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!

Prepping for Nanowrimo 2014

https://i2.wp.com/s3.freefoto.com/images/11/22/11_22_1_web.jpg

http://www.freefoto.com/download/11-22-1/Sun-Dial

Tip 1 in a series designed to assist you sprinting to the finish line this November as you type with abandon during Nanowrimo 2014.

Set aside time for your writing.”

Who has enough time? To do anything? And do it well? And still have friends and family speak to you when it’s all over?

You do, that’s who.

Let’s start with the basics. What is enough time to write?

For me, a productive writing session takes at least an hour. This includes the time needed to:

  • Find a secluded chair in a coffee shop, bookstore or library. A power source nearby is a bonus.
  • Think up polite responses to questions such as “Hey, are you writing something? Are you a writer, then? Have you been published? What are you writing now? Do you know [insert name of famous best-selling author here]?” It happens. I am polite; sometimes I get creative. They get used to me and leave me alone. Eventually.

It helps if I buy a cup of coffee every once in a while, assuming I am in a coffee shop. Hey, they gotta stay in business, too.

  • Set up the laptop and try to connect to a wireless network. Easier some days than others.

No network nearby? That’s okay. Less distraction; more writing.

  • Make sure whatever I write is saved to an online storage service, such as Dropbox. All it takes is one massive computer crash. I speak from painful experience.

Again, no network access? I’ll use a flash drive.

I reserve 5:30 – 6:30 am every weekday for writing. Saturday will often be a little more lenient, giving me a few hours to write. Sunday? Depends; it’s a long story.

With advanced planning, I can usually get a solid 45 minutes of actual writing during my hour.

Does this schedule work? It did for me; it may or may not for you. Working in this fashion, I finished Nanowrimo just under the November 30th deadline with a 52k word first draft. Here it is, six months later and my draft has changed numerous times, finally ending up as a 75k word completed novel.

“But I have responsibilities. I don’t have any spare time, not even an hour a day.”

Yes, many of us have children, spouses, and pets. Then there’s always the cooking/cleaning to do, and you can’t totally dismiss the job we use to earn money needed to pay rent. I hear you. I get you. I am with you.

So keeping in mind these other responsibilities, I found the best results come from having a regularly scheduled time for my writing. My family knows this time is reserved; and since it is so early in the morning, they are sleeping anyway. They don’t even miss me.

Support from family and friends is essential. Feed the pets. Be nice to your spouse. Help the kids with their homework. It’ll pay off when you need the extra time later checking for continuity errors, too many adverbs, the nefarious “that” and other grammar flotsam and jetsam.

I know one writer, a man with a six-book contract, who shuts himself in his basement for three months at a time to write. If you want a six-book deal, I guess this schedule might be worth it. But his method is not my choice. It must work for him. Not sure if he gets any Father’s Day cards, though.

Have a plan and hit the hour typing! This is your hour for all activities related to your project. This would include writing, research, plotting, outlining, reading, etc. We’re only talking an hour here so use it as efficiently as you can. The more actual typing, the better.

Maybe there are other times of the day where you could find five minutes here, ten minutes there to do a bit of research. You might be able to read a book from your chosen genre while eating lunch. While everyone else is watching television, you could perhaps scribble down thoughts of characters, story arcs, and plot points.

Speaking of reading, there is a great little book about finding available time when you have a super-busy schedule. It’s called Time to Write, by Kelly L. Stone. A quick read, this book gives plenty of examples of successful writers who overcame scheduling obstacles. If you can afford one of those giant, fancy coffee drinks at your local coffee shop, then you have enough money for the book. And the book will last longer.

Finally, avoid time-suckers. Well, if you think about it, you could read Facebook, Twitter, and yes, even blog posts at other times during the day. You can grab a bite to eat five minutes before your hour. You might even reward yourself with a dinner out, after your hour.

And there is no harm in holding a family meeting the day before you start. Explain your desire to write, with the caveat you won’t be abandoning anyone. All you want is one hour a day. They can have the other 23. Then promise the family you will take them on holiday once you are a rich and famous author. (Well, it could happen, you know.)

Bottom Line: Professional writers started out just like you. If they could find time to write, you can, too! It’s all about doing the “other stuff” before, or after your hour.

