Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Writer's Wednesday plus giveaway: I'm A Professional

Harlequin Historical Author Annie Burrows shares a day in the life of a professional author and is offering a copy of her latest to one lucky commentator.

For writer's Wednesday, I thought I'd give you an insight into what a typical day is like for me.

                I had been trying to get a book published for 10 years before I landed my first contract, with Mills & Boon, in 2006.  It was like a dream come true.  But after I'd stopped skipping round the kitchen with an idiotic grin on my face, I realized this was a huge opportunity which I Must Not Stuff UP.

                First thing I did was to go into my temping agency, and hand in my notice.  The days of scribbling into notebooks under the desk when I was working on reception, or daydreaming intricate and highly improbable scenarios whilst stuck in traffic jams on the M56 were over.  I felt justified in devoting all my time to promoting my career as a writer.


                Most people who have a career have to work a nine-to-five day, don't they?  So, I reasoned, it would be a good idea to attempt to structure my day just as though I was taking part in any other professional occupation.

                So, I get up at 6.25 every morning.  Well, someone with a commute would do the same.  Only it doesn't seem fair to hog the bathroom when my husband really does have to get the train, so once I've made his breakfast, I go back to bed for a bit, with a cup of tea.  Just to keep out of his way.

                I don't waste the time though.  A professional woman, commuting to work, would read on the train, wouldn't she?  So I settle back into the pillows with one of the research books, vital to my latest work in progress, which are stashed on my bedside table.  At the moment, I've got "Regency Cheshire", by Sue Wilkes, "The Age of Wonder", by Richard Holmes, and "The Art of Seduction", by Robert Greene.

                Only...well...I started "The Good, The Bad, and The Wild" by Heidi Rice last night, and I'm sure it won't take me more than half an hour to finish it...

                Somehow, it's gone eight o' clock before I know it.  But never mind.  There's still time to get my breakfast, and get in front of the telly before the 8.30 news bulletin.  That is really important.  8.30 is the last time the BBC give a really thorough local weather report, and I need to know if I'm going to be able to peg the washing outside.  And it's always good to keep up with current affairs, isn't it?  Besides, the time isn't wasted at all.  Oh, no.  I go through my daily exercise routine while I'm keeping my mind informed.  Stretches for my back, which does suffer from sitting typing all day if I'm not careful, followed by a few push ups, to keep the dreaded bingo wings at bay.

                But come what may, I am always breakfasted, washed, dressed, exercised and in my study for 9.25 at the very latest.  And I sit and work on my latest story for an hour.  Only an hour, mind, because my chiropractor told me I must get up and move about regularly, if I don't want my back to seize up completely.  I set a kitchen timer so I don't have to keep looking at the clock.  That way I can totally immerse myself in the story, knowing that it will beep to remind me to get up and stretch.  And make a cup of coffee.  And listen to popmaster on radio 2...

                Now, listen...anyone working in an office environment would have a mid-morning coffee-break, wouldn't they?  And it's not as if I just drink coffee and join in the quiz.  No - I tidy up the breakfast dishes, load/empty the washing machine and empty bins, etc. too.  Any little job that will keep me within hearing distance of the radio.

                And then it's back upstairs to my study for another hour's work.  After which, I permit myself to dip into facebook for a few minutes.  I don't know why I resisted joining facebook for so long.  Writing can be a very lonely occupation, and having someone to "chat" to, online, is a great morale booster.  And then people post such great stuff.  Where else would I have seen that youtube clip of a man dressed as Darth Vader, in a kilt, playing the theme from Starwars on bagpipes whilst riding a unicycle?  Priceless!

                Then it's downstairs for my (well-earned?) lunch break.  And yes, perhaps if I really was an office worker, I would take a sandwich at my desk, but I can't risk getting crumbs in my keyboard again.  You wouldn't believe how long it took me, and my tweezers, to unjam the "s" key after I made the mistake of eating a tracker whilst checking emails.  Had it been a normal biscuit crumb, it might have squished down, but fragments of peanut just won't squish.       

                It's very tempting to flick round the tv channels during lunch.  So, to help me resist this time-wasting occupation, I tend to record a half-hour long programme from the night before's tv.  Usually the quiz show, The Chase.  And don't argue that it's a full hour long.  I've recorded it, which means I can fast forward through the adverts.  Okay, okay, that only gets rid of about fifteen minutes, but at least I'm not slumped on the sofa watching mindless stuff for an indefinite amount of time.

                And then it's back to my study for another hour.  Somehow, miraculously, by the end of this third session, I have usually reached my target for the day, if I'm working on a first draft.  This is due to the fact that I'm a trained typist, and can produce about 1,000 words in each hour long session.  If I have hit my target, I celebrate with a cup of tea and a piece of fruit, then do at least ten minutes on my exercise bike, because I really, really don't want to end up with "writer's bottom".

