I am still chipping away at revisions for the book I have coming out at the end of this year. Once I finish with it, it will be sent off to my editor, and she will send it back with a million notes to tell me all the things that are wrong with it.
When you have someone like that, y’all, appreciate them. Not everyone is willing to be so wonderfully honest with you.
While I’m working on that, I’m also checking off the other thousand tiny tasks that go into getting a book published, including this lovely new logo.
I finished it last night. It’s perfect.
My book is being published through my business, Storynook Productions. The regular logo that I have, with my personal and business brand, is too complex for the spine of a book, so I had to come up with a similar, simplified version.
I think I managed it.
I’m excited about this, y’all. Getting a book from manuscript to finished product is an overwhelming amount of details, but I have been planning for this for years, and I am so ready to have it in my hands.
Plus, this is the kind of thing I enjoy. I mean, who doesn’t love seeing a dream come together?
I am a full-time writer. I’ve mentioned that about a million times on this blog, along with noting that I run my own business as a freelancer. But today, I’d like to dive a little deeper into what that looks like on a daily basis.I’ll give you a hint.
I don’t actually spend my entire day writing.
Nor, strangely enough, do I spend my whole day in my pajamas, although I work from home and generally spend the majority of my time with my kitty and my newly acquired puppy. No boss checking that I’m meeting dress code here! Except for me, and I have my own policies about that. But, we’ll get into that. In short, this is what a typically day as a freelance scriptwriter looks like.
5:30 – 7 AM: My alarm goes off stupidly early. My husband sets it for me every night, usually because I’m already buried in my blankets and stick my head out to ask if he will. He’s a good sport. I like to get up before the sunrise to get a start on my day before the rest of the world is awake and jostling for my attention. It gives me some space. Now that we have a puppy in the house, I take her out on her leash to use the bathroom, then walk over to my parents’ house to jump on their rebound mini trampoline.
People always laugh at me for the jumping thing. They can’t seem to figure out why I do it, and it weirds them out. Simply put, this is my time. I stick my headphones in, and I work on my books. Stories don’t just show up, you know. You have to plan them. You have to make space for dreaming and talking with characters and imagination, and this is my space. If I don’t have this time, I don’t have books. Period. You might say this is one of the most important parts of my day as a writer.
7 – 8 AM: When I get home, I clean. Obsessively. I find it very hard to be creative if the dishes aren’t done or the floor isn’t swept, so before my day really gets started, I make sure that all the little chores are well and truly finished. This is also when I get dressed—no pajamas here. I’ve learned through a bit of trial and error that I feel 100% better if I’m dressed for work and have done my hair and makeup. It’s the little things.
8 – 9 AM: I study Spanish with Duolingo. This is one of my weirder habits—it has nothing to do with my career, probably won’t be relevant to my daily life anytime soon, and as much as I enjoy it, I probably will never become a fluent—or even competent—Spanish speaker. But it’s something new and different for my brain to do, and it keeps me sharp.
9 – 12 AM: This is my first big ‘chunk of work’ for the day. I generally have meetings during this time to discuss scripts, casting, story problems, or just provide updates for deadlines and revisions that need to happen. When I’m not in meetings, I’m writing. Depending on the day, I might be throwing together an outline for the team to approve for a script, or drafting a chapter for one of my two books in progress, or writing dialogue for a script. This is all usually accompanied by a cup of tea, trips outside with the puppy, and my kitty attempting to crawl into my lap to get the love and attention she deserves.
12 – 2 PM: Lunch, another trip outside with the puppy, and maybe if I have time, I’ll walk over to my parents house to see actual human people and jump. Another brainstorm session helps get me back in the game for an afternoon of writing.
2 – 4 PM: More writing. Afternoons are hard, y’all. This is when I start falling asleep. Music generally helps, and sprints with my writers’ group over text. When we’re all working, it always encourages me to get more words in. If I’m working on books that particular day, this is also where I will switch projects. 1000 words in the morning for one book, 1000 words in the afternoon for another. We don’t always hit that, but we try.
4 – 6 PM: I’m prepping dinner, listening to crime podcasts or an audio book, and taking the puppy out for a good romp before the husband gets home and we eat together.
