Seven Ways Writers Lives Have Changed

While attempting to declutter my office–to make room for more necessary things–I came across a box of cassette tapes of workshops given by some of my favorite authors.  There was a time when I did not get in my car unless I had a cassette to listen to while driving.  Times have certainly changed for me because now I get in my car for silence.  The beautiful, though temporary, silence.  That box of cassettes got me thinking about what else has changed for me as a writer.  I began writing in the early nineties–not that long ago, I know–but I work so very differently now.  See if you can relate to any of these obsolete activities.

  1. I knew librarians not only at my branch but other branches, too. I often asked for help locating material for a topic I was researching. (Well, I still know my local librarian’s names but they don’t point me in the same direction they once did).  Back then, the source for research usually started with one of the big sets of encyclopedias.  Now libraries don’t carry these bulky sets. Seven Ways Writers Lives Have Changed
  1. I typed on a typewriter that had ribbons that needed to be replaced when the ink ran dry. We were poor (which is why I had an old typewriter) so I always rewound the ribbon and gave it a second, sometimes third, life before I replaced it. Read fellow author Sheila Claydon’s experience about typing her first manuscript.
  1. I befriended the copy store staff. I even had an account because I made so many copies they gave me a discount. Don’t forget we didn’t have multifunction printers in our homes.  Copies of chapters for critique groups, contest entries, and manuscripts had to be made at a copy store.  Seven Ways Writers Lives Have Changed
  1. I befriended post office staff. In those days manuscripts had to be mailed along with an SASE (self-addressed-stamped-envelope). The post office staff always inquired on what I was writing and mailing out, and I put one or two of them in my stories.
  1. Another thing I did was wait for the telephone to ring. Email wasn’t invented yet so writers either got a rejection letter by mail or an offer by telephone. This hopeful writer waited by the telephone, not the mailbox. Seven Ways Writers Lives Have Changed
  1. I never had to think about book promotion. This is a state I miss most about the early days of my writing career. I just focused on writing.  What a novel concept.  Seven Ways Writers Lives Have Changed
  1. I had a drink. If a rejection letter did arrive I would have a cocktail such as a frothy, salt-rimmed margarita and I called a dear friend for moral support and to commiserate with. Oh, wait. I still do that.

Popular romance author Leigh Michaels shares the nostalgia of her first home office (clickhere).  How about you?  What has changed in your writing life since you first started writing?  Share in the comments below.

 

Creative Spaces — Post by Victoria M. Johnson

Creative Spaces

I love my writing space. I have a large Mac computer where I do most of my writing. It sits in a corner of my office surrounded by bookshelves, writerly magazines, and notepads. I wish I could say I keep the desk clean, but paper clutter is a constant struggle for me. I’m always working on something, taking notes for something else, and keeping track of things to do. I’m sure I’m not the only writer who fights the paper demon. I also have a weakness that often overtakes my office–I love books. I have too many but there is always another one I want. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, short stories and anthologies all beckon me. If I lived in a larger home that wouldn’t be much of a problem, but we live in an 800 square foot mobile home!  I’m happy here; it’s the perfect size home for us, set in the perfect location. I know I just need to read faster so I can pass the books on.

My office inspires me. When I first enter the room I see a few writing awards I’ve received hanging on the wall. I have encouraging quotes and affirmations around my desk area that I can easily see as I’m writing. And some interesting images and fun pieces of art make me smile when I glance at them. All of these things spark my creativity. But what about sparking my productivity?

I’ve had to resort to using an egg timer. That’s right. I have an egg timer on my desk. I use it to limit my time doing things that I find irresistible that aren’t writing. The major temptation that takes me away from writing is Twitter. Followed by Pinterest. Both of these distractions are so enjoyable that if I don’t watch myself, I can spend hours every day there. The egg timer is my only defense to ensure I stay productive and create new material everyday. I also use the egg timer to trick myself into doing tasks that I don’t feel like doing. I’ll say to myself, “You only have to spend 25 minutes editing this piece” or “Just take 15 minutes to read email.”  If I don’t do a little bit at a time, then the task piles up into a really unpleasant chore. So the egg timer serves a dual purpose, and I found a cool looking one.

