Friday, September 14, 2012

Writing rituals

by Meredith Cole

I used to be quite rigid about my writing time. It had to be in the morning (my head was clearer), it had to be quiet (unless it was a cafe). It had to be at least two hours without interruption. And, if everything lined up exactly right, I was super productive. Trouble is, it took me three years to write my first book.

And then what happened? I became a professional and acquired deadlines. There was never going to be enough perfect moments to get writing done, so I learned to be flexible. I fit writing in whenever and wherever I could. I scribbled on the subway. I wrote at night. I wrote even when my home was full of hub-bub. And I gave myself word count deadlines rather than time deadlines to make sure that my story was always moving forward and the pages were piling up.

I won't lie and say it was easy. But I figured out how to get myself ready long before I sat down to write, and that made all the difference.


I think about my book all the time. No, really. When you see me walking down the street muttering to myself, I know I probably look crazy. I'm not. I'm plotting. I think about my characters and different scenarios to put them in. So when I get a free thirty minutes or less, I can sit down and write a scene or two. Or get started. And then finish it later.

People ask me all the time when I find the time to write. And I have to say honestly that I make the time. I can't remember the last time I sat down to watch television (the Olympics?). But I carve out time to write everyday. Especially when I'm on a deadline.

And if you want to know how I (and 21 other talented writers--including former criminal minds Rebecca Cantrell and Kelli Stanley) plot--I've got an essay in a new book out called Making Story: Twenty-one Writers and How They Plot. It was edited and dreamt up by Tim Hallinan, a talented and generous mystery writer. In it you'll find 21 different ways of tackling a book and making it work. Every writer is different--but we're all finding a way to get it done. And in the end, it's really the book, and not how you got there, that matters.


Zoƫ Sharp said...

Hi Meredith

I agree completely - if you want to write, you a have to MAKE the time to do it. A time slot won't miraculously open up before you. I used to say for years that I wrote in the cracks of the day job, but now I'm lucky enough that writing IS the day job.

Wonderful to be included with you on MAKING STORY. Tim is a star, isn't he?

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Time is the rarest commodity, isn't it? I wrote a big chunk of A Trace of Smoke between 4 and 5 am (before my day job, before I had to get my son up and to school). It feels like a luxury now to write when other people are awake. :)

I loved your piece in MAKING STORY, BTW. Kudos again to Tim Hallinan for doing all the hard coordination work of pulling it together and getting it out there. If you're listening, Tim, thank you1

Meredith Cole said...

Thanks for swinging by Becky and Zoe! It's so very cool to be in a book with you two talented authors... And to be involved with a project with Tim is awesome, of course.

Just realized my post is really about "making time" for "making story". Hmmm... Possibly a future book?

Timothy Hallinan said...

Great post, Meredith, and thanks for focusing on the book. Your essay in it is marvelous.

"Making time" for making story is in fact one of the topics on the list for the next in the series, but probably not until we see how this one does.

Meredith Cole said...

Thanks for dropping in Tim! Fingers crossed that MAKING STORY will do great! Many thanks again for all your hard work on the book. I just wish I'd been able to find something like it when I was starting my first novel...

Reece said...

You're exactly right, Meredith. Even for those of us who have other jobs, you have to be a little obsessed to write a book. And if you are obsessed, you will find the time. Making Story sounds like a great project!

Meredith Cole said...

Thanks Reece! I think "obsessed" definitely sums it up... Making Story is definitely chock full of lots of great advice from some terrific writers (and I feel honored to appear along next to them in print!)