Now stop reading and go write!

Next up: What’s genre got to do with it?

Nanowrimo? But it’s not even June yet?

No server access? Get out the Underwood!

Gad-zooks! We are about five months away from the next coffee-fueled, donuts-for-dinner literary slog known as Nanowrimo!

For those wondering, this is the annual “contest” where you pledge to scribe a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. This breaks down to writing 1,666.66 words per day, every day. Easy for some; seemingly impossible for others.

And for those who make it all the way? They are “winners” and get a cool icon for their website, discounts on tools and services for writers, and most importantly, they get bragging rights. I mean, really, how many people have you met that can say they have written a novel in one month? Not many, I am guessing.

Those who finish also gain invaluable perspective. They now understand what it means to write on a deadline. They know the sacrifices professional writers make on a daily basis. Those who finish also learn about their own writing skill, or lack thereof. I have participated in quite a few Nanowrimo events and have learned I can write thrillers with both military and paranormal themes, as well as mysteries. But after three or four Nano’s, I find mysteries written in first person to be the most natural voice for me.

In one sentence: You learn more about yourself as a writer. And that is probably the best takeaway from Nanowrimo. And it’s free.

So, to help those of you who either struggled to make the 50,000 word goal, didn’t make the goal, or decided you could never do it and thusly did not enter, I will use the month of June to share my own system of preparation for Nanowrimo. Just think, after this series ends, you still have four months to do the legwork before you have to type “It was a dark and stormy night…”

My Goal: Help you, the Nanowrimo warrior, finish with a coherent and complete first draft of your next best-selling novel.

How? I’ll post ten, count ‘em, ten easy-to-read steps that might just prepare you to take up the Nano challenge.

Why now? Nanowrimo takes the entire month of November. And trust me, it takes the entire month for most of us. That leaves eleven months with nothing to do, right?

Wrong.

I started my novel, The Apple Pie Alibi, during Nanowrimo 2013 and here it is, six months later and I have just revised it well enough to send it to a publisher for consideration. You think writing your novel in one month is hard? Think of the poor publishers and agents who receive thousands (literally) of unpolished first drafts during the month of December.

The more work you do now, the better the first draft will be on November 30th. And consequently, the less work you will need to do in December forward. Publishers and agents everywhere will thank you.

Next up: Finding time for your writing. It can be done!

Cyber Bullies Must Drink Bad Coffee

I have a t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Instant Human – Just Add Coffee.”

For many of us, this implies without the morning jolt of java we are less than civilized. I’m not that bad, but then again, I drink coffee for an hour before I have to interact with others, so who am I to say? Regardless, I try to remember we are all on this planet together, and if you go back far enough, we are all related. Yup – all of us. And while we don’t always treat our relatives as nice as we should, overall most of us know right from wrong and we apologize later, usually over a cup of coffee.

Coffee, it’s like liquid duct tape for the soul.

Cyber bullies are a different story. The anonymity of the online persona allows our brain to relax, and we end up saying things via the Internet we would never say to anyone in person. So what to do if you are one of those bullies? Well, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for you to stop. What good is it doing you? Unless you actually enjoy hurting another person, you need to stop. If you do enjoy it, you need to stop anyway. (I doubt you will listen to me, in fact – you probably won’t have read this far into the post. But I digress, and somewhat stereotype. Sorry.)

But what if you are the victim of cyber bullies? If they attack your blog, delete them, block them, and report them. Then have a cup of coffee. Whatever you do, don’t take anything they say personally. They could care less about you; they only post rants on other blogs so they can see their own gravitar in print.

As writers, we put ourselves out there through our work. Expect differing opinions as to the quality of your work. That’s okay. Expect some comments to be rational, and others not to be. But if things get out of control, or if the trolls start to go beyond the basic scathing retort – report them. Get a lawyer who is trying to make a name for herself. Imagine being the attorney who successfully took down a few cyber bullies hiding behind a laptop at some green mermaid’s java joint. You could write a book.

Want a well written and researched article on the subject? Check out Kristen Lamb’s blog, here!  And pour yourself a cup of coffee. It might make you a better human. After all, it’s done wonders for me.   I think.