Creative Spaces post by Victoria M. Johnson

Victoria finds inspiration in her small corner desk space.

My husband and I have lived in this home for nearly three years. I created a short story collection titled, The Substitute Bride, while living here. I’ve also written my first poem and several more poems since moving here. I’ve worked on film projects in this home. I’m editing two major pieces that were partially written in our previous house: one is a mainstream thriller and the other is a nonfiction book. And I’m working on a new short story collection. I’m eager to return to a romance novel that I entirely mapped out last year, but I got distracted by my publishing house (Avalon Books) selling to a new publisher (Montlake Romance) and I decided to wait until all that dust settled before writing it.

I don’t listen to music while I write, but I do like music when I’m on social media, tidying up my office, or handling the business aspects of writing. I don’t look out the window of my office because that distracts me. But I sometimes sit by the window of our dining room when I write poetry.

My office is my creative sanctuary. My writing style is reflected in this space.  One glimpse at my office and you’ll know this about my writing: 1. I have an optimistic outlook. 2. I believe in clearing away clutter and leaving only what’s absolutely needed 3. Timing is everything, and 4. I adore intriguing images.

No matter the size of your space, make it an inviting atmosphere. Then, once there, write. Fight off the distractions. Protect your writing time. Only you can control your productivity. You also need to fight off insecurities about yourself as a writer. Many writers experience doubts at one time or another. Write down affirmations and post them near your computer. One of mine says, “I have interesting stories to tell.” Another says, “I have a unique voice.” I see them everyday and these help boost my confidence. Write four or five and post them where you’ll see them.

Bio: Victoria M. Johnson is published in fiction and nonfiction. She also writes and directs short films. Read her full bio here. You’d make her happy if you followed her on Twitter and Facebook, or even Pinterest.

Creative Spaces — Guest Post by Leigh Michaels

Creative Spaces

My working space has gone through a whole lot of changes in the 29 years since I was first published, so as I thought about what my office means to me, I’ve journeyed down memory lane.

In 1988, my office was located in the smallest bedroom of our American Foursquare house – a space that was hardly big enough for a twin bed and a dresser. Yes, I really did write more than a dozen books in this room. That’s an IBM PC with a 10-megabyte hard drive and a 14-inch green-screen monitor – and believe me, that was a big step up from my first computer! Off to the right is the state-of-the-art printer which tapped out each letter with a rotating ball, just like those old electric typewriters. I’d start a chapter printing and have to leave the room because of the echo.

Creative Spaces Guest Post by Leigh Michaels

Leigh’s First Office

The photos at ceiling level are the covers of my first few Harlequin Romances and Presents, and the two shelves at the right of the photo hold what I grandly called the Collected Works – one copy of each edition.

If I closed the door so I could concentrate, I soon ran out of oxygen. 😉

Not long after the photo was taken, we moved into a new house. This is my office today. It has two big windows – one looking out over the woods, one toward the front of the house so I can see visitors coming and decide whether to answer the door.

Creative Spaces Guest Post by Leigh Michaels

After 29 years of publishing, author Leigh Michaels needed a bigger office.

 

The Collected Works (one copy of each of the editions of my 83 romance novels and 20 non-fiction books) now occupy the shelves at left – that’s 62 feet of bookshelves, if you’re counting. The framed photos have moved to the hallway which leads to my office, where they’re limited to one cover from each language – though we had to stop doing even that when we ran out of wall. A few years ago my husband and I ripped up the carpet and laid the parquet floor (the sort of job which makes you eager go to back to writing). And as time has gone on, I’ve added the extra filing cabinets and counters so I can spread out with my various projects.

I now rely on dual 24-inch monitors and a laser printer.

I think some of those same reference books are still hanging around, though. And I still need my glass of ice water and cup of coffee – and quiet — before I can really settle in to work.

Creative Spaces Guest post by Leigh Michaels

Because I also teach (at Gotham Writers Workshop — www.writingclasses.com — where I offer online classes in romance writing) and I edit books for our small publishing firm (PBL Limited – www.pbllimited.com – which specializes in local history books and niche-market non-fiction), I use every inch of the practical desk space. Those piles on the counter are non-fiction book projects and source material, waiting to come together so they’re ready to publish.

