Friday, January 17, 2020

Fraud Mania

What on earth is going on? So many times lately I have opened my email and been greeted with another warning of a scam.

Last week, my church (St. Luke's Episcopal), cautioned the parishioners that someone was soliciting funds in the name of our priest.

Western Writers of America sent out a group email stating that someone named "Jacqueline" was fleecing members under the guise of our organization. My AARP bulletin has dire articles in both the magazine and the newsletter.

My week was capped with both a print and email warning from my local health organization about fake third-party billing.

Last year, I was invited to attend a conference in London (all expenses paid) and speak about my historical specialty: African American history. They were going to pay me $25,000. That was way too much money. Which I needed, but never mind. It was the wildly inflated amount that aroused my suspicions. If they had offered about $5000 for an overseas appearance I would have been inclined to take it seriously.

The letter was off. Just slightly. There were some phrases that were not constructed in accordance with standard American usage.

 Nevertheless, I was wistful enough to do some research. I was so happy, so flattered. They said such nice things about me. So I checked. The cathedral was real. The Bishop was real. And then I emailed the church secretary. Church secretaries know everything. It was a fraud. Their next step would have undoubtedly been the classic "ask" for my bank account number so they could mail my expense check.

I have no idea how beginning authors manage to pick their way around in the publishing industry. There were so many really crooked people when I was starting. It's a thousand fold now. There are fake agents who have never sold a book in their lives, fake publishers who expect authors to put up seed money, fake reviewers, fake publicists, etc. The list goes on and on.

I'm grateful for all the breaks I have received. Grateful for the wonderful friends I have made through the years. And more grateful than ever for stumbling onto a wonderful agency at the very beginning of my career who put me with editors who really care about books.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Where editing meets my Mac Or a curmudgeon’s guide to technology

I teach because, as I tell friends or young teachers I’m working with, I get paid to talk about books. What could be better? I also get paid to talk about writing and the writing process. (There is also a never-ending pile of papers to grade, but we don’t have to get into the negative stuff here.)

The truth is it’s about symbiosis: teaching feeds my writing, and writing feeds my teaching.

I’m working with a young writer this spring, a senior who wants to write novels. It’s a one-on-one class. He’s absolutely driven, and our focus is on his work. But I am sharing some of my processes with him.

One is absolutely painful:
  • Find your weak verbs and replace them.
Using the CTL + F option, typing in “has” (or “was” or “be”) and spotting, say, eight uses of “has” in a 500-word argumentative essay, taking time to punch up those verbs with suitable revisions is one thing. Try doing it for the first 57,000 words of a novel. This took me two hours last week. Time well spent? I hope so. I wish I was a write-it-and-edit-when-you-are-finished writer. But I’m not wired that way.

CTL + F is useful for many things:
  • How many times have I written “had been”? Yikes!
  • Did I tell the reader that she wore RED glasses too many times?
  • Lower case to start an independent clause after a colon?
  • Can I shorten my sentences? Search for the word “and.”
As I’ve mentioned, I’m a stickler (did I just write “stickler”? Am I becoming an old curmudgeon?) about reading works aloud or having the rat on the wheel inside the computer (or whatever powers the thing) read it to you. On a Mac, this is OPT + ESC. On a PC, it’s Windows + ESC (there are other ways on a PC as well).

The benefits of hearing your work are many: you find clunkers, spelling errors (the rat will read whatever you write –– if your hands move like mine, “to the” becomes “tot he” often.), throw-away lines in dialogue, and cliffhangers that simply hang. You hear the pace of your scene. You hear the rhythm of the language. In short, you hear what you really wrote. Not what you think you wrote.

These are some places where old fashioned editing meets technological advancements for me. I’d love to hear how others are using technology.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

My Year in Books 2019

It’s time for my annual reading wrap-up.

In 2019 I read 108 books, 38 more than last year! Unlike last year where about half of my reading was non-fiction, only about 5% was in 2019. Not really sure why that was since I do love reading non-fiction. Maybe because I listened to a lot of Great Courses series this past year instead.

