Questions for Writers #4
By Lazette Gifford
Copyright © 2009 by Lazette Gifford, All Rights Reserved
Welcome to the fourth
installment of Questions for Writers. This has been a wonderful
experience, and I appreciate the answers that the authors have given us.
These are the questions for this issue:
1. Do you have a special or
preferred place where you do most of your writing? What is it like? Do you write
better at certain times of day? Does your setting include things like music (and
what types?) or do you work better in silence?
2. Is there anything in particular that you do to get ready to write, like
reading over the previous day's material?
3. When you are not actually writing, do you spend much time thinking about your
current story? Do you take notes?
And here are the answers!
C. J. Cherryh
I have a small
easy chair in a very small corner of my bedroom. It has one of 2
power cords I use. I have a small telly and a relatively small
pre-selection of stations; the telly goes all the time, fairly
muted. The cat occupies the adjacent bed, which also supports a
hard-desk platform with my coffee cup, my hand notes, and a pencil.
I hate listening to music. I play. If thereís going to be music, I
have to have an instrument. Which I donít do while writing. Morning
is my writing time. I get up as early as 5 am to brush the cat and
get some coffee and get started on my day. When things are going
well I may also write during the afternoon, but more often that is
my time to take care of business stuff.
Is there anything in
particular that you do to get ready to write, like reading over the
previous day's material? I answer e-mail and see to the blog. If
still stuck, I may work the daily e-jigsaw puzzle. If really stuck,
Iíll add the crossword puzzle.
When you are not
actually writing, do you spend much time thinking about your current
story? Do you take notes? I think a lot, mostly in the dark at 5 am
watching the traffic go and brushing the cat. Itís particularly good
on snowy mornings. We built a fishpond in the backyard, and in
summer I can go sit by the waterfall and think. Itís great.
RSS feed blog:
publications: [to come]
with Lynn Abbey and Jane Fancher
My special place changes a lot, but I do tend to have places that
work best for a while. My most interesting one was taking the laptop
out to work in the car during the winter because it was the warmest
place to be since it magnified the little sunlight we got. I've
recently acquired a netbook that allows me to work wherever and it
has become my special place whether sitting on the livingroom sofa
or in a park 350 miles from home. The key point seems to be warmth.
As far as time, when I'm able to write first thing in the morning
(around 7am), I get a solid bit done, but I have to get up early. My
other productive time (like when I'm writing this now) occurs after
10pm, making the early time a little harder.
I used to require a specific artist for each book and Cat Stevens
for short stories. Then it became Cat Stevens for short stories and
non-fiction, and I was running out of artists for books, so I've
started writing novels to Mary Black and editing to Suzanne Vega,
while Cat Stevens stays the standard for short stories and
non-fiction. However, I'm as likely to have no music playing while I
write as not, especially if I'm out and about with my netbook.
I've been playing around with the reread technique and I think it does a
good job of getting me back into the headspace, but it also takes a chunk
out of my writing hour. The jury is still out on that. As far as what I do
generally, having the netbook which I use almost exclusively for writing and
critiquing helps because when I boot it up, my mind goes into work mode. I
can do the same by turning on Mary Black on my main computer, or by going
into one of the writing chat rooms on Forward Motion.
Rarely do I take notes once I start writing. My outline contains most of the
notes I'll need going forward, though I do have new things to add on
occasion, and I'll often put in character information to avoid the blond
becoming a redhead half way through. That said, once I commit to a story,
it's never far from my thoughts. I've given up on capturing the scene starts
and such that come to me when I'm away from my writing tools, but I do keep
mental notes so I can remember the gist of whatever I came up with.
Margaret McGaffey Fisk
Curve of Her Claw
From the Ashes
The Author's Grimoire
I have a lovely little office at the back of the house, and that's
where I do the majority of my writing. The room is filled with
books (as is the room beside it) and it has a window that shows the
birdfeeders in the back yard. I have a corkboard leaning up
against the wall to the right, and a collection of plot bunnies on
the shelf over the computer. There is usually at least one cat
I can write just about anywhere, though. As long as I have
something to write with, I'm fine.