6 – 9 PM: This is supposed to be free time. It really, really is. But if I’ve got a tight deadline on a script that I’m trying to meet, or if I happen to be feeling particularly inspired, I’ll curl up on my couch with my computer and get in a few hundred extra words. My cat usually sits on top of me, and my husband plays video games next to me, so it’s all very cozy. Or, if my writers’ group is up for it, we’ll toss out a few prompts through text and free write for a while—which is always good for creativity and opens up dozens of interesting doors.
There you have it! This is what a typical day as a freelance writer looks like—at least in my neck of the woods. This was an enormously long post, but if you’ve ever wondered what a writer actually does in a day, now you know!
My life has been a little crazy lately, what with work and being married and working through lessons on MasterClass and possibly even working on design ideas for a new house. (Gasp.)
But, in the midst of it all, I have my own work to get done. My personal projects. The ones that, just now, matter to nobody but me. This blog is one of them, and another, very special one, is the new book I’ve been working on.
I’m wildly excited about it. It’s a middle-grade novel about monsters and kidnapped children and courage and fierce little girls and vegan toast and greasy lawyers. I have much too much fun writing it.
Since I work full time and try to be a fully functioning wife and human being part of the time, it doesn’t get as much attention as it should. Mostly just an hour every weekday, in that short squeak of time after work and before my husband gets home.
And occasionally on weekends.
And holidays, if I can sneak away long enough to pull my computer out for an hour or so.
This particular book has been coming together in bits and pieces, and it has been a solid lesson in humility for me. See, I’ve been a writer for about eight years now. I’ve written at least ten books. I get paid to write.
And yet, a first draft will always be a first draft, no matter how much experience you have or how much time you can put into it.
In other words, it’s a trash fire.
The story makes no sense. The characters refuse to do what I want them to do. The setting is rather gray and lumpy and not at all what I wanted it to be. And don’t even get me started about the theme, because the thought-provoking and inspirational idea I started out with has refused to show up entirely, and there’s a gaping hole where it is meant to be.
And yet, every day, I sit down to write a little more. And I remind myself that a first draft is a first draft, and its entire job just now is to exist. Not to be pretty, not to be complete, not even to make sense. It just has to be.
Because I find my books in the writing. I can plan and outline and think things through all I want, but once I sit down to actually write it, quite a different story emerges. The story that was meant to be. The one that is needed.
And the first draft is the first—rather messy—step to something I can be proud of.
What are you working on just now? Tell me about it in the comments!
I was listening to a podcast the other day about a writer. He was talking about his morning routine, and he said that the first thing he does in the morning, before he’s even opened his eyes, is grab a word processor next to his bed and write 100 words. Or 500. Or 1000.
When I heard that, I laughed.
I hope it works for him.
Because I will never do that.
Lately, what with COVID and working from home and stressful things happening in every corner of the world, my mornings have become increasingly important to me. I’ve discovered that I need time to recenter. To give my tired brain a break from constant stress and planning and working.
In other words, I need my morning routine.
Unfortunately, when you’ve got a full-time job, mornings feel scarce and hurried. So, my alarm goes off at 5 AM. Because at 5 AM, the world hasn’t started spinning uncontrollably fast yet. The sky is still dark, the stars are still out, and everything is still.
Except my cat, who has decided that if I am awake, it means I should be feeding her.
We compromise. I let her outside so she can slip about in the darkness and feel sneaky, and I get an hour of peace to spend in my bible and on my yoga mat. Yoga with Adrienne on Youtube has been my go-to lately. Her 25-30 minute videos are calming, challenging, and invigorating, which is basically everything I need in the morning. I might be a complex mixture of sleepy, anxious, grumpy, and scattered when I step on my mat in the morning, but by the time I step off again, I feel centered and ready for another day.
Which is good, because by that time, it’s light out, my husband is up and packing for work, and I have 30 minutes for a shower and a quick breath left before my me-time turns into work-time.
And once work-time starts, I have stories to tell. And plot holes to wrestle with and conquer.
And so, so much thinking to do. Sometimes, my brain hurts.
But before all those things start flying at me, needing attention and solutions and concentration, I have my mornings. Which, to me, will always be worth a 5 AM wake-up call.
What is your favorite morning routine? Tell me about them in the comments!
I promise to pay it back the next time I have a few spare minutes.
Which will probably be next year sometime.
Actually, I’ve had more time to read lately than I think. I’ve finally finished with wedding planning, I’ve been married for more than a month (!!!!!), things are starting to settle, and life has found a rhythm.
I have afternoons again.