Though I’ve moved on from my original publisher – as well as switching from contemporary romance to historical, and from sweet stories to spicy ones – I’m grateful to Harlequin Books for a lengthy and rewarding career. That’s why the one-of-a-kind Harlequin marionette is still a prized feature in my office. He watches over me as I work.

I haven’t included a photo of my sitting room, where I leave my laptop set up – it’s another book-lined room, and I retreat there when I need to fall into a story and not be bothered by phone calls or email. I do better at knocking out words when it’s not so easy to page back to edit and fix and continually revise – and that’s made much less tempting when I’m working on a smaller screen. And sometimes I move to the bay window in my living room, where I can work a jigsaw puzzle while I write or plot or brainstorm, as well as watching white-tailed deer and wild turkeys wander across the acre of back yard that we refer to as The Garden of Weedin’.

Thanks go to my husband, photographer Michael W. Lemberger, for providing all the photos.

Bio: Leigh Michaels is the best-selling author of more than 100 books, including historical romance, contemporary romance, non-fiction (On Writing Romance), and local history. Her current Montlake Romance release is The Birthday Scandal, a historical set in the Regency period and featuring the intertwining romances of two sisters and a brother. She’s also just released a self-published sweet contemporary romance, Return to Amberley. Her website is www.leighmichaels.com and you can find her on Facebook and Twitter @leighmichaels.

The Birthday Scandal by Leigh MichaelsThe Mistress House by Leigh Michaels      The Wedding Affair by Leigh Michaels      Return to Amberly by Leigh Michaels

Creative Spaces — Guest Post by Susan Buchanan

Creative Spaces

I find I can write pretty much anywhere, but these days, since I am writing full-time, I tend to do so at home.  I am meant to write in my home office, but I get caught up with emails in the morning and Twitter/FB /blog posts etc and before I know it half the morning has disappeared and I am still sitting on my sofa with my feet up on the coffee table, laptop resting on my cushdesk, writing the next installment.  But, I have very bad posture, as I spend so much time at the computer, so I HAVE to write in my office sometimes. When I’m in my office, I have a view.  When I’m on the sofa, I am facing the TV (which is off).  So it would make sense to be in the office, looking out at the rain/snow/very occasional sunshine.  In our old flat, I used to sit at the dining table in the bay window, as we were on the top floor and the window looked out onto woodland, which was very pretty and I could see a little family of foxes occasionally.  Now, since I live on a new estate, I am more likely to see diggers and articulated lorries!

I think the main thing my office means to me, is a) it’s mine – I had to chuck my other half out first, though! b) it’s my retreat – although I don’t always write there, I know I can.  I have the freedom of writing wherever I like at home, because my partner is at work during the day.  However, when I want to write in the evening, as I need complete quiet, barring a little classical music, I know that I have that special place within the house, on a different storey, where I can go to get peace and quiet.  I think I would struggle now, not having that space. I am so used to it and probably take it a little for granted.  I love the whiteboard where I can put up all my ideas, or scribble down things I know I need to correct, additional items I need to do specific edits for, continuity checks, appropriateness of names, etc.  And I love the map (I have three actually, but two of them wouldn’t fit in the office – they are in my library – where I go to read, relax on my massage chair and chill out)  The maps help me decide where the next adventures abroad will be in my books.  Combined with my having been fortunate enough to visit forty-five countries so far in my life, plus twenty of the US states, I have plenty of material to work with.