                After about two months following this routine, I find I've got a complete first draft of the story I'm attempting to write.  At which point I print it out, to see what I've got.

                And my routine alters a bit.  Instead of going up to my study and typing, I sit on the sofa, with a pencil clutched in one hand, and my hair in the other.

                "Show don't tell!" I pencil into the margin.  Or, "this is boring, make it come alive."  Or sometimes, simply "YUK!!"  And then there are the sections, circled in red, with, "Do something with this."  (At this point, you will have to imagine the three lines under the word "something" because there is no function on my laptop for underlining more than once.)

                During this second draft, I could often kiss my kitchen timer when it goes off.  Because the process is dreadfully depressing.   I thought my story was incredible when I first dreamed it up.  The hero was droolworthy, the heroine the kind of girl you just want the hero to fall for like a ton of bricks, and their dialogue was absolutely scintillating.  How did it all get so dull between the pictures I saw in my head, and the words that went into my laptop?

                And how has it all come out so muddled?  That conversation in chapter 3 should not take place until chapter 5 at the earliest, and then there's that bit of backstory that is clogging up the works...I don't know about you, but sometimes the cut and paste function of a computer is just not up to the task.  I need real scissors, and sticky tape to get my story into an order that Someone, Somewhere, might find a tiny bit interesting to read.

                During this second draft, there's a whole lot less fruit, and a whole lot more chocolate biscuits in my diet.  A lot more playing of spider solitaire, and watching quiz shows, too.

                I can't tell you how long this second draft takes.  It always feels like forever though, before I'm ready to print off the cut and pasted, trimmed, and emotivated (is there such a word?) version of my love story.

                And then, sometimes, I think...hey, this bit isn't too bad!  This love scene is actually quite sexy, now that I haven't written the hero as a pompous twit any more.  And, oh, my gosh - I actually sighed, and filled up at the end, and thought, ahhh...

                Maybe someone will enjoy reading this story after all.  I'll send it in to my editor shall I?  I think it's ready.

                There.  I've hit send.

                Oh, gosh.  Stomach swoop.  What will she think?  Will she "get" my jokes?  Will she like my heroine?  Will she think the plot is brilliant, or contrived?

                It's too late now.  It's gone.

                Let's just hope there's something as funny as that Scotsman on a unicycle on facebook to take my mind off the impending revisions letter from my editor.

                Because...the revisions process - well, that's a whole other article...

My current book is Captain Corcoran's Hoyden Bride.  Available to readers in the US direct, or ebook.  The hero is droolworthy, and the heroine the kind of girl you really want him to fall for like a ton of bricks.  Sadly, I couldn't get a scotsman on a unicycle in it, but there are some love scenes, some witty dialogue, and an ending that should make you think, ahhh...

Remember to leave a comment to be put in a draw for a copy of Annie's latest. Viod where prohibited. Drawing to take place on Wednesday 11 April.

 Visit  or to learn more about Annie and her exciting Regencies.


  1. Fab post Annie, love the thought of you cutting your manuscript to pieces!

  2. I'mm so impressed by your typing speed. I can type reasonably fast, but I don't use the correct fingers for the letters. On the other hand, I've been told I won't get RSI as I use different fingers each time, depending on what is nearest the keys.

  3. thanks for commenting, Scarlet and Alison. Scarlet - you should see my study when I've got the scissors to my ms!!
    Alison, being able to type so fast is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I can get the words down almost as fast as I'm thinking them. But a curse, because going at that speed does terrible things to my back and neck. Thank goodness for my kitchen timer, which makes me get up and move around every hour, no matter what my muse is urging me to do. Since I started using that, I haven't had to visit my chiropracter anywhere near as much!

  4. Enjoyed your blog, Annie. Had to laugh about the "a whole lot less fruit, and a whole lot more chocolate biscuits in my diet."

  5. Annie... I loved your post, made me laugh out loud. So good to know I'm not the only one who needs regular breaks during my work day (purely to keep my osteopath happy you understand!) and the odd choccie biccie... And chuffed to bits you're reading my book! Hope it didn't distract you too much. LOL. BTW, of course emotivate is a word, I do it all the time.

  6. Such an honest, funny post, I clearly need to give your books a try.

  7. Melissa - so glad you enjoyed my post. It's my mission in life to spread laughter!
    Heidi - the only problem with your book was that I couldn't put it down until I'd finished it. Which played havoc with my work schedule!
    Summer - thanks for the compliment.

  8. Summer - congratulations! You have been chosen to receive a copy of Captain Corcoran's Hoyden Bride, for leaving your comment at this blog site.
    Please send me your snail mail address, via my website:
    and I will send your signed copy.