Writing & Coffee – what perks your work?

What's your order?

                                                  

Having just posted my second novel, The Milk Chocolate Murders, up on Book Country for workshopping, I can now refocus on the tweaks needed on the first novel, The Apple Pie Alibi. If all goes according to plan, APA should be ready for submission (again) by September 1. That timing allows me two months to outline the third book of the trilogy, The Wedding Cake Witness, in time for the next slog known as Nanowrimo.

Throw in a commission to write a 5 minute piece of classical music (not as easy at it sounds) and I once again find myself very busy. This will take much coffee.

Speaking of coffee…

I have always wondered if genre dictated coffee choice. In other words, do writers in the mystery genre prefer straight espresso, or perhaps (as I do) an Americano? Do romance writers like, I don’t know, one of Starbuck’s new drinks? A caramel cocoa crunch frappuccino maybe? Just guessing. I have no idea what a romance writer typically orders.

Hey! What about a totally unscientific poll?

Comment below with your genre and favorite beverage, be it coffee, tea, or something stronger. There will be no prizes, but rest comfortably with the knowledge you have helped to further define your genre in a new, and tasty fashion.

Let’s here from everyone! <clink!>

We heart writing “on location”

View from the Artist Loft - Cape Charles Coffee House

View from the Artist Loft – Cape Charles Coffee House

Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day and the two of us decided it would be a great day to do something together, out in public. No – not that. This is a family blog, you know. But given the outside temperature is in the 20’s (-3 or so Celsius) and the high winds not helping matters, a relaxing morning inside the warm comfort of the Cape Charles Coffee House was deemed to be public enough.

A few pancakes, some scrambled eggs, a yogurt fruit parfait and muffin later, we found ourselves upstairs. The building, beautifully restored to the elegance it had over a century ago, has a nice artist’s loft. Paintings by locals hang on the wall; there are small and large tables, plus comfy chairs. A perfect place to hold a small informal meeting, or in our case – plug in the laptops and write.

Truth be told – once my trilogy of culinary cozies hits the press, readers may see a coincidental resemblance of this coffee house to the diner-headquarters of the main character. Why shouldn’t I use such a great space for the setting of a novel, right?

So here we sit for a while – me catching up on my social media accounts and eventually moving on with revisions to book number two. My better half? She’s doing work. I know, not as fun as my quest, but she gets to work in an elegant space. And with such fine company!

Valentine’s Day or not, if you need a space to write, look for a quiet place that still has some life to it. You might try a coffee shop, a library (yes, that building with all of the books,) or anywhere people will ignore you, yet be visible for inspiration. Heck, try the waiting area at your local airport. You’ll definitely see a cross-section of humanity there!

Wherever you write – may inspiration hit you like a strong cup of hot coffee; and may any writer’s block be vanquished!

Revision & the Post-Nanowrimo Reality Check

How many of you participated in Nanowrimo 2014? You know, the month of literary abandon where writers of all ilk try to pen at least 50,000 words into some coherent fashion – all during the month of November?

Thousands tried it. Thousands finished. You may be one of them!

And literary agents now cry during the month of December as their email in-boxes explode with submissions. Now, let’s give credit where credit is due: there could be a bestseller in there somewhere. Odds are against it. But it could happen.

And that’s why writers submit their Nano Novels.

Alas, the writer may be ready to be a bestselling author, but the story is not. Many (smarter?) writers use December to revise their draft. Good idea! But now it’s January. The revision must be ready to submit, right?

Here’s some advice from a long time Nano winner, me. I’m the one whose first novel is getting good reviews, but has yet to be traditionally published.

Wait.

Revise.

Wait.

Revise.

Wait some more.

Revise again.

Give your brain a chance to think about other stuff. I wrote a new novel (the sequel) while I was waiting. I put the first book up for critique on the online writer’s peer group, Book Country. I had a few beta readers offer me their opinion. All good feedback, even if not always what I wanted to hear.

The point is – good on you for writing a book in November. Most people could not do it. Ever. But don’t waste that effort. Revise it. Work it. Peer review it. Do something else and then come back and read it with fresh eyes. Trust me. It is worth it.

And eventually, you will find less and less to change. Finally, perhaps a year (or more) later, you will feel confident enough in the work to send it out.