The most interesting non-fiction book I read in 2019 was “The Trial of Lizzie Borden” by Cara Robertson. Just a fascinating book with a lot of details of the investigation and the trial. Well worth reading.

Another book of note in the non-fiction category was “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean. You may remember I mentioned it in a post last March. It’s about the library fire in the downtown branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. Also well worth reading.

As you know, I read a lot of cozies. This past year I finished up some series that I really enjoy. I read the last books in the Button Box Mysteries by Kylie Logan and the Mall Cop series by Laura DiSilverio. I’m saddened that there won’t be any more of these. I enjoy them so much they have a permanent place on my bookshelf and they’re probably one of the few series I will read again.

But my absolute favorite books in the cozy category were two in the Family Skeleton series by Leigh Perry: “The Skeleton Makes a Friend” and “The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking”. I’m hoping there are many more of these on the horizon.

Another great traditional mystery series (I hesitate to call them cozies) is John Gaspard’s Eli Marks mystery series featuring magician Eli Marks. I’d recommend reading all of them, but if you only read one make it “The Floating Light Bulb”.

I also continued my fascination with middle grade books. I finished off the Lockwood & Co. series by Jonathan Stroud and discovered the Sixty-Eight Room series (which I finished reading) by Marianne Malone. Another series worth mentioning is the Moon Base Alpha series by Stuart Gibbs. Just pick up anything by Gibbs and you’ll enjoy it, but this series is my favorite.

In the non-mystery fiction category, I recommend “Year of Wonders” by Geraldine Brooks set in 1666 when the plague reared its ugly head once again in England. It’s about a town that voluntarily cuts itself off when plague surfaces in their midst and the consequences of doing that. It’s based on the real town of Eyam who isolated themselves from the outside until all signs of the plague had disappeared. I found this one particularly interesting because I’d just listened to the Great Courses series on the Black Death.

I also read a fair amount of historical mysteries. 2019 was the year I discovered Bonnie MacBird’s series featuring Sherlock Holmes
(“Art in the Blood”, “Unquiet Spirits”) as well as Renee Patrick’s series featuring Lillian Frost and Edith Head (“Design For Dying”, “Dangerous to Know”.) I picked up MacBird’s books largely because I love the covers. They turned out to be great reads. And I had to have Renee Patrick’s series because it has the Edith Head in it. I remember when I was growing up seeing her accept Oscars for her work in films. I always found her fascinating.

I could go on and on about other great books I read, but I won’t. Did you have any particular favorites from this past year of reading?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Can a crime novel have too much tension?

by Rick Blechta

As seems to happen more often than not, a previous post from one of my Type M confreres causes my well-made plans to change at the last minute. That’s happened again today — and is the reason I’m so late with my own post.

Yesterday, Tom posted a great piece on successfully building tension and stress into a plot. It is something every single crime fiction writer must face and overcome. If this isn’t accomplished the book is not likely to hold readers’ attention.

Probably the most important thing he points out is this: “Be mindful that there should be an ebb and flow of tension, a little breathing space. Otherwise, you'll wear your reader out. But at the end of the breather, that's always a great place to put a plot twist.”

A novel’s plot? feel? can only approach “relentlessness” in those few final chapters. By that point the writer should just be dragging readers along at a run. But you may disagree.

Tom is very right about breathing space. Sure, start a novel with a bang. We all try to do that. As we’ve all pointed out a one point or another, those first few pages are where readers are “auditioning” the story. It can’t be all exposition at that point, some action is needed to keep things zinging along. But once you figure you’ve got ’em hooked, it’s time to relax and let some of your characters’ other qualities come out, it’s time to get your readers invested in your characters.

Years ago I read a spy novel — the title of which escapes me at the moment — that opened with some tremendous, gut-wrenching action scenes. I was hooked. But then the action kept on…and on…and on.

