Friday, February 13, 2009

Living in a Portable World

It’s always interesting to me to talk to authors and find out about their processes. When do they write? How do they write and where do they write? Well, some of you might be surprised to note that these days agents aren’t much different. I have a wonderful office painted in blues and greens, a big comfy desk chair and a huge L-shaped desk. I love sitting at my desk with my telephone headset on, iTunes playing, Kindle at my side, and two monitors going at once. However, I also love sitting at home with the laptop on the coffee table and my Kindle in my lap.

As you’ve heard all agents say, most reading is done at home, but what you might be surprised to hear is that home is not always literally at home. It usually means anywhere outside of the office. Heading into the city for a lunch usually means plenty of time to read. Before my subway car even pulls into the station I have my Kindle out on the platform, reading submissions and client manuscripts. I read in waiting rooms, while getting my hair done, and even at the table or at a bar in restaurants waiting for my lunch or dinner date. Actually, one of my favorite places to read is on an airplane. For me it’s one of the few times in life where I can actually find peace and uninterrupted quiet.

Queries are another thing that I rarely read in the office and, as I’m sure many of you can attest, I rarely read during “normal” hours. I live a strange schedule and actually get to most of my queries on the weekend or before the sun has even risen. It’s not uncommon for me to respond to an email at three or four in the morning.

Office time for me is about phone calls. Sure I can and have made numerous business calls from airports, train stations, and my kitchen, but I prefer to make my phone calls at my desk. I like my office phone and feel like I can focus better on the conversation at hand if I have easy access to everything I might need. And the same definitely holds true for negotiating a contract. Again, I’ve done a number of contracts from all over the country (I seem to have considerable success at a friend’s house in Arizona), but if given the choice I prefer to be in business mode in my office.

What about you? I imagine most authors have a working space somewhere they call office, but where do you really do most of your writing?

Jessica

59 comments:

Kathleen Irene Paterka said...

Hi Jessica,

I have a home office, and since the December death of my laptop's hard drive, a new desktop and a 22" monitor that I love!

For me, being in my home office is like burrowing down in a cave. Unlike some other writers, I like quiet when I write. No music, no other stimulus. Shutting out the "outside world" helps when I'm creating the other world that my characters live in.

-Kathleen

KATHLEEN IRENE PATERKA

December/Stacia said...

On the living room couch, with my laptop on a lapdesk. Um, on my lap. There is an office with a desktop upstairs but I hardly ever use it. They chair is too low and the keyboard is too clickety.

Heidi the Hick said...

My dining room table. I can see the back yard through the sliding doors and the front through the bay window.

My desk is cozy, and has the advantage of overseeing the family room, but also the disadvantage of being in the family room and becoming the junk collector spot. Grrr.

It's all laptop though. I'll never have a desktop again. I love being able to drag this thing all over the house and settle in wherever I feel like being.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jessica,

I tend to write everywhere. On the commute in (if I am riding with a friend), in the dining room, in the living room, at work...anywhere. I write it all by hand because it is just the rough draft, and then I rewrite a bunch that during the odd hours gets confused as I type it into the pc.

~Meg

bon said...

I'm old school. I still love the feel of pencil on paper and will drag my paper notebook and bic mechanical pencil everywhere with me. Then on the same early morning every week I will get it out and transcribe it on my PC and make edits as I go.

My desk too is the house junk collector. Odd thing... I'm the only one to put anything on it.

J. Mayhew said...

Hi Jessica,

I do most of my writing at my computer desk b/c my laptop did a crash-and-burn number about 6 months ago. But I miss the days I could take my computer to a quiet coffeehouse and just write. It was good for me to get out of the house (away from all those distractions)....

WendyCinNYC said...

When the weather is nice, I do most of my writing on a bench in Central Park. Otherwise, I write on the couch, in the stands at my daughter's swim meet while I wait for her event, doctor's waiting rooms, wherever.

If I don't happen to have my laptop handy, I'll type scenes into my BlackBerry and email it to myself. I have fast thumbs.

Joyce said...

I use my laptop while sitting on the couch in the family room. I fire up the woodburning stove, pour a cup of coffee and I'm ready to go. When I need a change of scenery, I'll take my laptop to the sunroom.

selestial-owg said...

I do most of my writing either at my desk in my "office" (it is the built in desk in the kitchen), on the couch in the family room, or traveling - either on the laptop or longhand in one of my notebooks.

I prefer to work directly on the laptop, but my spacebar is ... unhappy, and we need to order a new keyboard for it (if we can). Right now, I have to waste one of my ports to have an extra keyboard plugged in. *sigh* I have a love/hate relationship with technology.

Martin Willoughby said...

I work in my front room (don't know what americans call it). I have a computer desk and an armchair behind me. I read or write at both.

Carley said...

I do most of my writing in the early morning hours, before the kids get up, in my bedroom at my desk and on my laptop. I always have music in my ears, infact, I have a 'writing' playlist on my i-pod! However, if you ever see a strange woman in her dark car, headphones in her ears, with only the glow of blue light, that's me too. I write while waiting to pick up my kids, in the library- anywhere. I take long walks and get great ideas, nature is one of my favorite muses. I have a legal pad that I jot my down all my outlines and ideas onto,(with numerous smaller bits of paper crammed into it, you know the kind, the only piece you could find when an idea hit you.) but the majority of it is done on my laptop.