And time in the morning before I start work.
Of course, most of those times are taken up by personal writing, working out, and time with the husband, but I’ve gotten a few pages in here and there. I finally, finally finished Dracula while we were on our honeymoon, and let me tell you, that book had me panicking right up until the very last page.
Not to spoil anything, but I thought Dracula was gonna come after me.
Freaked me out.
But that book has been added to my ‘read’ list, and I’m on to the next classic. Which happens to be Les Miserables. So, I’m going to take my time with it. There’s something extremely comforting about a book so long that you can linger through the pages, enjoying the writing and the story, because you just know it’s going to take you a few months to get all the way through.
At the very least.
In the meantime, I picked up a fantasy novel at the library. My husband and I were on our way to purchase his new car, and I realized I neglected to bring a book. Or my phone. Or writing implements. So I panicked and we stopped at the library, which turned out to be a good decision.
It took us hours to finish at the dealership. I plowed through 150 pages, and read an entire magazine to give my brain a break.
I almost starved too, but that’s another story.
In short, I am venturing into the literary world again. My books aren’t caked in dust anymore, and I can tell you, it’s a relief to be able to find refuge in a book after being much too busy for so long.
I’ve missed them.
What are you reading now? What were your Halloween/Fall picks for this year? Tell me about them in the comments!
I got interviewed for a podcast for my job last month.
It was very exciting. I’ve been working as an apprentice scriptwriter for sixteen months now, and they figured it was probably time to ask me some questions. You know, get the scoop about what it’s really like to be a writer for an international radio show. We talked about the hard stuff. The tough topics. What it takes to be a writer in a fast-paced, highly competitive industry.
Not to spoil the interview, but I got asked what kind of magical creature I would be if I was a magical creature.
I was shook. They didn’t even warn me that was coming. I had to think on my feet.
Or, you know, in my closet, since I was sitting with a microphone, two computers, and my phone in my closet during the interview. With a sheet draped over my head.
Because sound quality is essential, y’all.
Frankly, I thought it was a brilliant question, but since I was caught off-guard and trying to keep my phone from disconnecting from the internet and the sheet from smothering me all at the same time, I answered really fast. Way too fast, as it turned out, to actually think about why I picked what I did.
I said a phoenix, by the way. In case you were wondering. Because when asked, who wouldn’t choose to be a mythical bird who bursts into flames at the end of its lifecycle and rises again from the ashes of its own destruction like a glorious representation of new life and continuing hope?
Plus, you get to fly and stuff. And have orange and red and yellow feathers, which are all the colors that I passionately love and cannot wear because of my skin tone. They wash me out. It’s bad.
Know your skin tones, people. Pick the right colors.
But after the interview was over and I crawled out from under my sheet like some kind of tiny gremlin emerging from its fabric lair, I took a little time to think about my choice. Because let’s be real, sometimes your quickest, tip-of-the-tongue, no-time-to-think answers are the most honest. And this one was definitely honest. A kind of deep, soul-touching honest that really struck me way too late for it to be an interesting and intellectual part of my interview.
So I’m sharing it here instead. Because I am a phoenix. Every writer is. It’s our bread and butter, our rite of passage. Only a phoenix could survive as a writer. Because writing is all about burning to the ground. I’ve seen so many ideas go up in flames in the last year. Ideas, outlines, even scripts. The amount of criticism I take on a weekly—or even a daily—basis would have paralyzed me when I was a teenager. I would have dropped everything and given up.
But I am a phoenix. I watch my stories—and my ego—go up in smoke again and again . . . and again.
And like the phoenix, I rise from the ashes and begin again.
Every writer goes through the flames. You might say it’s an occupational hazard. The first time, the fifth time, even the hundredth time, it’s scary and painful and not what we wanted to do that particular day.
But it won’t stop us. We’ve done this before. We’ll do it again.
Out of the ashes will always come our best work yet.
You know what’s crazy about being a writer? Especially one with a full-time job?
The worlds I visit.
When I first started writing, I had one story.
I had fragments of others, of course. But one ‘project’. One world that occupied all my time. The characters that whispered over my writing desk and tugged words out of my poor tired brain all belonged to a single story, and I liked it that way. It helped me focus. I knew what I was working on, I knew when to work on it, and I could devote my entire attention to one lovely, blossoming story that was growing bigger every day.
That was eight years ago.
Eight very long years.
