Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Writer's World - Getting Started Writing - Annie West

I'm always fascinated by how other people write. If I'm having a day where the words aren't flowing well I sometimes imagine other authors breezily typing out page after page of brilliant work. And of course, it's easy on those days to believe that everyone else but you can simply sit down and start composing - easy as pie.

The truth is that beginning to write - whether it be the beginning of a new project, or even just the beginning of a new day's work can sometimes be a little difficult (possible understatement there).

It's not that I'm one of those people who believes there's nothing to be done but wait for 'The Muse' to show up and then I can begin work. If that were the case I'd probably never have finished a book. That muse can be darned elusive and I'm sure sometimes it's just a nickname we use as an excuse to do all the other things we'd love to do - see friends, read a book, go to the beach, window shop, whatever.

I believe that the more often we write the easier it becomes. I don't mean 12 hours a day to the exclusion of all else, but if you can do that, good on you. I've found writing as often as possible keeps the story in my head and makes me less inclined to question what I'm writing so that I can just plunge in and create a draft to look at later. I'd love to say I have a strict regimen of writing from time x to time y every day or 5 days a week, with no interruptions. Instead I have a certain number of days when I know I can write more or less free from interruption and I scrabble to make the most of those days, and sneak in a little extra where I can. But the more I write the easier it is to write more.

Nevertheless, there are times when facing a blank page is daunting. It seems like there's a story there, waiting to be told but I don't have what I need to access it. It's as if it's behind a sturdy, locked door and I don't have the key.

Have you ever had that feeling? Isn't it frustrating? Especially if you know, even vaguely, the story you want to set down, or the scene you want to tackle next, but actually getting the beginning down is incredibly daunting.

There's no magic fix (I can hear your sighs from here) but after years asking other writers how they get through that problem, I've decided that training yourself into some sort of routine is the best way. If your mind gets used to the idea (yes, we're playing mind games here) that you're going to write in certain circumstances, over a period of time you'll find the block to beginning ease. I don't promise it will go away, but with perseverance you can still made a start.

I know writers who have very strict routines to help get them in the zone. Some light specially scented candles and then sit down to write. Others listen to music (sometimes a playlist they've designed especially to fit the project they're working on ) and then sit down to write. Others go for an early morning work and then sit down to write. One writer I know vows she can't write anywhere but in her own office - presumably because that's the place she associates with creativity.

Have you noticed the important point here - the sitting down to write is a constant. No point lighting gorgeously scented candles if you then do nothing. You have to make yourself follow through and get some words down.

Some people I know set a timer for 20 or 30 minutes and tell themselves they must write in that time, not browse the net or play a computer game. Usually, by the end of that time they've got something down, and from there they can proceed.

For me, the process is a little varied, like my routine. Because I don't have the luxury of setting exact times and space to write all the time, I tend to use activities as a trigger. It could be that first cup of coffee after I've dealt with some of the 'must dos' on the day's list. Sitting with a coffee and reading over yesterday's words is a way that works to get me in the zone of the story. Alternatively it might be having a shower immediately before I begin work - something about water always seems to help me concentrate on my story. Occasionally it will be a walk before writing. In that case the activity seems to wake my brain up, ready to concentrate on writing. Of course the other key factor is not letting myself get up and do something else till I've got some words down. Even words I think will need cutting or amending - they still help drag me back into the story and the more I write the better the words (at least I hope so).

How about you? Do you have a special trigger or routine that helps you start work, whether that be writing or something else? Do you follow a strict routine, or do you prefer to vary the process and see what happens?

If you want to find out more about Annie or her writing, visit her website. where you'll find news, excerpts from her books and other information. Her current release is DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY which recently scored a lovely 5 star review from CataRomance. Her next book, CAPTIVE IN THE SPOTLIGHT is available to order now for new year reading in February.

20 comments:

  1. Hi Annie - an interesting post. I'm also curious as to how other writers write.

    I have to squeeze my writing in between work and family so unfortunately I dont have the luxury of getting into the "zone". I just write.... because I have to *sigh*.

    If I waited till the muse whacked me over the head, I would never start let alone finish a book ;)

    Love the coffee pic :) did you take it whilst overseas?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Joanne, it's lovely to see you here.

    I hear you on fitting in the writing, even now that can be a juggling job. But once I'm making progress I aim to weave my way into that 'zone' where writing is easier. Not always of course but it's an aim.

    Glad you liked the coffee pic. Actually no, I took it at the last Romance Writers of Australia Conference. I snuck out with a friend after the conference was over and we had coffee at the Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast. Great fun!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Annie, loved the post. In similar theme I just have to say I adore the pics on your website that you use for each story in the "behind the book" section and even in the post today, that coffee cup just makes me want to get up and have coffee... they're so emotive!

