Flowerbed of State, has been called “spunky” (Library Journal), “fast-paced” (Publishers Weekly), and “it quite simply blew me away” (Criminal Element).
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“Best Practices” for Successfully and Happily Writing Every Day by Dorothy St. James, Guest Blogger
It was this writer’s dream come true and a first for me—I sold the first three books in the White House Gardener Mysteries based only on a proposal! I couldn’t believe it. I’d never sold more than one book at a time and those books had always, ALWAYS been completely finished before the offer of a sale.
This was wonderful. Wasn’t it?
I sat down to write the first book, Flowerbed of State, my fingers poised at the keyboard, my mind ready to compose a mystery that will tease and tantalize the reader.
And I froze.
Instead of the dialogue and prose for the book, other thoughts streamed through my head. “The editor hadn’t actually bought this book. She bought an idea. An idea. What is that?”
“Oh goodness, there is no book. I still have to write it. What if my idea of what the book should be and her idea of what the book should be are two very different things? What if she doesn’t like what I write? What if she decides my writing is boring and trite?”
Writers often play the “what if” game, but that’s with our plots.
If I kept spinning my wheels like this I knew I’d soon find myself at the end of my deadline with no book to hand over to my editor.
Since getting the contract before actually having to write the book really was a dream-come-true for me, I needed to shake myself out of that destructive rut and GET TO WORK.
What I needed was a little outside help.
With the assistance of the brilliant writing coach, Margie Lawson, I came up with fifteen “best practices” for keeping my head in the game, my writing fresh, and my body healthy.
I’m happy to report that I not only finished Flowerbed of State before my contracted deadline, my editor was so pleased with the book that she required very few revisions (another dream realized.)
If you find yourself struggling to get your thoughts down on the page, I invite you to give these “best practices” a try for yourself, or better yet: create a list of fifteen of your own.
“Best Practices” for Successfully and Happily Writing Every Day (and to move the story forward).
1. Exercise for 30 minutes before beginning work in the morning.
2. Update to-do list every morning.
3. Free write one page as a warm up exercise.
4. Use the 15-minute timer when getting started as a warm up exercise.
5. Email: Check and respond only in the morning before beginning work, lunch, and when finished for the day.
6. Internet Research: Limit time spent researching online and in research books to before writing and after writing times. If I need to look something up while writing, be sure to limit it to a time limit (5 minutes). Set the timer.
7. Set daily page goals and keep track of them in my project notebook.
8. Set weekly page goals and write up the goals for the month on my white board.
9. Plan to work at least 2 hours in the morning (Writing, not research, not playing online, not answering emails.)
10. Plan to work at least 2 hours in the afternoon (Writing, not research, not playing online, not answering emails.)
11. Get up and stretch for 5 minutes every hour.
12. When stumped, set the timer for 15 minutes and practice writing without worrying about quality or whether or not I’m going to keep it. Just get the words on the page.
13. At the end of the day, brainstorm. Jot down ideas for what might come next and about the characters.
14. Plan at least 2 fun outings a week to counteract hermit tendencies.
15. Reward myself with fun reading.
I’m always looking for new ways to stay fresh and energized as a writer. So tell me: What works best for you when you need to keep your “butt in the chair and your hands on the keyboard” (BIC HOK)?
Dorothy, thank you so much for this excellent post. No one needs a new set of "best practices" like I do, so the timing for your guest appearance and your choice of topic was perfect.
For more information about Dorothy and the White House Gardener Mystery series, visit her website and sign up for her e-newsletter. Dorothy is on Facebook and you can also follow her on Twitter: @dorothystjames