Creative Spaces Guest Post by Susan Buchanan

Susan Buchanan adjusts her writing habits during her pregnancy

I wrote Sign of the Times in our flat and The Dating Game in our new house.  What If, my next novel, due for release in November 2013, was mainly written from the home office.  I am 6 1/2 months pregnant, so really need to work on my posture (she writes, as she sits on the sofa again) What If is a mix of chicklit and manlit.  It has a male protagonist and tells the story of what would have happened to him if he’d made different decisions in his life.  Of course a great part of the novel will centre around his various relationships, but also on his extended family.  The main challenge I had with What If is that being pregnant, I was so much more tired, so I found it difficult to stick to my usual writing schedule – which is quite frankly, usually pretty intense. I can still reach the keyboard, but bending down to turn my computer on etc, is becoming more and more difficult, plus writing for any length of time is a no-no.  Maybe that’s why I have not been writing from the office so much recently either – the refrigerator with all my goodies in it is further away!  When I came up with the idea for What If, I wasn’t pregnant and didn’t have any children, although I have three nephews whom I adore.  However, since becoming pregnant, I probably am thinking a bit differently about the children in the book and about parenthood in general, so it will be interesting to see if readers note any difference in the style and content of my writing.   I wonder if there will be a grumpier note in my writing – I certainly feel grumpier with all the aches and pains!  My beloved telling me he feels like the little yellow duck in the Silentnight mattress advert, sharing a bed with the Silentnight hippo, doesn’t help this. Thank God I’m a pachyderm and can take it.  He has a problem with my taking up eighty percent of the space – personally I think he’s lucky to get twenty percent!

I am relatively but not 100% organised. I am not formulaic when I write and although I do chapter plans and character plans, so as not to forget any details, if I am writing a scene and another idea appears in my head, I run with it.

Personally I think a creative environment exists in your head. I had some ideas for the sequel to Sign of the Times today, as I walked to the supermarket in the freezing cold to buy milk.  I do, however, prefer to be alone to write.  When I am home alone, the TV is off, whilst often classical music plays in the background, as that soothes and focuses me, but doesn’t distract me. But everyone has to find what works for him or her.  I sometimes find I get great ideas when I am in the shower.  Unfortunately I don’t have a pen and paper in there – it’s about the only place in the house I don’t have.

Creative Spaces Guest Post by Susan Buchanan               Creative Spaces Guest Post by Susan Buchanan

Bio: Susan Buchanan grew up in Scotland, although she has also lived in France and Spain. She now lives with her partner, Tony, near Glasgow.  She is about to become a mum for the first time.

She graduated with an Honours degree in French and Hispanic Studies from the University of Glasgow (although Italian is actually her most fluent language) and put her languages to good use in various European and International sales roles over the years.  Before turning her hand to writing full-time in February 2012, she worked in IT, electronics and the test and measurement industries. Her jobs and her passion for travelling took her all over the world, so she has plenty of fodder for her novels, which although set partially in Scotland, always have a portion set overseas.

Susan has been writing since she was seven, but started seriously writing novels in 2002. She even took a year off work to finish Sign of the Times, her first novel, which was published in March 2012.  The Dating Game is her second novel, released in November 2012 and after a break for maternity leave, her third novel is due for release in November 2013.

Here Susan speaks about her reading habits: ‘When I read, I love to read books about foreign parts that I have visited – it immerses me more in the story. I wanted to do the same in my own novels. I love reading, always have – romantic fiction, crime, contemporary drama, pretty much everything.’  Find Susan on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog.

Creative Spaces — Guest Post by Rosanna Silverlight

Creative Spaces

When I write, I enter my own mental space where nothing exists except the page and the will to write – or the struggle to break into the writing state of mind. I fight hard for that precious concentration; once I have it I’m reluctant to give it up when a distraction comes. In one sense, my writing space is wherever I am when that tug of war between mind and page begins. 

It probably evolved that way because I never had one dedicated place for writing until almost two years ago – but since moving in with my boyfriend, first to a flat and then, last April, to our first house, I’ve discovered what it really means to create a physical space where I let myself loose not just on the page, but on the surroundings themselves. 

I’ve had a lot of fun putting my office together. I feel relaxed and happy when I spend time here, and the people we’ve shown around our new house have all pointed out how it reflects my personality. I never know how to respond to this. It’s a toss-up between “Yay, mission accomplished!” and “Oh, but it’s so messy in here right now!”

