Monday, March 15, 2010

Where does the time go?

Describe a typical writing day

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE!!!  Our own Rebecca Cantrell has won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award at Left Coast Crime for A TRACE OF SMOKE!!!

Congrats, Becky!!!!

Now we have TWO Bruce Alexander award winners among us--Kelli and Becky!  Guess you guys will have to both win next year!

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled blog....A typical writing day in my life:

Oh boy. Another one of those questions that you really don't want to hear my answer. See, the only rule I have about writing is: No Rules, Just Write!

In other words, there is no typical writing day for me.

Some days I don't write. Ah, the heresy! I can smell the smoke from the stake they'll be burning me at!

But, that's how my brain works—I do "think" about my writing every day, every night, and times in between. I need that fermenting time to figure things out. I've learned that if I force myself to "write through it" what comes out isn't terrible (I wish it was, it would make it sooo much easier to slice and dice) but it just isn't "right."

I also don't wear a watch, don't time my writing, don't monitor my page count or word count, and I don't write in order.

I write in scenes—and they could be scenes from anywhere in the book. Usually I can tell if they're from the first act, before or after the midpoint, or if they're from Act Three.

Yet, despite this lack of discipline, I've been told that I'm a fast writer. I guess I am—I've already finished one novel this year (begun in December) and am more than halfway done with the first draft of my next.

Also so far this year, I've edited an anthology with Lee Child (FIRST THRILLS—due out June 22nd and featuring some familiar names from here at 7CM, like myself, Rebecca, and Kelli!), written a new keynote speech, created two new month-long online classes, and three new live workshops.

But all that productivity is because of deadlines—I pride myself in never missing a deadline, so even though I don't keep track of my progress, there's a little ticking bomb inside my brain ensuring that I keep my butt in the chair, working.

Oh, and by the way, I don't have an office or a big desk. I write on my laptop, sitting wherever feels comfy (and wherever I don't have to move a snoring cat out of the way), usually in my rocking chair looking out over a pretty lagoon lined with centuries old magnolias and live oaks.

My one regret is that I have yet to figure out a way to make exercise a can't-miss-routine. I have gotten a small laptop desk that is high enough I can work while standing in the hopes of burning some extra calories while reading email and perusing the web. But to me exercise is just time away from writing.

When the dialogue starts churning through my brain or I figure out a devious plot twist, then even a walk on the beach gets cut short. I've tried taking a handheld recorder with me, but talking it out just isn't the same as writing it out (maybe because I despise the sound of my voice on recorders).

So you guys tell me—how do you make exercise a priority and incorporate it into your writing life? I'd love to hear any secrets you have!

Thanks for reading,

About CJ:
As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. Her debut, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), became a National Bestseller and Publishers Weekly proclaimed it a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller."

The second in the series, WARNING SIGNS, was released January, 2009 and the third, URGENT CARE, October, 2009. Her newest project is as co-author of the first in a new suspense series with Erin Brockovich. To learn more about CJ and her work, go to


Joshua Corin said...

Writing is such a sedentary occupation - and yet don't we all feel so EXHAUSTED after a 3-hour typing spell? If only hunting and pecking were a cardiovascular activity...

I have come up with one solution CJ, for keeping my body from becoming doughy due to the desk jockey lifestyle (which you, mercifully, get to avoid - yay laptops!). When I take a break every hour or so, instead of using the time to explore the fridge, I use the time to walk around the grounds of my apartment complex. It's not quite high intensity aerobics, but it does seem to help. Plus, there's always the possibility that I'll spy one of my neighbors committing a felony. Grist for the mill!

CJ Lyons said...

Great idea, Josh! neighbors better watch out, lol!

Shane Gericke said...

Congratulations, Rebecca! Outstanding honor, and richly deserved ... A TRACE OF SMOKE was an outstanding book with a winning character.

CJ, I'm delighted to find another writer that doesn't write every day. I know I "should," yet don't feel the least bit compelled to do so.

Perhaps for exercise you could throw your writing stuff in a pack, walk or jog several miles to a cafe or a beachfront place to sit, do your writing, then walk back. Be a great way to combine a couple things at once.

CJ Lyons said...

Yep, it all boils down to: move more, lol! Thanks, Shane!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Thanks, CJ, for mentioning the Bruce Alexander. It was very surprising and humbling and fun.

I do a 15 minute exercise routine call T-Tap every morning. It's not cardio, but I really did drop a pants size in 3 weeks (I'm wearing the same size I did in college). There are longer workout routines but I'm too busy and lazy to do them. Yeah, I know, I live with an Ironman. Really, I think he eats up all the required exercise for the whole household. :)

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Oops. And thanks, Shane for the congrats!

(and also to Josh who sent me an email congrats too).

CJ Lyons said...

Congrats, Becky! I'll have to check out the T-tapp routine--I have tons of exercise routines, most the time it's a question of finding time to do them

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I hear you, CJ! I liked that one because it was short.

Plus, I like the idea of buying new, smaller pants when I get home. :)

Terry Stonecrop said...

Congratulations Kelli and Becky!

As far as exercise, I like walking on the beach and weight training. Not that I do either everyday. The weights make me feel strong, not that I'll ever be muscular, but I like the feeling.

The beach is better than any drug to calm you. The waves crashing in and out. I also like driving through the citrus groves,OK fast, but it somehow relaxes me and ideas come into my head. . . Or not:)

CJ Lyons said...

I agree, Terry! Nothing like walking on the beach, my fav "exercise". Thanks for stopping by!

Shane Gericke said...

I wish I had a beach to walk on. The only body of water in Naperville is a brown river ...

Mysti Lou said...

Man oh man, I had to row on the erg machine (like a crew-shell for one on dry land) at my top heart rate, four days a week for two months to lose three inches.

If T-tapp works for me, my next mystery will be about the murder at the gym :)


Kelli Stanley said...

It was so cool to see OUR REBECCA win!!! :) Worth the trip just to be there. :)

As for exercise, I rely on my dog. He needs it, I get it. But after hearing about Becky's T-Tapping, that sounds like the ideal kind of physical pick-me-up.

And I really, really like Josh's idea ... I generally head toward the beach, so I can spy either felonies or naked surfers. ;)