Monday, February 27, 2012

Oh, the glamorous writing life...

To put it kindly, my journey to publication was a little rocky. I got serious about writing for publication in my late twenties but floundered around for a decade, buffeted by the ill winds of rejection and wallowing, for a while, in the fast and easy instant gratification of fanfiction. I kept telling myself that all the odds were stacked against me—I had a demanding day job that left me little time or energy to write, I had family obligations and little fur babies depending on me for food, water, shelter and vet bills, and I didn't even have the money to buy myself a decent desk, writing for years on a piece of lumber laid across the iron base of an old sewing machine.

But the desire to publish was stronger even than my own self-sabotage. Eventually, I figured out that all those excuses were just that: excuses. They weren't really the reason I didn't find time to write. I didn't need hours of undisturbed peace; thirty minutes of lunch hour, when spent with focus and preparation, could result in 750 written words. Do that every day for eighty days and you'd have a 60,000 word book.

I also learned that where you write isn't all that important. You can write on your phone, your netbook, your Alphasmart, a yellow notepad, the back of your grocery list. What matters is that you write. Every day, even if it's a few words. Learn the discipline of approaching your writing as a job.

That's a long introduction to get to the meat of my post. In a recent post on another blog, I gave readers a glimpse of my writer's workspace (and, by extension, my oh-so-glamorous writing lifestyle). So I thought I'd share it with y'all, too.

Here is my laptop computer. It sits on a wobbly TableMate II table that's seen a lot of wear and tear. It once sat in my den, but recently I've moved it to my bedroom. Doesn't really matter, since it's portable. I can really move it anywhere I want.

I also do a lot of writing on my computer at work, during my lunch hour. I don't have a photo of my work computer, alas. But trust me, it's very nice. Huge monitor. Plus I have a nice view of the neighborhood behind our office. It's a residential area, with a lot of beautiful older homes. Plus, I get an up close view of all sorts of birds who land in the trees just outside my office window.

Writers need nutrition. Sustenance is vital. I'd like to say that I eat great, nutritious meals all the time. And sometimes, I actually do eat pretty well,

But sometimes, especially when you're under the deadline gun, there's only one food group that meets your immediate needs: chocolate. (And, okay, a green apple Jolly Rancher lollipop isn't bad, either).

Writers need companionship. Writing is a solitary endeavor, so it's important to surround yourself with friends who'll wait patiently for your attention while you work.

Just be aware, their patience is finite. Be sure to take time to give them some undivided love and attention.

(And plenty of kibble).

The handsome blue-eyed heartbreaker shown here is my sweet Miko, who may look like a high strung Siamese but behaves like an absolute sweetheart.

Be prepared for obstacles. Whether it's an unexpected deadline, edits that arrive at the worst possible moment, or mysterious computer troubles, something will always happen to get in the way of your writing. You can't let that stop you.

(In this case, the obstacle is a sleepy kitten who thinks the heat of my computer is the next best thing to cuddling up with his mama).

You also have to be prepared for setbacks. No writing career runs smoothly all the time. Even after you sell, you'll get rejections, lose your editor, get booted from your publishing house, get a terrible cover or your sales will bomb for no apparent reason. And constantly worrying over the failures is a recipe for driving yourself crazy.

Here's the truth. You don't have to have a beautiful workspace, a glorious view, an unobstructed block of time to write or a meteoric rise to the top of the book lists to be a successful writer. You just have to find a system that works for you and hit the keyboard every day. Sometimes you'll reach the top of the mountain. Sometimes you'll tumble into the darkest valley. But it's all part of the writing process.

If you're a writer, here's my question: what is your workspace like? Barebones and portable like mine? Or do you have to surround yourself with inspiration and comfort?

And if you're a reader, here's a question for you: what's your ideal workspace? Quiet and serene? Active and busy? Where do you do your best work, whatever that work may be?

And while I have your attention, don't forget my next book, Secret Identity, is available now on and comes out next month in bookstores. It's the first book of a brand new series, Cooper Security, so if you want to get in on the ground floor of a new series, here's your chance. The next two books, Secret Hideout and Secret Agenda, follow in April and May.


  1. I don't really have a workspace any more....but when I was teaching I had was my desk in my room at school where I would work while the janitors would quietly clean the rooms but many times I would bring work home and curl up on my bed and grade papers or ~ once I graduated from a typewriter to a computer ~ I would create worksheets etc. Before computers I would use a typewriter sitting on my dining room table to create worksheets.
    PS. I have Secret Identity and am looking forward to the rest of the books in the series.

  2. When I was just out of college and still living at home with my parents, I had a little wooden desk in my bedroom where I put my tiny second-hand electric typewriter. I had bought the desk from an unpainted furniture store and stained it myself, so I felt all grown-up and professional. It would be almost two decades later before I actually sold, however. ;)

  3. Great post, Paula. >>grin<<

    I have a couple of work spaces I love. An office full of computers, printer/scanner, books, paper, colored sharpies and white boards... And then the one I carry around with me: my old-fashioned pen & paper.


  4. Laura AKA Loves 2 Read RomanceFebruary 27, 2012 at 10:05 PM

    Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your writing space! I am not a writer but I like my desk at work. It's a long counter with a computer, printer, fax, phone, etc.. I can spread out a little if I need to. I work for a CPA as the office manager. So right now it's a little crazy. Your picture of the candy wrappers made me smile. We have our own stash of chocolate in the back fridge. Today was a day I found myself going and getting a piece everytime I walked by. It was just one of those days where the only good thing is the chocolate. Since you like the apple sucker you should check out carmael apple suckers. They tend to be out around Halloween. I love them and made sure I got a few extra bags before they left stores. I am looking forward to your new book.

  5. I try to keep pen and paper nearby, Angi. I also type in notes on my cell phone if I don't have paper handy.

    Do you storyboard? Is that what the white boards are for?

  6. Ooo, the caramel apple suckers do sound good, Laura. I just realized that the sucker wrapper on my photos was actually for Watermelon, not Green Apple. Also good. :)

    I hope you enjoy my new book. And don't forget I have two more coming out back to back in April and May.