I work best at night, when the neighborhood is quiet and the birds
are no longer so photogenic. (The possums and raccoons at
night are trying to draw my attention, though!). I rarely like
to have music or any other noise, except that I find I type better
if I have the keyboard set up to make typewriter sounds.
Click to see larger version
I can sit down and write without any preparation at all.
Sometimes I do try to get other things out of the way first, though,
so I'm not interrupted. Oh, and feed the cats. If I
don't feed the cats first, I can guarantee I won't get much written.
Since I love writing, it is something that takes up a lot of my
thoughts. I am rarely far from the computer these days, so
it's easy for me to walk back to it and type something in as it
occurs to me. Like many writers, though, I am cursed with that
'oh! That's what I need!' thought right after I go to bed.
I have a small HP Pocket computer that I keep by the bed and often
do notes on it.
Available at Amazon.com
Growing up in a crowded house that was far too small
guaranteed that I learned early how to shut out distractions. I can write
anywhere anytime if I have a pen and paper, but I prefer my desk, with all
my resources at hand, including my music. I listen to a lot of soundtracks,
but not exclusively; I generally don't like sung lyrics as I get distracted
by them. There are exceptions.
When I begin a session I generally reread at least a page, sometimes farther
back. I am always taking notes--some projects require scads of notes, maps,
calendars, and once a detailed diagram of prevailing winds at different
seasons. Depends on the project.
I took a snap of my desk as-is; the book I am typing up (story begun in
1972, and finished in 1978, in a publisher's dummy book given me by a prof
in 1969, and saved for that project. The writing is so horrible I can only
do a page or two a day. The current book is Tamara Ramsay's WUNDERBARE
FAHRTEN UND ABENTEUER DER KLEINEN DOTT, which is such a remarkably good
fantasy I don't know why it isn't translated into English.
Books at the left are dictionaries in Latin, German, French, a couple of
grammars. I have the OED on the shelf left of the shelf at the left side of
the picture (the book cases go all around the room) and a Websters that my
dad gave me when I started college in '69. It was brand new then, and is
falling apart now. The various piles are various projects, and at the
extreme right, my high school aged son's school paperwork. And my spray
bottle, as it's blisteringly hot, and we still have a couple months of
summer to go here in Southern California. Top of the desk family pix (the
small black and white is my great-grandmother as a baby, with sibs, around
1880) and keepsakes, and a model of Patrick O'Brian's SURPRISE, which I used
as reference for a project.
Music playing that I can't attach: Rimsky-Korsakov's INVISIBLE CITY OF
KITEZH. Next up will be Fort Minor's "Remember the Name."
was younger and had the luxury of relative free time (as in, a regular day
job that actually ended at 5:00 PM or 6:00 PM and I was free to go home and
start the second work shift -- that of a writer), in those days I would
basically write during lunch at work and then, after work, in front of the
desktop at the home office (glorified bedroom). My hours were always
irregular at best, and I would write in huge bursts, or not at all.
Deadlines were great, because I then acquired the power to bend time to my
will and the nearer the deadline, the more I could accomplish in a time
paradox impossibility (kind of like when you approach the speed of light,
time-space stretches out).
Preferred hours were always at night, and I would write up to 2 AM on work
days and up til dawn on the weekends and basically sleep minimally.
These days, now that I am older, tireder, and have no day job boss but my
own business (Norilana Books) and am the master of my own time, I am
merciless to myself, and writing right now happens in obscure squeezed out
moments between other publishing business tasks.
Unlike so many other people I know, I need absolute silence to write.