A third of the way into the book I was exhausted. Not only that, there was no substance to any of the characters, especially the protagonist, because there had been no time to develop any. This was long before video games, but the plot structure was very much like a video game’s. The whole plot involved our intrepid hero going from one “level” to the next. There was no real substance.

My job that summer was as the “pool boy” at a resort in Maine. The place was not very busy and basically my job was to watch over the pool more than serve the guests. Consequently I had hours each week to spend reading. The book mentioned above is the only one during my entire time there that I remember not finishing.

I was too gormless at the time to analyze why this was so, but it’s interesting to note that most of the books I literally galloped through were ones written by recognized masters of the genre: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Rex Stout, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler. It would be hard to stack up well against these authors even if the novel were pretty good. But I do remember thinking, “Time to find something else to read,” and putting the book back on the resort library’s shelves.

So it’s a balance, a very precarious one, that each author must find for every novel they write. And it can be very tough to do.

Next week: Never fall in love with your characters!

Monday, January 13, 2020


I received this by private messenger in Facebook this morning:

“Good evening, any idea when Shadow Hill will be hitting the bookshelves? I just started Graveyard Bay this week and can’t believe how much your books make my heart race. I find myself tensing and holding my breath, trying to prepare myself for when the boogeyman jumps out. I just ordered all three of your books today for a friend at work. They’ve got a birthday coming up and I know they’ll love them. Your books are really amazing.”

That made my day! I can't stop smiling.

Tension—the mighty engine that moves the plot forward. The dictionary defines tension as mental or emotional strain; intense, suppressed suspense, anxiety, or excitement. It also defines it as being stretched or strained. Isn’t that the ringer we want to put our readers through?

Here are my thoughts about creating tension.

The readers have to like and relate to the characters. They need to be invested in them, to care for them, and worry about them.

The protagonist has to be an active participant in the plot, their decisions and actions have consequences. How many times have you gone to a movie where the protagonist starts down a dark stairwell or dangerous hallway when your inner voice is screaming, “Don’t go down there!”

Be careful here, however. There’s something called “Too Stupid to Live” syndrome. If you’re allowing your lead character to walk into the serial killer’s tool shed, she’d better have a damned good reason. Otherwise your reader’s going to be saying, “Oh, for heaven's sake, she’s too stupid to live” and close the book.

There should be character conflict. We’ve all been in relationships with friends, family, lovers, or even co-workers and sooner or later, there's gonna' be drama. Readers can relate to that. They've been through it. No relationship is rosy all the time.

There’s internal character conflict. My protagonist has a problem with alcohol and relating to authority. And in spite of being extremely intelligent and aware, she makes bad life decisions. Most of my readers find these quirks to be endearing. I want her to be someone you'd like to have a glass of wine with...just not too many of them.

Your lead character should have a dark threat hanging over her head like the sword of Damocles. Maybe it starts out when your protagonist doesn’t know how she's going to pay her bills. Or when a lover talks about leaving. Then it might build with an unknown killer on the loose. Oh, my God, the boogeyman is hiding around the corner. Escalate the threats.

Want to ramp that up even higher? Threaten your lead character’s loved ones! Put them in danger.

Time itself might be a threat. Your character may only have a specified amount of time to solve the mystery before there are horrible consequences. Tension escalates when the clock is ticking.

Have you written a tense scene? Is your protagonist racing to beat a deadline? Is she running through the forest to save her daughter? Ramp it up. Do it during an ice storm, making it difficult to get traction, dodging falling tree branches, the clock is ticking. As the story unfolds, the road to any kind of success should get harder and the stakes get higher. Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, create another hurdle.

Be mindful that there should be an ebb and flow of tension, a little breathing space. Otherwise, you'll wear your reader out. But at the end of the breather, that's always a great place to put a plot twist.

In some ways, writers have to be cruel. You’re putting your babies in harm’s way, putting them in extreme danger, striking fear in their hearts, dropping them into a life and death situation.