Now my life is very different. My single world has split into many. I have a half a dozen stories sprouting up at my full-time job, all in different stages. Some are seeds of ideas, still needing a little sunlight, a little love before they’re ready for other eyes on them. Some are outlines, not quite blooming yet but sprouting up hurriedly, with lots of leaves and stems that will need trimming. And some—some have flowers.
But as much as I love seeing those half-dozen stories grow and flourish, they’re not the only worlds I live in. I have others too, books that are out in the world, books that are hopping back and forth between my editor and myself, books that are still trapped on my computer. Some of them are half-finished, others need a few chapters cut here, a section rewritten there. These stories get my love after my ‘official’ work is done for the day. When I can steal ten minutes or two hours out of a busy schedule. When I have a day off or a weekend free. When I can hide away, I grab my computer and add something to the growing pages. Five hundred words, or two sentences, a new character outline. Anything I can conjure up.
These projects grow very slowly. So slowly that sometimes I worry that I’m not making any progress at all, that I’ll never reach the end.
But I will. One day.
I have two stories like that just now. One with multiple books connected to it. Two stories. Two more worlds on top of a half-dozen others.
Then, there are the stories that live nowhere but in my head. No documents, no updated notebooks, not even an outline.
The stories that will be. The worlds that haven’t been created yet.
I have a dozen of these. Some of them are small still, just ideas. Some are completely fleshed out with characters and settings and plot lines that have never yet seen the light of day.
And they won’t.
Not yet. Probably not for years. When it’s time, I’ll dust them off and write that first word. That first chapter.
Until then, they’ll live on in my head. One more world to visit—when I have the time. When I can steal the minutes.
I live in a dozen different worlds at one time.
Occasionally I visit my own world too—although maybe a little less often then I should.
What kind of worlds have you been escaping into lately? Tell me about it in the comments!
Last week we started talking about things writers can do to move their careers forward when the next step seems impossibly far off.
Sometimes ‘making it as a writer’ seems like it’s full of huge, gigantic leaps forward: finishing a book, finding an agent, getting published, working full-time as a writer, earning this award, being asked to speak there—the milestones seem impossibly far apart and way too difficult to accomplish.
So, I think it’s time to start talking about the small steps.
The little things we can do every day to deepen our understanding of this craft.
Time to pay attention to the little things, my friends, because believe it or not, those milestones aren’t the building blocks of your career. Sure, they look fancy and they’re fun plaques to have up on the wall. But there is a whole lot of in-between steps before you can reach them.
We’re here to talk about the in-between. The practical.
And today’s practical?
I’m not here to tell you to read War and Peace or 100 books in a year. But as writers, we need story. Not just our own stories, because we all know how we get caught up in the complexities and frustrations of our stories, and, unfortunately, we all have our blind spots.
Writers need story. I write for a radio drama. I spent all Sunday last week binge-watching The Mandalorian. I listen to audiobooks on a regular basis, I’ve watched movies specifically for work to better understand story structure, and I have started to be able to predict what comes next in the movie theater simply because I know where we are in the story.
Writers. Need. Story.
We need to analyze story, we need to pick apart our favorite books and movies and video games and graphic novels and see what makes them tick. We need to be that irritating person in the movie theater who leans over and whispers, “Yep. ‘All is Lost’ moment. Right on cue.”
I am not a fan of dictating exactly how anyone needs to ingest story. Books, movies, TV, video games, radio. It doesn’t matter. But as a writer, you need story. Not to listen to mindlessly, but to analyze, dissect, learn from.
So next time you want to take another step and or do the next right thing, watch a favorite movie. TV show. Pick a story, and grab your notebook. Find the ‘All is Lost’ moment. The quarter mark, where the upside-down world begins. The catalyst. Pick the story to pieces and see how it works, what theme the writer used. Write a pitch for it.
The more you devour story, the better you will understand it.
What are some of your favorite stories? Tell me about them in the comments!
I wrote a post recently about doing the next right thing.
Since that’s my version of a New Year’s Resolution, I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot.
I also went to go see Frozen 2 over the weekend with my younger sisters. In case you were wondering, it was fabulous. I loved it. But it was also about doing the next right thing. And it started me wondering.
What is the next right thing when you’re a professional writer?