My office occupies the smallest bedroom – small enough to be cosy but still big enough for everything I need to fit inside. I painted it two different shades of green – a warm, inspiring colour – and put up shelves to house my books. It’s one of the most cluttered rooms in the house and never stays immaculate for long. At the moment my desk is covered in stuff – my laptop, myriad Post-Its, a hole punch, Roget’s Thesaurus, several Lego mini-figures, a copy of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, a framed photo of my sister, a pot full of pens, index cards … you get the idea!

I set up my desk so I could look out of the window while mulling over ideas. I love to watch the cat that sometimes appears in the window of the house opposite, and the changing weather patterns – we recently had snow in the UK, and this morning the room was full of glorious sunlight, which turned the green walls golden. It was amazing.

I write as often as I can, fitting it in around my part-time job and dabbling in web design. When I’m at home alone, writing is never very far from my mind – I’ve learned to listen when my muse calls, and to try and wake it up when it’s silent. 

Creative Spaces -- Guest Post by Rosanna Silverlight

Rosanna Silverlight immersing herself in her dream of writing

I always need a good drink before I begin – I never feel entirely happy sitting down without a cup of tea (a writer cliché, I know, but it’s true!) or coffee. And while I can sometimes just open up the laptop and start from a blank page, I often fall prey to the charms of the internet before productivity gets under way. A certain amount of determination can cure this, but so can total immersion in a project – which is what I’m going through right now with my novel-in-progress, an epic fantasy I’m calling Swordslave

It’s about people – the Swordslaves of the title – who are half human, half other. They’re powerful, but most of them don’t get to use that power – they’re enslaved and forced to take a drug, which suppresses the ‘taint’ of otherness in their blood. A young Swordslave gets caught up in a power struggle between two kings with different ideas on how to handle her kind, and she has to decide what freedom means to her and how far she’s willing to go to fight for it. 

Ultimately, Swordslave is about liberty, and the many guises oppression can take. I’ve finished the first draft and have begun revisions, but I’d also like to write more short stories in 2013, submit them to competitions, anthologies and literary journals, and maybe even e-publish an anthology.

I believe in looking for opportunities to write whenever and wherever I can – especially as I’m a long way off writing full time – but it’s a powerful thing to know that there is a place where I can immerse myself in my dream and allow it room to breathe. 

My number one tip for creating your own writing space? Train yourself so you can write anywhere. Then, when you get the opportunity to make a space your own, treat it as another tool to hone your craft.

Create an environment that sharpens you. And don’t stop writing.

 

Bio: Rosanna Silverlight spent her childhood daydreaming, reading stories about magic and ponies and later on, writing stories about magic and ponies. 

She still adores reading and still writes – though not so much about ponies these days. She graduated from Lancaster University in 2007 with a joint honours degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, and set about learning the hard way that being a daydreamer is fine, as long as you don’t expect too much. If you do, you’d best pay attention and do something about making those dreams come true. No one else will do it for you!

After a year spent in Spain and Portugal teaching English, she moved back to the UK and settled with her wonderful, imaginative boyfriend in Somerset, a beautiful part of the UK well known for its cider and Glastonbury Tor. 

Rosanna currently divides her time between working a part-time job and writing at home. She writes short stories – some of which you can read on her website [www.rosannasilverlight.com] – and is working on her first novel, Swordslave

 

Creative Spaces For Writers

Creative Spaces

Do you have a special place to write?  Do you have a special routine to prepare yourself for writing?  How does your space affect your writing?  These and more questions have been buzzing around in my head.  I know the answers for myself but I wondered about other writers.  Were they doing something I’m not?  Could I learn from what others do?  Absolutely!  I decided to invite writers to share about how their office space was linked to their creativity or creative process.  Their responses were surprising and informative.  It turns out there’s much more to our workspaces than just office furniture.  As a result, I’ve started a new guest blog series, Creative Spaces, which launches on Friday

writing woman

Do you have a special place to write?

Eleven authors have accepted the invitation to guest blog and if visitors (you) show that they enjoy the series, it may last longer than eleven weeks.  You’ll gain inspiration and maybe some tips.  You’ll certainly get to know some of your favorite authors a little bit more.  Be sure to come back each week to hear about other writers and their creative journeys but especially to take a peek inside their private creative spaces.