In real life, I think we try to avoid tension and drama. I know I do. But when I read a novel or watch a movie, I want to be on that roller coaster ride with characters in whom I’m invested and want to see survive. I want to see them win.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

A New Year, A New Book, an Old Problem

Happy at Magic City Books in Tulsa

If you haven't been following the recent entries here on Type M, Dear Reader, you've missed some interesting observations about the joy/problem of writing and trying to have a life at the same time.
I lost a little height and slinked away when I read Aline's last entry wherein she said "I'm so impressed with fellow-Type Mers like Donis and John who have gone on with their determination to write every day, no matter what, right through the festive season."

Because guess what? Did I faithfully work over the holidays? No, I did not. And here is my perfectly excellent reason - I took a road trip back to my homeland of Oklahoma in the middle of December. It was the first time Don and I have driven back together since he began having health problems over ten years ago, and it was great fun (though more tiring than when we were energetic young things) We drove through our old stomping grounds, through the mountains of New Mexico past the Very Large Array and Pie Town, through Lubbock Texas, where we were married oh so many years ago, to Norman Oklahoma, where we first met in grad school and went back to years later to work at the University. I did an author event at the new Public Library in Norman which is a beautiful three story building, and the event was beautifully attended. I was told that I was the very first author to talk in the new building, and for the inaugural event featuring my 1920s era novel, The Wrong Girl, a jazz band played before and after my presentation, and silent movies were projected on the back wall above the cookies and punch. The very nice crowd included five - count'em! - five of my first cousins, along with the cousins-in-law and cousins once removed they brought with them.

My sister Martha and my husband Don

If that wasn't lovely enough, we drove to Tulsa the next day, where I was born and raised and near where all my siblings have returned after a lifetime of being scattered all over the U.S. and the world. I'm the only one still living away from the homeland. For now, at least. We spent five nights with my youngest sister and her husband in their new house. Oh, brave Martha. Can you imagine hosting relatives in your house for five days? Fortunately we all get along great and spent some quality time yelling at the television together. Don and I tried to make a point of getting out of their hair for several hours a day. I had lunch with a childhood friend, and visited with the great Carolyn Hart, who now lives in Tulsa. The other siblings did meet us for meals, etc. Middle sister and her husband drove down from Joplin to see us a mere few hours before they caught a plane for Florida and a Christmas cruise to the Bahamas.

On the day before we left for home I did an event at a new bookstore in downtown Tulsa called Magic City Books, also surprisingly well attended considering that it was icy cold and drizzling. I have to admit that I am related to about a third of the people who showed up. We had gorgeous sunny weather on the drive back to Arizona, of course. Then the instant I got home I became deathly ill and collapsed in a heap for several days.

The gist of all this is that I did not write a word for three weeks. I'm back in the land of the living again, and desperately trying to write. Desperate, because my editor wants to see at least the first 100 pages in mid-January.

VERY IMPORTANT POINT HERE. PLEASE READ. If you are a writer, you really should sit down and write every single day, because if you don't YOU WILL LOSE IT. I didn't write for three weeks, and when I finally got back to the computer, I had forgotten everything I ever knew. It's still in there somewhere, because it's been several days now, and I feel the muses stirring again. But let me tell you, I had a few days of panic, there. Oh, I wrote down words, crappy words, but they were words, and words can be shaped and smoothed and made uncrappy, because as you know, you cannot edit a blank page. Some writing days are good, and some make you question your life choices. As Barbara Fradkin said yesterday, "at some point the descent will slow, even reverse, and I will grind to a halt, forced to plod along and even climb again with great effort. Stories bog down and become mired in dead ends when one is a pantser. More and more forks crop up, with no clear path forward. The one principle I keep in mind (which is the same in skiing) is: choose the fork that promises momentum." And keep on going!

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Ready, set, go!