What say you, writer types? And you, too, regular normal people?

Where do you prefer to write?

Miles Davis

Miles Davis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Where can you sit, your thoughts your own, with no distractions, and write with abandon? At home? In an office? Perhaps somewhere outside, away from those who want you to hear their story of how they always wanted to be a writer but never had time?  I have found (lately, at least) that I am getting a decent amount of quality writing accomplished at my Secret Early Morning Writer’s Center and Coffee Shop. Not many people know about this place, which makes it a nice place to clack a few keys and make progress on the novel.  The music is usually pretty good, not too overbearing, and there is a constant stream of writing prompts that enter the SEMWC&CS, if only for a few minutes.

A few observations:

Music – today, classical guitar of the Segovian-style. Yesterday, we were graced with a conversation between Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley from the Blue Note 1595 reissue, if you are interested.

The Regulars – the retired physician, an avid reader. A nice guy, he has an unofficial reservation on the first leather chair. We also have our local police officer, a K-9 man to be specific, who always ends his shift here. Too bad he can’t bring his dog in here. I think that would be way cool! We usually have two “almost” theologians, discussing what is wrong with the world. If your world has a problem, I am sure they have already come up with a solution for you. Just ask them. But really, don’t. It will just encourage them.  There are others – a steady mix of students (a veritable fashion show from Cache and A&F,) business people trying to fix their ties while balancing that cardboard tray holding coffee for the boss, and a fleet of sailors on their way to one of the many Navy bases we have in our area. No need to look farther for writing prompts…

The Staff – The happy guy who wants to know everyone. Every group has a happy guy, sometimes it’s a girl. I think it’s a law.  Then there is the hipster dude with the closely cropped full beard. He never says anything; probably the smartest guy here. At the counter today is a nice lady, a woman who is on her third career now thanks to the recent recession and two ex-husbands. Did I mention some people like to share far beyond what is needed? Sometimes we have the girl “from the hood” who is really not. But she tries.

The Writing  – yesterday I determined how the antagonist will meet his end and in the process incorporated a new subplot. Very cool. This morning is blog time; tonight you will probably find me working on how Blood Lust will end.  At the SEMWC&CS, I usually get an hour and a half of solid writing done. Makes the 2 dollar coffee worth it.

And speaking of libations – for me it is coffee.  No cream, no sugar. No mocha, whipped cream, or anything else. Just coffee. Hot and straight up. Is there a better way to start the day?

I think not.

If you can find the SEMWC&CS, feel free to snag a power outlet and join me. I’m the guy who always sits in the corner facing the door (the apex of paranoia?)  Or just have some coffee and watch the people. So many stories, so little time…

Where is your favorite place to write?

Cool jazz and hot coffee

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto: Taso de kafo. Français : Photo d’une tasse de caffé Español: Taza de café (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you have a “favorite” spot where you can focus on writing? Mine seems to be a local coffee shop conveniently located on my way to the “real” job. I don’t normally give out shameless plugs, especially since the less people here the better, but suffice to say I always seem to have a green mermaid watching over my typing. Probably another wannabe editor. Oh well, what can you do? Everyone’s a critic.

The reason I bring up location is that some places are just more conducive to writing. Last week, I went to another coffee shop (with the green mermaid’s twin sister) and found it inhospitable for writing. The music was different, the “regulars” were different. It was just different. I got nothing done, except for the infusion of caffeine, which isn’t all that bad, I suppose.

But today, I am back in my normal spot, sitting at my normal table, listening to Bill Holman arrangements of early 60’s jazz. The regular patrons here are all reading, typing or staring at their coffee. Love it! So with the environment issue settled, what have I accomplished?

Blog maintenance: added another favorite blogger to the blogroll. As you recall, I am starting over in this area. Check out all the author links off to the side. If they aren’t good writers, they wouldn’t be there. More to come, I am sure.

Blood Lust: More plot development. This story has taken a new turn. I am very interested in seeing where it will go. You’d think I would know, wouldn’t you? I’m just the writer; the story will tell me when it is ready.

Oh, and then there is the infusion of coffee. Can’t forget that.

I hope you all have a favorite writing spot. And you find yourself there, often!