Friday, January 12, 2007

Thursday Talk Time with Terri Brisbin

This week The Pink Heart Society brings you a brilliant author for Harlequin Historicals. Please give a warm PHS welcome to Terri Brisbin!

Getting My Markers All Lined Up. . .
or the Prelude to Writing Panic!
Every year, in mid-December, I buy a new wall calendar, line up my markers by color, and prepare to prepare for the upcoming year. Each member of my family gets their own color and I decorate the dates of everyone’s birthdays with colors and sparkles and those markers that do little squiggly signs and designs. I’m not sure how this habit developed but it seems to feed the obsessive-compulsive, detail-oriented side of my personality. (Oh, did I tell you – I’m a dental hygienist in real life….picky, picky, picky!)

This year, for lots of reasons (good ones,too!), the calendar hasn’t even been bought yet and the new year spreads out before me in chaos. The thought of it, of not being prepared, of not having dates and deadlines marked in pretty colors, has sent me running in terror. In trying to figure out why it’s so important to me, I realized that this process of preparation is not dissimilar from the one I use when I face my writing deadlines.

Okay, first it’s time for a confession. I am a deadline binge writer who writes the bulk of her books (or other projects) in the last days before they’re due. For books, the majority of the book is written in the three weeks leading to D-day. So knowing my schedule for the months ahead is crucial when sitting down to write a book. I’ve discovered that I begin to prepare to write a few weeks or even a few months ahead.

I’m doing it now!

I have started warning my family I have an approaching deadline. I’ve begun blocking out weekends on the calendar (using my emergency pocket one until I get the real thing up!) and pushing some flexible things farther back into 2007. I’ve started handling all the little commitments I’ve already have agreed to and doing the things I need to do – like write this blog post, finish putting away Christmas stuff, organizing and limiting the signings and other promo things I’m doing for my January book. And, I’ve begun telling myself that I have a book to write.

Why does this work for me? Well, I think of this as psychological training. Each time I think ‘deadline’, my brain hears it and it begins to sink in. Soon, I will feel the pressure to write build and everything falls into place. The characters talk to me and then scream at me to tell their story. I can hear and see scenes and my fingers itch to type them. And before long, my book will be written.

I do wish my process was different – this deadline binge writing thing is not for the weak of stomach or the faint of heart nor, I suspect, a person of my advancing years! I would like to handle my writing in an orderly, even fashion, writing X number of pages each day and completing the book with time to spare to edit and revise it endlessly. But I realized a long time ago (aka the second book I ever wrote back in 1997) that my brain doesn’t work that way and my creativity flows best under pressure.

So, how do you approach your writing? Even, organized approach or deadline binger? Or something in between?
Terri's latest release from Harlequin Historicals, The Earl's Secret, is on shelves now.
Stop by her website to learn more about Terri, her books, and her penchant for helping new writers (the ToBeez).
Thanks Terri!!!


  1. Hi Terri! had to stop in and post for a sister NJRW blogger. :) I love your new cover -- beautiful.

    I don't work under that kind of pressure, the last minute kind of pressure, though I do like to work on several projects at once, and have a lot going on. I'm usually working on two books, and I just picked up a freelance editing position, so I like that kind of pressure.

    I can get inspired and binge write, though it's not necessarily at the last days before a deadline. I'm too paranoid to do that, LOL. I usually come in a week or so ahead of deadlines, but I do a lot of writing up front, in the proposals, sometimes as much as a hundred pages or so, and then I putter and tinker through the middle before making a big push at the end, to finish.


  2. My binge comes at the beginning of a book and I get slower as I go. Having a deadline is motivating, though.

  3. I'm a dreadful binge writer. I know exactly what you mean. And, it's absolutely not for the faint-of-heart. It's horrible. I tell myself everytime I'm never going to do it again and ...

    I've come to the conclusion that it's the only way I can switch off my self-edit button. Stories are so much easier when you just day-dream them. :)

  4. I'm with Jenna. I write really fast for the first three chapters or so, then it all seems to slow down. I really have to slog my way through middles. But as the end comes into touching distance, I suddenly speed up again.
    I do all this whilst being assaulted every day with ideas for new stories. Ones that suddenly seem so much more interesting than the one I'm working on!!!!

  5. Hi, Terri!
    You cover is must be thrilled.
    I'm a quick starter...have to 'pull' the last have of the book out...
    Thanks for sharing,

  6. For some reason this has seemed to happen to me the last 2 books!

    It's not like I don't start them in a timely manner, finish the partial easily. And I write every day, my word count sneaks up...

    Then I get a rash of distractions. Contracts, edits, holidays, whatever. And suddenly I find it's 3 weeks to deadline and I only have half the wordcount needed (this is very fresh, I discovered this last week and my book is due the 31st).

    Then the push is on....and one breathes, eats and sleeps the book driving one's entire family nearly as crazy as one finds oneself.

    Hey, give me credit. At least I didn't talk about myself completely in the third person. :-)

  7. Terri,

    I'm a total deadline writer. Without a deadline I doubt I'd ever finish everything. I even keep a writing tally on my blog when I'm on a tight deadline (like now) with a countdown to D-day!

    Love your big, color coordinated calendar idea, but I'm not that organzied!


  8. It is good and scary, too, to see that some of you are bingers!

    Good luck to all of you in your writing!


  9. Terri - Your binge writing would give me a heartache and a headache!
    I think you're amazing. I honestly don't know how you do it - I'm in awe of you because I know you work full time and have so much else in your life!
    For me, I'm a terrible plotter and that's why my synopsis is always so long. Once it's approved, I really know the story fully but it takes me 4 months to do what you do in weeks! I wrote one in 3 months right be Christmas and nearly pulled my hair out trying to finish it!
    Charlene - another Harlequin Hussy.

  10. Hi Terri,
    I have a deep admiration for binge writers. There's an energy that comes with moving quickly. The characters are really alive! My first drafts can go quickly, but then I spend days, weeks, months honing every word.

    Love your cover!

  11. I love your cover, Terri! And I totally understand about binge writing. I've done it. I have also done it "the other way." The truth is, I can't count on doing a book the same way twice. It would actually be helpful if I knew what to expect.

    Every writer's different and every book is different, I guess!

  12. I plan my daily/weekly pages needed on my weekly calendar and get off to a good start. Then I skip days and don't catch up and finally cram it all in at the end. Thankfully I'm a fast writer, but there's something about that energy (fear) as the deadline approaches that gets the juices flowing.

  13. I always start with the best intentions too but then there is a panic point when I realise I should be on the homeward stretch and I'm not and then I go up a gear...

    Have to stop doing that tho cos it's a real drain and then I'm knocked off for the next one as I take some time to recover...

    Lordy but I would LOVE a colour coordinated calender!!!!!! I just never know that far in advance what I'm doing ... *sigh*...