And when you do, I send you my best wishes!

Now put down the draft and go read a book! Make a bucket list and check some things off! Go to the coffee shop and – gasp – talk to someone instead of hiding in the comfy chair typing away. You can do it, you know you can!

Give your book a chance to become as ready for the world as you are!

New Years Resolutions for the Writer

The crab pot fell, signalling the new year in Cape Charles, Virginia.

The crab pot fell, signalling the new year in Cape Charles, Virginia.

Happy 2015, everyone! And now that you’ve seen the ball descend at Times Square, or in our case – the crab pot fall in Cape Charles, Virginia, let’s talk about your resolutions for the new year.

It goes without saying – of course you are going to lose weight. I think 40 pounds would be a good goal for me. Probably less for you, but to each their own. According to StatisticBrain.com, losing weight is the most common New Year resolution. You can’t fight data.

Then there’s that gym down the road. Getting fit is in the top 5 of resolutions, as you may or may not know. And next Monday this resolution will be proven true as every gym on the planet will be crammed full of people hell bent for leather on becoming a cover model for a fitness magazine. If you actually are a gym rat, you know the deal. Just come back in February, once the novelty has worn off and your gym is back to normal.

But what about us writers?

Sadly, when it comes to losing weight and getting fit, writing is an activity involving long periods of sitting down. Not much there to get our heart rate up, except maybe for those who pen romance novels. But still, writing isn’t known for its cardiovascular benefit. And for many of us, our daily nutrition starts with a pastry or two and a side of coffee. Dinner depends on what pairs well with the wine already in our glass. All of this adds up to many writers needing those two resolutions stated above.

Can we do better in 2015?

Of course we can! Make those resolutions and stick to them, right? Not so fast, Hemingway. HuffPost recently published an article featuring Harvard B-school professor Amy Cuddy, who said the typical resolution is composed of unrealistic absolutes. Goals that are not attainable set us up “for failure – and failure is not a good motivator.” It seems, to paraphrase (and take out of context) a quote from Jack London, we are like rats in a trap.

As a writer, what do you always want to do? Write, of course. So let’s be general and stay away from absolutes when creating resolutions to help us achieve our goal:

1. Write something every day. It may not be more than a few sentences, an idea for a plot twist, or perhaps just a quote overheard on the tube from that particularly nasty passenger who reeks of stale cigarette smoke and moldy newsprint from the racing forms stuck in his tweed jacket pocket – but write something.

2. If, for some reason known only unto God, you cannot write something – then read something. Anything. It may only be the back label on that bottle of wine, but somewhere along the way, a writer put those words on paper. They deserve the satisfaction of having someone to read them. And you never know, you might just pick up something you can use in your own writing. I’m not saying plagiarize by any means, but technique, voice, structure, attitude – it can all be gleaned from the writing of others.

3. We must not forget about our own health and wellness. Make better choices.  Coffee? Sure – but only one cup in the morning. Switch to tea in the afternoon, perhaps only one glass of wine with dinner. Make salad the main meal. Reduce the starches and increase the raw vegetables and leafy greens. Doughnuts? Make it a special occasion. And only three, not three dozen. Water? Start drinking it.

4. Finally, resolve to “live as long as you are alive.” Taken from a favorite quote said by a friend who is battling cancer, writers would do themselves great benefit to live a little. You can’t write what you know if you don’t know anything, right? And how do you know stuff? By doing stuff. Take a few minutes and put down the iPhone. Stop posting to Facebook. Finish writing that chapter and step away from the laptop. Now take a good friend and visit that museum you’ve always said you wanted to see. What? There’s a vineyard down the road? Well, there you go. Unless you are writing on a deadline – you have time to live a little. And if you are on a deadline? Hey, if you had time to eat – you had time to do something away from the keyboard.

One last resolution: see all of the usual doctors and dentists. And see them before you are sick. (Did you hear that? My wife is saying I told you so!) If they recommend changes – do them. You never know, you might live longer. And that means you will have more time to write. Don’t wait for any bell to toll for thee. Consider that Hemingway wrote some good stuff, but once he passed – his output dwindled rapidly.

The bottom line is this: as a writer – resolve to write – and read! And as a person, make better choices and live beyond the laptop on your desk. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your writing!