    I dont write but I try to try my hand at scrapbooking but fail because I dont put aside the time, or develop a routine. Apart from that it's the bloody alarm clock that goes off in the morning that triggers me :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tash, I'm thrilled that you enjoy the 'behind the book' photos on my website. I find the setting and the visuals so very important as I write my books. I love sharing that with readers. I'm with you on that coffee pic. I've got a couple of others stored up from that visit just waiting to be used.

      I'm fascinated by scrapbooking - the results are so fantastic but I haven't tried my hand at it - I don't dare as I already feel short of time. I hope you find time to squeeze it in somewhere. Will you share your results?

      Delete
    2. Hi Annie, sure I would love to. I dont have time for it but i've found it's a great present for the grandparents who usually have everything. My girls and I made a couple of layouts last year to thank their Nana for having them for a month in the Gold Coast. It went down a treat. I thought this year we could get their nana an album for xmas so she has somewhere to put our future layouts :)

      Delete
    3. P.S I forgot to say i LOVE how there's the coffee froth on the spoon, it just adds to the story of the pic :)

      Delete
    4. Oooh I just enlarged it, it's a little side treat isnt it, not froth. What ever it is it looks YUMMO!

      Delete
    5. Tash, you're absolutely right about special gifts for grandparents who have most things. Something made specially is unique and wonderful. I bet the girls' nana loved it.

      As for the coffee - yep - definitely yum!

      Delete
  4. Hi Annie,

    Sounds like you have your muse undercontrol, your books are always fantastic.


    Thank you for sharing.

    Cheers,
    Margaret






    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Margaret! I'm lapping up your praise. Thank you!

      I'd love to think my muse is under control. The truth is that there are days when the words zoom along and others when it's far more difficult. Now though I tend to have more of an inkling when I'm head off track or spending too long on something, so I know I've got a problem to fix.

      I hope your writing is coming along well and that you're squeezing in time to do it.

      Delete
  5. I'm a great believer in the value of the kitchen timer, myself! I don't allow myself to email, facebook, or play one single game of spider solitaire until it's gone off!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Annie - such discipline! I do something similar but it's more likely to be getting to the end of a certain scene or page. I'm wondering if I'd be more productive if I wrote on a computer that didn't have an internet connection.

      Delete
  6. It sure does sound like your muse is a real listener ! Thanks for sharing Annie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sometimes, Desere! Often she's off enjoying herself.

      Delete
  7. Hi Annie - Darn it anyway, you mean if I just sit here Mrs Muse won't just show up all apologetic for being late with a glowing fresh plot under her arm??! I was kind of hoping she would...but unfortunately you're right. Bum needs to stick to seat and fingers need to stop clicking on Facebook/Twitter/email/Pinkheart.........! Better go!
    x Abby Green

    ReplyDelete
  8. Abby, I happen to know you worked that one out ages ago - given the number of terrific books you've written. Speaking of which, I'm reading one right now - and it's interfering with my writing time!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Annie, what an interesting post. Am I the writer who is very place-specific? I know that I am! Although strangely I never realised this until a very good friend pointed it out to me a few years ago. Getting started each day is a major effort. I find once I'm in the flow and I've got a few pages under my belt, it's easier to continue. It's kind of like a car starting cold in the morning, the rrrr, rrr, sputter of an engine that would much rather go back to bed! These days I've learned that starting is everything. It doesn't matter if what I write is good - usually I'm sure it's not. But I need to get that engine turning over and then maybe I can set out on the scenic journey. By the way, congratulations on Defying Her Desert Duty. It's a beauty! Such sexual tension. Wow! It's electric!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anna, well I wasn't going to name names, but yes, you're the writer I was thinking of in that instance. I know another who seems to need to start at a certain time to kick off her writing. I suppose it's all about what we're comfortable with.

    I like your car analogy and particularly setting out on a scenic journey, though I'm not sure I like to think of my engine sputtering each morning!

    Thanks for the lovely comment about Defying Her Desert Duty. I've been getting some fantastic reader feedback on this one.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi Annie, I have to say I'm a big advocate of routine. I think my muse only come out to play when I make a date with her -- tell her when and where I'm hoping to meet her. And then, of course, she stands me up for a few days until she sees I'm serious and only then will she join me. And never for as long as I'd like .

    But, bum in chair 8am every morning means a book does seem to eventually get written.

    And I just want to say that I love, love, love the cover of Captive in the Spotlight. I can't wait to read this one! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Michelle.

      I'm so chuffed that you love the cover of 'Captive in the Spotlight'! I'm so looking forward to the release of that one. It was one of those stories that just grabbed my by the throat and took off at top speed and high intensity. It will be great to share it with readers.

      8am writing every day? Good on you! I'm smiling at your muse standing you up now and then. But it sounds like you generally wrangle her into doing what she's there for. Thanks for popping by.

      Delete