But once I am writing, if someone turns on music, the TV, explodes a bomb,
or drops an asteroid on the planet, I am pretty much oblivious to it (and in
case of the latter two incidents, obviously dead).
definitely read previously written portions over. If the WIP is a short
story, I read from the beginning, if a novel, usually the most recent
chapter. In fact, my way of writing anything at all is like a rolling
wave-edit, a rolling of the dough in multiple passes, of massaging the
current text and then picking up where I left off. It is hardest to begin
writing when none of the previous day's words need revision. Cold starts are
very hard and not fun. Most fun is when the last day's cutoff spot leads
directly into the next thought -- that's when I get on a roll, and go, go,
Also a good thing that gets me started writing anything is desperation
lovely looming deadline! *grin*
the thought factory is always running fulltime, round the clock, even in my
dreams. I hardly ever take notes, except for a vague initial scribble or
two, and sometimes when a great snippet of dialogue or exact thought-idea
pops up for later that requires to be recorded just in case I forget it, but
in general it all gets sorted out in my mind first.
In the publishing industry
Vera Nazarian wears two hats -- writer and
publisher. She is arguably the only Armenian-Russian professional speculative
fiction writer working in English today. She is an award-winning artist and a
Nebula-nominated writer, active member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of
America (SFWA). Her work has been translated into eight languages. Best known
works are the novels
Dreams of the Compass Rose and
Lords of Rainbow, and the most recent is the novella The Duke In
She is also the publisher of Norilana Books.
Jim C. Hines
most of my writing in my cubicle at work, between noon and 1:00 pm. This is
less by choice than necessity. With two young kids at home, it's harder to
get much writing done there. Fortunately, I have an understanding boss, and
so long as it doesn't interfere with my work, I can use my lunch hour for
It's far from ideal. I've got my coworkers pretty well trained to leave me
alone during that time, but I still get the occasional interruption. But I
can do about 1000 words in that hour, which means I'm able to crank out
4000-5000 words a week.
I only have an hour for that lunch break, I don't have much time for
pre-writing rituals, and I've had to learn to switch gears pretty quickly.
The main thing I do to get ready is to open up the document and deliberately
minimize or close my e-mail, Internet windows, and anything else that might
distract me from the book. Even so, the first 50 words of the day are always
use my commute to and from work to think about the next scene. And if I'm
having trouble with a story, it tends to take over my brain. I'll be
obsessing over it during dinner, and I'll lay awake at night trying to
figure it all out. I try not to let the writing dominate every moment, but
some days I'm more successful than others.
What's really annoying is when I find myself obsessing not over the current
story, but the one I want to write after this one. I'm not going to be able
to start the next book until October of 2010, but I'm already daydreaming
about the possibilities....
THE STEPSISTER SCHEME, by Jim C. Hines
""These princesses will give Charlie's Angels a serious run for the
money and leave 'em in the dust."" -Esther Friesner
Read the first chapter at
Diana Pharaoh Francis
write in my office. It's the front bedroom of a 1917 Craftsman bungalow
and has a slanted roof and purple walls. I write on an old kitchen table
(that I love with a passion). It's about 7 feet long and about four feet
wide. It's piled high and deep with books and other writer detritus.
Along the walls are floor to ceiling bookshelves with a lot of research
books and also fun books to read. I also have one of those antique
secretaries with the curved glass door. In the closet are more
bookshelves, office supplies and a file cabinet. All over the walls
(what's not covered by shelves, are maps, pictures, swords, and battle
axes. One wall (the slant wall) has a bank of windows so it stays pretty
bright and doesn't feel claustrophobic in here. The floor is hardwood
with a bright colored rug and there's a rocking chair and a big easy
chair in there too, ostensibly for reading (but now holding mounds of
stuff). Right now the place is a mess because I just finished a book and
whenever I get to a finish, I find that I have put nothing away for
months and it's all piled up like flotsam and jetsam on the beach. Sigh.
There will be a cleaning soon.
I prefer to write in the afternoon, because that's when I seem to focus
better. But really, I write when I can snatch the time. I do listen to
music and it varies--classical, rock, metal, new age--I sort of want
music to set the mood, but then I sink into the story and don't hear it.