Sometimes, that can be a pretty difficult question. Especially because it varies person to person and day to day. Sometimes the next right thing is to write a page, read a new book, or spend an hour or so journaling with your characters. Other times it can be completely different: spending some time away from your computer, going for a walk, or setting up a social media page to connect with other writers and potential readers.
Unfortunately, there is no formula. Everyone is on their own journey, and no one can simply snap their fingers and say, “This is what you need to do today to take a step forward in your journey.”
If only life were that simple.
However, sometimes it really is so, so hard to know what the next right thing is supposed to be—especially when you’re a writer. Getting a book published or finding a job in your industry can seem impossibly hard, and sometimes it feels as though, instead of a long road to walk, there’s a gaping chasm that you have to (somehow) jump over. It becomes a leap of all or nothing, right now, instead of a journey with definable steps.
Writer, I promise that isn’t true.
Since it can be so hard sometimes to know what the next right things are, I’m going to devote a series on this blog to look at some of the next right things that have gotten me where I am today.
Starting with Save The Cat.
Before I started working as a full-time scriptwriter, I hadn’t read very many books on structure or style or anything else. Let’s be honest, there are about a million different books out there, everyone has their opinion on how story works. Some are great and some are not so great.
I could never figure out which was which.
But when I started my job, my manager had some very defined tasks for me to develop my writing skills. One of those tasks was to read Save The Cat, by Blake Snyder.
I still have that book on my desk. As well as the two followup books.
And yes, I still pick them up when I’m stuck and need inspiration, instruction, and a direction for my scattered thoughts.
It is a detailed, understandable guide to structure and story, written by a screenwriter who worked in Hollywood for many years and made more money in this industry than I will ever manage. His writing is clear and concise, and his advice is solid good sense.
So when I’m stuck, and I don’t know what the next right thing could possibly be, I reach for Save The Cat, and give my understanding of structure a boost, because I know that will do nothing but move me forward.
What is one thing you do for your writing when you’re not sure how to move forward? Tell me about it in the comments!
I should tell you something about me, in case we ever meet in person.
I always—always—have a story going in my head.
Every day. It never stops. It might be pushed to the back burner in my brain, I might be able to smile and talk to you and be totally engaged in our conversation. But in the back of my mind, my characters are waiting. Lurking. Ready to jump out and surprise me with a new plot point, a bit of dialogue, or sometimes a new friend they discovered while I wasn’t paying attention.
Now that I’m working full time as a creative writer, I’ve found that this hasn’t changed. I think almost as much about my work on the way home—or at home—as I do at the office. I clock out and have my best ideas when I reach the end of the driveway.
“Passion will move men beyond themselves, beyond their shortcomings, beyond their failures.”
~ Joseph Campbell
Passion gets me through the hard days. The days when my outlines come back full of notes and with the dreaded ‘trash it and try again’ notice. The days when I have to choose between gas money and rent. The days when I sit staring at a blank screen for an hour because I’m drained creatively but have so many deadlines looming that I have to get some words out.
Passion gets me through the hard times so that, when the good times come, I can enjoy them.
Tips to Cultivate Passion.
1. Admit that you have more than one passion. I love writing. I also love to travel, cook, go hiking, and be a mentor. I spend most of my time writing, crafting stories, and building my platform, but when I am burned out, I know where to turn. A writer whose whole life is on the page is a writer who is headed for creative burnout—maybe permanently.
2. Know where you want your passion to take you. Are you a hobby writer? Someone who just wants to see their story on the page? Or are you looking for a career and a publishing contract? The approach for these two is very different. You have to know what you want. Hobby writing won’t get you a career. You’ve got to get serious if you want to live on your words.
3. Remember that passion isn’t always a feeling. Sometimes you’ll sit down to write and not care so much that it becomes a physical sensation. This happens to me more often than I would like to admit. And as a career writer with a full-time job in the writing industry, it really, really doesn’t matter whether I feel like writing or not. I still have to write. I still have deadlines and people waiting for outlines and stories to create. Just because I don’t ‘feel like it’ does not mean I can stop writing.
4. Stay focused. Passion, especially for writers, has to be there for the long haul. Set goals, know what you want, have a rhythm for yourself, and be hopeful. Passion isn’t fluffy. It isn’t pretty, or gentle, or easy. Passion is rock hard, cold steel determination that fights through the worst days because it is resolved to be there for the best days. Passion is learned and earned, and you develop it the same way you develop your muscles. By working hard, pushing through, and showing up when you don’t feel like it.
Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.