision process. Messy as it looks, it’s beautiful to me. I love revising, especially with the guidance of my agent and editor.


Waiting on more revision notes means I have time to work on my middle grade novel, tentatively titled JIMMY. This is my binder full of critiques and notes for JIMMY.


Once my manuscript complete, I’ll go through each critique, page by page, and make changes and notes on my hard copy. Basically, this means I’m revising about six times before my agent sees it. (Unless I send her a rough draft just to bounce ideas around).


I also make time to outline and research my next nonfiction project, too. I’m currently in the process of compiling information and the actual writing will come later.


Then there’s publicity and promotion. Some days are spent creating postcards and brochures, speaking at events, sending press releases, or revamping my Web page.


I clock out of my office at about 11:30 and get ready for my day job as a K-8 school library tech. While I’d love to write full time (and hope to some day!), I adore the kids and enjoy my job. The other day, I asked a 1st grader to put his hands to his sides and when he did, I asked if he knew why I was asking that of him. “So I don’t pick my nose,” he said. Bingo! Ah, the glamorous life as a library aide. I love it. I also had a great discussion with a group of 7th grade girls about edgy YA books. Love it!!


By the time I get home from the day job, my butler has dinner waiting. Oh wait...I dozed off. Dang. I throw something edible together...

...spend time with my super supportive husband and daughter and text my son.

Play dress up with the dog (seriously!), and end the day by reading.



Before I fall into bed, I make a to-do list for the next day and sometimes, enjoy a glass of wine.





Helen, Photo, Author


This isn't me. It's the hero of our story, my 16-year old stepson, Jonathan.

This isn't me either. It's Sunny, the villain of our story (well, not really)...

...and his sidekick, Toto.

Anyway, on with the story. I used to write in the corner of Jonathan's bedroom, which most of the time looked like this:

Then on Christmas Eve two years ago, Jonathan came up from our finished basement and said, "There's a lot of water on the floor next to Sunny's litter box, but I don't think it's cat pee." When my husband and I went downstairs, the entire floor of the basement kitchen was covered with water. Several days and contractors later, we discovered that there was a leaky pipe behind the wall, and the room would have to be completely torn apart. It ended up looking like this:

But as you probably guessed, this story has a happy ending. Insurance paid for a complete remodel, and now the basement kitchen (which we never used) is my writing office. It looks like this:

And on the wall to my right is the Christmas present that Steven and Jonathan spent hours putting together with Scrabble tiles:

And now, in case you're curious, a little bit about my schedule:
Mondays and Tuesdays, I teach Pilates and write.
Fridays I teach dance to kids and write.
Thursdays I teach Pilates and dance and write.
Weekends I do chores and write.
But Wednesdays, most heavenly day of the week, I just write.

Some writers are divinely inspired; I'm inspired by Divine:

A Day in the Writing Life: Beth Revis

I always thought a proper writer would have a wide, expansive mahogany desk with a high-backed chair. More than likely in New York City, with a view of Central Park. And something *artistic* and *interesting* hanging on the wall. 

Nathan Fillion optional, but much preferred.

Well, I have since become a Proper Writer. With a book coming out and everything. And I have yet to get my executive desk overlooking Strawberry Fields, and Nathan Fillion doesn't return my phone calls. 

But here's the desk I DO have:

Excuse the blurry picture! I had to use my cell phone for these.

Things of note:

-Maps of England and Europe in the background of the desk

-iMac--the ONLY way to write :P

-A Laini's Lady hanging from the wall

-My pen holder is a gargoyle

-I have a silver penguin to the lower right of the screen--after all, I *am* being pubbed with Penguin/Razorbill

-My two favorite pictures--My parents and I at my wedding, and my husband before he was my husband--hang out on the left side

-The shelf on top hold ARCs, manila envelopes, and lots and lots of legal pads. I think with legal pads.

-You might notice that the desk is exceptionally clean. 