It helps cover outside noises/distractions that make me look out the
window too often though.
been trying the write-straight-through-without-rereading method, or
"Abandon All Standards and Write Fast," which is a sign hanging next to
my computer, though I don't know where I got it. Anyhow, usually I write
on a spiral where I start the day looping back to reread and revise,
then push forward into new work. But this other method is kind of
liberating because I don't worry about the crap that came before. I just
write and take notes if I think I need to fix something from previously.
It worked well on this last novel (fourth in my Crosspointe series) and
I'm going to try it again.
I think about it a lot and carry a journal for notes. Like many other
writers, menial/mindless tasks like cleaning or folding or what have
you, allow my mind to wander and I come up with more ideas.
I only write in my
office I'll make notes other places but that's it. It's just a
normal office desk, chair shelves filing cabinets. I like to listen
to music preferably rock music sometimes really hard stuff. I love
Billy Idol and Alice Cooper.
I read over the last two
pages I wrote the day before and then get right to it.
When I'm not writing I'm
always thinking about one writing project or another. I occasionally
will make a note if I think of something for a scene that I think I
I write in a small room that has several manuscripts, rejects, books of
my favourite authors- Dean Koontz, Terry Brooks and several collections
of short stories. I have one shelf with my own novels on it. There is a
small cushion at the bottom of the shelves where YOU, my wee Snauzer
I write better in the cold wet winter mornings. I usually have on the
radio. I listen to the oldies- do wop etc.
I donít do anything in particular to get ready to write. I would sometimes
read over stuff I have incomplete and maybe add to it.
I sometimes think about the story I am working on when I go to bed. I donít
The Meltin' Pot From Wreck to Rescue and Recovery, published by the
History Press is to be launched on March the sixth, and already
released by the Inishowen sub-aqua club who found the B 17 bomber.
Challenge of the Red Unicorn is out in March aswell. Published by
I work best when the family's
not around and when I can put on my MP3 player earbuds to tune out the
world. I'm a fan of Within Temptation, Yukii Kajiura, and Nightwish as well
as a broad swath of anime theme music. I'm also beginning to use a netbook
to escape being chained to my desk.
coming back to something I've put down, I'll re-read it.
Otherwise, I can generally keep my place where I was. My preparation for
writing revolves more around summoning my inner confidence to suppress the
internal editor so that I can actually get words out of my imagination onto
stories are reflections of my daydreams. The plots and characters come from
me entertaining myself whenever I'm driving or otherwise not actively
engaged in any other task. When I write, those daydreams gain substance,
detail, and rationality.
I write on my Macbook,
which is in the living room. Since I do most of the business-type
stuff for Zumaya on the iMac in the bedroom-cum-office, the
different room helps maintain a different mindset. It's usually
quiet, mostly because I don't think to turn music on.
I work in a terrific
program called Scrivener that lets me do each chapter individually
yet have all the others close to hand. If I manage to write every
day, I usually only need to read the last paragraph or two. If more
time has passed, I may re-read the whole chapter.
I like to keep my notes
in Scrivener with the working files, but I definitely "meditate" on
what comes next. Usually just before I fall asleep.
I have an entire writing
room with nothing but writing related stuff in it so I can count it
off my income tax, and I do all my writing here. I have a small CD
player in the room and mostly big band tapes or songs from the
forties and fifties, including country western. Sometimes I need
music, sometimes I don't.
I always read over the previous day's material and edit it before I
go on witting. It gets me back into the story.. But never any more
than the previous day, because that slows my progress down. When
starting a new work, I always have a synopsis I've done first at
hand. Though I may depart from the synopsis many times, it still
provides me with guideposts that don't allow me to wander too far
off track. Plus it gets me off to a good start.
I hate it when I start thinking about the story when I get into bed.
If I don't force my mind somewhere else, I can't go to sleep. On the
other hand, sometimes a plot point occurs to me when I go to bed, or
an obvious error I've made and these two things rate a note to
myself, so I won't forget in the morning.
If you are a published author -- not self-published
(though you can be both) -- and would like to take
part, email me at Vision@lazette.net and I will add you onto the list!