Saturday, February 25, 2012

Writers Workspace: Paula Graves

The Pink Heart Society is delighted to welcome Harlequin Intrigue author Paula Graves to introduce us to her writers workspace.  Take it away Paula!

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.  This is, after all, a Writer's Workspace post. So I thought I'd show you just how bare bones a writer's workspace could be.

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.

Writers need nutrition.  Sustenance is vital.  I'd like to say that I eat great, nutritious meals all the time. But sometimes, especially when you're under the deadline gun, there's only one food group that meets your immediate needs:  chocolate. 

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.

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.

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.
What is your workspace like?  Barebones and portable like mine?  Or do you have to surround yourself with inspiration and comfort?

Paula Graves's newest release from Harlequin Intrigue, SECRET IDENTITY (March 2012), is the first book in her new Cooper Security series. 


  1. 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.

    Excellent post, Paula, and so true.

  2. Thanks, Jeannie! I think the hardest part for writers to figure out is that you really do have to treat it like a job, not a hobby. Earn your pay, even if you're not getting paid yet.

  3. Love it. I made a lot of excuses before I got serious, too. I have multiple writing locations around the house. I relocate as the mood strikes me. The goal is to write. :) Wishing you continued success.

  4. Hi Paula: I have finally got an office space, but until we moved to Alabama, I wrote wherever I could. My desk was in the bedroom and I often went to Starbucks to work. When we moved in 2008, I learned I could write in a box if I had to. The truth is YOU'RE RIGHT pretty spaces help, but learning to write when and where you can grab the time is key. I write every day except I recently decided to give myself one day a week to recharge my batteries. I am usually go go go. But James Scott Bell suggested that a day off is necessary so I thought I'd try it. I find that it helps me hit it hard when I start up again. And even when I am "off" I noodle a lot of plot and character and scene points whilst laying around doing "nothing."

    I love your furbaby pictures. They are such great companions when we are writing.

    And I'd like to say I eat healthy snacks all the time, but when the going gets to def com a billion I reach for the chocolate as well.

    Great post!

  5. Your output is very frequent indeed. Your system obviously works for you. Well done Paula and thanks for the inspiring post.