Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Writer's World - Incentive to Write or Bribery? (aka. Chocolate!) Annie West

Treats in a French chocolaterie
 We all like to think of writing as a gentle occupation. We imagine the glorious flow of words when the muse is with us. Being blessed with good imaginations we like to pretend that writing a book will be easier next time, surely, because we've learned so much from the last one and the one before. We tell ourselves the days of stewing over a plot problem or some difficulty with recalcitrant characters won't happen again.

For the serious chocolate lover - Berlin style

Yes, sometimes the writing is easy and yes, I know we learn from previous mistakes. But I've yet to meet an author who thinks that their writing comes more easily now than it ever used to.

Sorry. To those of you on your first book, or simply day dreaming about the joys of being an author, I don't mean to puncture your illusions. There ARE marvellous parts of being a writer - like when the words flow and the scene comes alive. Like when youre characters talk with their own voices and react in ways you know are 'real'. So satisfying. But the fact is that writing for publication is work. If it was as easy as we'd like to believe there would be a lot more people doing it full time.

Frog Prince - just for a romance lover
So,  what does a writer do when the words aren't flowing?

We've all got tricks we like to try when the going gets tough. A long walk, a chat with other writers, a soak in a bubble bath, letting the mind wander over that knotty plot problem. I've heard some people speak of walking away from a project and waiting till the muse is ready. I agree that there are times when it's best to take a break from a project and try to get a new perspective on it. That way you can hopefully nail what it is about the story that's not going well. But, with editor and readers waiting for the next book, simply taking a long break or writing only when you feel in the mood, isn't usually an option.

That leaves...Bribery. 

I can see your shocked faces, and hear your hiss of indrawn breath, but hear me out. 

Who does't need a little incentive now and then? We all know the benefits of positive reinforcement to encourage achievement and a positive frame of mind.

Some time ago a friend sent me the largest block of Lindt chocolate I've ever seen as a thank you for helping her with a manuscript. Imagining what that would do to my waistline, I told myself I'd only eat some after I'd written x number of new pages each day. Not only did my production improve but so did the writing! 
The Germans even have a chocolate parliament building!

I'm not suggesting that you eat your weight in chocolate to finish a book, but I've learned that setting myself a goal and a reward can help me stick at a project even when I don't want to. Of course the treat needn't be chocolate, but I admit I do like to have a little treat of it now and then. In case you're wondering, yes, these are my photos, taken on a recent European trip. 

Annie's June release.
When it's summer holidays and the rest of the family is relaxing but I have to stay at my computer, I tell myself that when I finish my pages or the scene or a certain amount of time at the computer I can have a reward. Maybe it's to go socialise, or watch the Australian Open Tennis (a real summer treat) or go for a swim. The same when I'm having a tough time with a story. I can't afford the time off and just walk away from a project, but setting myself a reward when I've made some sort of progress helps. Maybe it's coffee with writing friends, or some other outing. Or yes, maybe it's chocolate.

How about you? Do you find an incentive (or if you like, let's call it a bribe) helps you through your work when it gets difficult? What's your favourite treat when you feel you've achieved? Maybe with writing or work or some other goal you're trying to achieve.

Annie's latest book, UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH, is a Presents Extra release in North America this month. Romantic Times gave it a 4 star review, describing it as 'an emotionally compelling read'. You can read an excerpt on Annie's website or buy it from the usual outlets.


  1. Oh wow! I just love the pics of chocolate - especially the German Parliament house - amazing!

    Didn't you refer to one of your heros as the Frog Prince? Love the giant frog......he looks very tasty ;)

    My new fav chocolates are Baci (since last year's RWA conference). They are now my special treat if I write well. Best indulged with a coffee or tea - yum!!!!!

  2. Ha ha ha! I read this and wondered if there was a writer in the world who wouldn't agree with you, Annie! I heard about that wonderful block of Lindt. Actually you are currently my supplier who gets a gold star. That HUGE block of Toblerone you gave me last month is down to one out of three slabs left and I'm saving it for the final climb to the peak of Everest which is finishing this endless first draft. And you know what? It's working! When I finish this book, I'm seriously thinking of dedicating it to Toblerone!

    By the way, LOVE the photos. That Reichstag one is amazing.

  3. Joanne,

    Ah, I love Baci too. Aren't they a lovely treat?

    Glad you liked the photos. I think the Frog Prince is my favourite. Yes, I do refer to one of my heroes as a frog prince. I saw this one and instantly thought of Stavros.

  4. Anna, I'm glad the Toblerone is working. I had thought perhaps you'd share it with me when I visited...but I'm glad to hear it's helping you through your current book.

    Yep, the Reichstag in choccie is pretty amazing. I loved the Ritter Sport store where you could have your chocolate made to order. I have it on good authority though that gummi bears aren't so good in chocolate! Who'd have thought it?

  5. Oh, gosh, yes, writing does get harder! But chocolate really does help smooth that rocky publishing road. I remember your gigantic block of Lindt. :) You have amazing willpower - I would have eaten it for brekkie!

    Thanks for this mouth-watering post, Annie!

  6. Hi Vanessa,
    That Lindt was a real boon, believe me. But for brekkie? I think I'd need a cast iron stomach!

  7. This post is like heaven to me! Love the chocolate frog! Thanks to Kate Hardy, I recently discovered the chocolates at Fortnum and Mason's when I went to a RNA event in London. Delicious!

  8. Hi Annie, you truly are a woman after my own heart to take photos of wonderful chocolates on your travels!
    My stepmother was Swiss and the first time she took me into one of the wonderful chocolate shops in her home town, I really thought I'd gone to heaven!
    Writing to a deadline is tough all right, and your treats and rewards system seems to work so well for you, I might have to adopt it!
    Going for a leisurely swim seems to help me, the rhythm seems to induce a meditative state and the actual physical activity helps relieve the muscular stress of those long, long hours sitting in front of a computer.
    Going off to scour the kitchen for chocolate...

    1. Sorry to make you hungry for chocolate, Kandy. I'm trying to imagine what life must be like in Switzerland for a chocolate fan.

      The swimming sounds like an excellent idea, and much healthier than devouring chocolate daily. I find walking has the same effect for me - something like meditation or at least clearing the mind, as well as beneficial exercise.

  9. Scarlet, can I admit I've never had Fortnum and Mason's chocolate? I'l have to put it on my list. What a great double with the RNA.