I've been amused by the recent posts by my fellow bloggers, all along the lines of Happy Holidays, here's what I did with the family, why I didn't do any writing, and so on. I confess that because my last post was due on Christmas Day itself, it didn't get posted at all. I had a house full of family, a seventeen pound turkey to cook, and more family coming to help eat it. I was too busy even to take photos. So here's my first holiday photo of the blog. This is only one table of two. I call it The Aftermath. 

But I was most intrigued by Aline's post about starting her new book, to which I said "That's exactly me!" In fact, I think that so often when I read Aline's posts that I wonder if we aren't secret identical twins with different accents.

I have been researching my next book for almost three months, reading cheerful tomes on domestic violence and trolling through the internet to learn about shelters, police response, therapy groups, etc. As I read, the characters in my drama slowly began to take shape in my imagination and some key plot possibilities emerged. But I kept stalling on actually getting down to write. New Year's Day was my drop-dead deadline. Like Aline, I am mostly a pantser and once I have a couple of opening scenes, I start the journey, knowing that if I planned ahead, I would be seduced by the first intriguing fork in the road and be off in another direction anyway. If anything, trying to follow a plan would only frustrate and bore me. I do think ahead in fits and starts, but I like the surprises my imagination comes up with and I like not knowing how it's all going to work out.

But it is also terrifying to be lost in the wilderness, not knowing where I'm going or whether I'll ever get there. This is the curious paradox that I think pantsers find so addictive. The journey is both thrilling and terrifying. Rather like plunging down a ski hill on the very edge of losing control. And, keeping with that metaphor, there I was on New Years, poised at the top of the mountain with my ski tips pointing over the abyss, gathering my courage. Finally there is nothing for it but to push off. Put pen to paper and start the first scene. Which I did on January 4. It's a brand new Inspector Green novel: I am bringing my favourite detective back after an absence of almost six years. So on January 4 I started feeling my way down the mountain and now have four scenes written, with ideas for the next three that emerged out of the writing of the last one. The story is picking up momentum.

The skiing analogy breaks down somewhat at this point, unless the mountain is very high and the path very circuitous. Because although at the moment I am gliding along and enjoying it, I know at some point the descent will slow, even reverse, and I will grind to a halt, forced to plod along and even climb again with great effort. Stories bog down and become mired in dead ends when one is a pantser. More and more forks crop up, with no clear path forward. The one principle I keep in mind (which is the same in skiing) is: choose the fork that promises momentum. The Goldilocks fork. Not the Black Diamond run that plunges me to the finish line too fast and recklessly out of control. Not the Bunny Hill that lulls me effortlessly down through each safe and predictable turn. But the Intermediate hill that keeps me close to the edge of my skis, gripping my poles and screaming curses into the wind.

I've got a long way to go, but each day I try to put myself back on that mountain, picking up where I left off and feeling my way down through the open spaces and dense woods, the cliffs and the bogs. I've got about eight months to go and 85,000 more words to write, but it's exciting to be starting the journey. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Robot Writing

by Rick Blechta

I began last year’s post with an article about books as works of art. That’s physical works of art rather than written ones.

Call it fateful, but in December I found a very interesting article in the Washington Post about people turning to computerized robots to write invitation, greeting cards, inscriptions and the like.

CLICK HERE for a link to the article.

My first encounter with robot handwriting happened a number of years ago at the (late and lamented) Toronto Book Fair. Believe it or not, Margaret Atwood was there to present a machine the idea for which she had conceived. It was called LongPen. CLICK HERE for a link to the website.

Her idea was being able to attend book signings in remote places (like the Canadian north without actually being there. She would be visible on a computer monitor and attendees could get personally signed and inscribed books by Ms Atwood via her LongPen invention. If you’ve looked at the website, you know how this was accomplished.

I duly took my place in line and after a short wait, got to sit down at one of the LongPens and wrote out something. Being the cheeky bastard I am, it went something like: “Now the amazing Ms Atwood in an inventor. Brava!” She thought that was very “sweet” and thanked me. She even said I could call her Peggy as we chatted about working out the tech details for the prototype. How cool is that?