-That's because I'm not using it.

That's right! This is my writing desk...and I'm not using it. Like, at all. Because this is the writing desk, and I'm not currently writing. Currently, I'm REVISING. And revising takes a lot more room.

When I go from writing to revising, I need a change of scenery. So, I go to the kitchen. The table in the kitchen is the one I inherited from my grandmother, the one I used to eat Thanksgiving at throughout my childhood, the one I signed my agent and publisher contract on.

And now it's my revising table.

I move my desk chair into the kitchen during revisions. I need the cushion for the long hours of butt-in-chair!

Here's what I need to revise: 

-Printed copy of my manuscript (bound at Staples, after a suggestion from Mandy Hubbard)

-The copy of my ARC to fact-check for the sequel

-A HUGE jar of peppermints

-Legal pads and Sharpie pens. They are my thinking tools.

-Oh, yeah--and the laptop.

Here's a close-up of where the biggest part of revision comes from:

 -I had to turn the page--I'm work on the HUGE plot twist right now and didn't want to ruin it for you. But, as the text suggests, "Imagine lots of scribbled notes here"

-I do all my brainstorming and revision notes on paper, then take it to the screen. Ironically enough, I write the entire rough-draft on the computer without using paper (unless I get stuck)

-That's my huge jar of peppermints. It's huge. And minty-fresh.

Also note the HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON dvd. That's playing on constant repeat whenever I'm not working on writing. Such as now. 

Occasionally, the legal pads don't cut it. My brain stalls out, and I've got nothing. At time like this, I poke the demon awake:

Meet Sirius. He goes from asleep to RAGING BALL OF EVIL in 2.3 seconds. Quicker, if rawhide's involved.

So, when I get so stuck that peppermints and legal pads don't work, I whistle. And off we go!

imaginative girl


My husband and I are both writers, and in the olden days, we went about this in a sensible way. We had a lovely desk, which was kept clean, with inspirational figures on it:

(You can tell that this photo was taken during one of my husband's writing sessions, not one of mine, since Jane Austen is turned away in horror, while young Indiana Jones cracks his whip in delight!)

Everything was lovely and writerly and professional.


Well, then life got a lot more interesting. Here's a picture of what my daily view is now as I work:

Not quite the same, is it? But sometimes it helps to have lots of kids' toys around. It gives great ideas for opening up different creative pathways...or at least finding excellent ways of procrastinating, like coming up with really cool cover pages. Because you can't write without a fun cover, can you (even when you already know you'll have to change the title of your WIP)?

And of course, some things always help get me in the mood. When I stagger up in the morning (usually after my husband has driven our son to his childminder - we trade off night-time/early morning sessions), this always helps:

And even when I have to take to my bed like a swooning 19th-century maiden because I can't cope with the playroom atmosphere of our "writing room"...well, it's always more fun to write with a friend:

(Note: the dragon sleeping on his box is my writing icon. The lego bus in the distance is my son's toy. Sometimes it's not easy to tell which is which...)

Someday maybe I'll go back to being a proper grown-up and writing at a desk in a clean, artistic study...but right now, I'm having an awful lot of fun.

A Day in the Writing Life: Caroline Starr Rose

Some days
I spend in a one-room sod house,
watching a girl
survive a blizzard

Other times
I conjure up an alligator
slipping through duckweed,
an egret 
lifting a graceful foot
as he creeps through marsh grass.

I revisit characters
that look nothing like
the flimsy selves
they once were
research different lives,
unsure of what story will surface 
but trusting 
one will come.

In special moments
I enter a place
where the outside world
of coffee shop clatter,
and familiar music

Only my words exist.

Most often
I spend days
barely moving forward,
but working
Thinking through images,
knocking out rhythms, 
climbing inside my character’s skin.

I poke at ideas,
how to start
and beginning,
then beginning again.
"Those three things - autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward - are, most people will agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying." 
— Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers)
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