Now people are using a simpler and speedier riff of the LongPen idea to make their greeting cards seem more personal. Since mostly pre-existing fonts are being used for this, the results don’t seem all that personal.

That’s something like getting computer software to write short stories or books. It can be done, and while the results might be interesting as a mental exercise, we imperfect humans are still definitely needed to conceive of and write works that truly are worth reading.

So why the pretense of sending a personal message when it really isn’t actually personal? It might just be me, but I would be more insulted getting something like this than I would be with some sort of printed out message that isn’t trying to look as if it was actually written by the person sending the message.

How about you? Have you received a faux personalized greeting card? Do you feel the same way?

If you’re going to go to all the trouble of this kind of subterfuge, why not get hold of a LongPen and do it right? Just let me know and I’ll get in touch with my good friend Peggy!

Monday, January 06, 2020

Ploughing the Field

I'm so impressed with fellow-Type Mers like Donis and John who have gone on with their determination to write every day, no matter what, right through the festive season. That admirable habit failed with me around mid-December when with the entire family coming for Christmas I realised that it was a choice between having a clean house, food in the fridge and freezer and no work done and having a thousand or two words written, plus chaos and a nervous breakdown where I just kept mumbling wildly, 'Mince pies! Christmas pudding! Home-made fudge...'

So I've been a bit of a slacker lately, but now I feel the better for the break. As it happened, Christmas came along at just the right time, when I felt I'd done all I could on the new book in the way of planning.

We've all talked a lot about being planners or pantsers and at heart I'm a pantser, usually prepared to set off once I've got the first couple of chapters ready to roll and a vague idea of what the ending will be (usually wrong) but this time I thought I would try looking a bit further ahead, attracted by the notion that once you had blacked it all out in summary, the book itself would be a doddle.

To be honest, it just didn't do it for me. I even tried that theory of writing one paragraph, then expanding it to a page, then a chapter and so on... By the time I'd got on to the second stage, I was completely revising what I'd written in the paragraph, and the chapter never happened. All it seemed to be doing was stopping the flow and making me panic that it wouldn't happen, ever.

Still, I did spend a lot of the planning time doing research that I'm inclined to postpone until I need the details on the way through. I checked out possible names for the characters I have in mind, instead of grabbing for a baby names dictionary every time a new character is introduced and thumbing desperately through it (there are people who actually call a helpless baby Zipporah?). I've got to know the characters themselves better now by living with them without putting them under pressure - though of course once I actually start writing they will change. They always do. I even have lots of ideas and snatches of dialogue written down ready for use later.

So I'm starting the new decade with the new book, ready to find out what the story is really about. And yes, to some extent it feels as if I've got the field ploughed ready for sowing but the drive that keeps me writing – to find out what happens in the end – is still there.

January gets a bad name, but I like it. After the frenzy of the festive season I'm looking forward to all of its 31 quiet days, when it's just me and the new book

Friday, January 03, 2020

A New Decade! Hip Hip Hooray

Short but heart felt. May this be the best year ever for my fellow Type M'ers and for all our faithful followers.

Onward and Upward!

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Sneaking off....

Happy belated New Year!

I’ve been holed up with family and friends through the holidays, and it’s been wonderful.

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s always a challenge to keep pace –– at least for me, it is –– during the holidays. But I’m sneaking away (to the basement) here and there and getting some writing done. But most of the highlights from the past two weeks have involved having my two college kids home and the five of us spending time together. (My oldest is, after all, 21. So how many more holidays will the five of us have together?!)

Therefore this week, I’d like to share some pictures with you.

(And then sneak off to write a little more…)
Delaney, 21, and Keeley, 11, enjoying Old Orchard Beach (Maine, U.S.A.)

Delaney, Keeley, and Audrey, 18, on New Year's Eve "Lighthouse Tour"

The Corrigans

My step-father, mother, and sister Kelli in the kitchen working on Christmas dinner.

The college girls return....

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Happy New Year!

May your year be filled with love and laughter.

May your days be filled with joy.

May you read many wonderful books.

For all those writers out there, may the words flow onto the page.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A year-end wish to you all

by Rick Blechta

2019 was not a banner year for the planet nor for many people. Rather than give you my enumeration of the good and bad things of the year for me, I’m voting to just turn the page and hope the coming 365 days are better for everyone.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Resolving to Write Every Single Day!

Since the beginning of December, I haven’t been on a deadline and have fallen into a very bad habit.  I’m not sitting down and writing every day.

Whenever I offer a workshop or give a talk to a group of readers and aspiring writers, I’m asked for my advice.  I always tell them, no matter what- write something every day.  Even if it’s a single sentence.

Write something every single day.

But how much should you write?

There’s no good answer to that, but let’s break it down in a quasi-scientific manner.  Most novels are between 70,000 and 100,000 words.  If we average that out to 85,000 words and we write 1000 words a day, you could write a novel in 85 days.  That’s under three months.

But that’s not counting revisions, false starts, or tossing your first, second, and third draft into the fireplace.

Michael Crichton, who passed away in 2008, wrote 28 novels, some under his own name and some under a pen name.  Author of books like Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, and The Great Train Robbery, Crichton was extremely prolific, writing up to 10,000 words a day.  He said, “Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten.  It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”

Anne Rice is the author of an eclectic mix of gothic horror, Christian literature, and erotica. Best known for her book Interview with a Vampire, she knocks out about 3,000 words a day.  In her words, “I have to get all the distractions out of the way. I plunge into the work and write an episode; I can’t just clock in at 3,000 words.  I have to have time free to resolve things.  I write in episodic ways.  But when I’m ready to plunge in, I write from late morning through all afternoon, all evening.”

Arthur Conan Doyle, the grand master of mysteries and the author of the iconic Sherlock Holmes stories, wrote 3,000 words a day.  He said, “Anything is better than stagnation.”

Lee Child who pens the Jack Reacher novels writes about 1,800 words a day.  “I write in the afternoon, from about 12 until about 6 or 7,” he said.  “I use an upstairs room as my office.  Once I get going, I keep at it, and it usually takes about six months from the first blank screen until the end.”

Here are a few of my suggestions for reaching a word goal.

1) Work in a location in which you are comfortable.  Much like Lee Child, I have an office in a small room over the garage.  I’m near enough to a window that I can see if it’s raining but it’s not a distraction.  I have access to the internet in case I need to do some research, but I try not to overdo it. When I’m writing, I usually have some low ambient music in the background.

2) Limit internet usage.  It is a killer of time.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, news websites, and kitty videos are addicting and rob you of your productivity.

3) Find the time of day that you are the most productive.  Most writers find that they can get into a writing rhythm during a certain time of day.  Whenever it is, make sure it’s devoid of distractions.  For me it’s about 1 in the afternoon until about 5.

4) Don’t write boring stuff. If you can’t stay excited about your work, readers won’t either.

5) Don’t be afraid.  A bad first draft is better than no draft at all.  Keep in mind, that unlike in real life, you can go back and change a scene, or make dialogue sharper and wittier.

Shifting gears for just a moment, let’s talk about New Year’s resolutions.  Mine are the same as last year, with one important addition!

1) A healthier diet…more salads, less carbs, less sugar…which means less wine. Well, we all know how that resolution is going to end up.

2) Exercise more often. Carve out time for a long walk or the stationary bike.

3) Don’t be afraid of my first draft. I have to remember that a bad first draft is better than no draft at all.  Wait a minute, didn’t I already say that?

4) Read more. I’m a voracious news junkie, but I find when I’m writing, I can’t seem to find time to read books.  That should be every bit as important as time for writing.

5) Cut back…way back…on the internet. That is a time KILLER.

6) Learn to relax, take a deep breath, look around and appreciate life.

The addition?  Write. Every. Single.  Day.

Happy New Year!