Dara said...

I write on my laptop while I'm sitting on the couch. Sometimes I'll write in my cluttered study (especially if I want to spend four or more hours working on my novel). I think I focus better when I'm on my desktop, but the bulk of my time is probably spent on the laptop.

Anonymous said...

I write on a laptop while seated on my bed. The windows in my room look out on beautiful trees. All editing and anything writing business related are completed in my office. The two never meet... and rejection letters never get close to my writing space. I find that the two different parts of writing are better off divided from each other. My room is the place for the imagination and the office is the place for the grown-up, tenacious, hard work side of things.

Sharon Page said...

My dad is an engineer, so I grew up with "back of the napkin" designing at the lunch table. And I also grew up around a small business so I was used to the idea that you work at odd times and in odd places. I work exclusively at a lap top, which goes all over the house.
Last summer I bought an EEE PC and I love it! It's so portable, but has a keyboard I can handle. I take it to parks, the doctor, etc. Used to be an early morning person, but I write from 8:15 to 5:00 then again from 8:30 to 11 or 12.

Kathleen said...

I love reading these!

I have a nice desktop and 22" monitor in the basement... but it's hard to write down there. For one thing, the basement isn't heated, and when my fingers get too cold, they slow down. But more than that, I get too distracted by email, blogs, etc.

Upstairs, however, in my young son's room, is a dinosaur of a computer. It's not powerful enough to run most programs and not fast enough to browse the web decently on... but it runs Word 2000 quite easily. That's where I do my best writing. (As long as my son isn't sitting there saying, "Mommy look at this! Mommy guess what? etc.)

It's quiet. I'm away from the bills and email and homeschooling stuff that's piled all over my desk in the basement, and I can focus on writing so much more easily. That's usually where I am when hubby's watching a movie (which is downstairs next to the other computer anyway), or working late, etc.

My other favorite place to write is lying in bed with a pencil and notebook...usually while hubby is reading on his side. Sometimes my best writing starts on paper, because the fact that I am forced to re-write it, typing it in, helps me find and fix things that are hard to find when I'm just reading what I've written. Plus, it slows me down to write at only 30+ wpm, and sometimes I need that slower pace.

Vicki said...

I write on my laptop in my office during the week. On the weekends I love to write outside or go to the nearest Starbucks and write.

If I somewhere without the laptop, then paper and pen will work.

Jess said...

I would love a blue and green office. *G*

Having a full-time job, I do most of my fiction writing in my cubicle, in between my regular tasks. It helps me get my regular work done as much as my fiction to take mini-breaks and write throughout the day... the only hazard is when I really get into a scene and slack off for much longer than I should. I've had to train myself to write like this, but anything to get it done. I live by that saying that writers don't find time, they make it.

Prairie Chicks Write Romance said...

Laptop, recliner chair, living room. Like Kathleen, I have an office in the basement, but it's cold and The Husband likes to play computer golf on the big screen TV down there. I need silence when I write so that I can hear my characters clearly - shouts of "In the hole" or "*&^*, sliced it" pull me right out of my story. Besides, being upstairs lets me watch my dog chase her rope around the coffee table or sigh contentedly when she lays at my feet (like she's doing now).

Janet

beckylevine said...

I'm lucky that when we bought our house it had a "dining room," which we instantly renamed
"Becky's office." I write there on most days, but do head out to the coffeehouse (often with Terri Thayer!) or to a friend's. Today, it may just be the couch.

Your blue & green office sounds great--maybe you should post a pic.

Deborah K. White said...

I write in my office on my computer during the daytime hours. I'm on the second floor of my house, so I've got a nice view of the rolling mountains outside. The walls are painted a light brown, the trim is stained wood, and plants fill the room. I love it.

However, I do scribble down notes on any convenient scrap of paper whenever I'm not technically "writing."

Kyle Schiebel said...

I wrote my entire first novel on my laptop at a downtown coffee shop near where I worked. For 15 months, Monday through Friday, for one hour a day I spent my "lunch" time simultaneously writing and getting caffeinated. When I was within pages of finishing my first draft, on Sunday, New Year's Eve day 2006, I made the trip downtown to complete my novel at that coffee shop; it seemed the only appropriate place to reach that milestone.

I find it too distracting to write at home, especially if the family is around. Perhaps I'd feel differently if I had a space in my house more conducive to writing, but I doubt it. What I benefitted most from, though, was the routine. I firmly believe that I (and most people) would never complete a book without a commitment to a writing routine. Every Monday through Friday at 12:30 I went to that coffee shop to write. I was committed to that routine. I looked forward to it each day.

My advice for anyone wanting to begin writing (actually writing) their book: find a good place and make a commitment.

Bella Andre said...

Different books get written in different places. "Game For Anything" was written almost entirely at Starbucks sitting across from Anne Mallory and Jami Alden and Barbara Freethy. The first half of "Game For Seduction was written at Starbucks, the last half in my living room. "Wild Heat" was written in my living room in front of a fire, but it was revised outside in my atrium and at the library. "Hot As Sin" was written at the lake on the screened porch and at the breakfast counter in my kitchen, but it was completely rewritten at the desk in my office (which is where I am right now).

As a feng shui consultant, I'm finding this discussion really interesting!

Kelley Nyrae said...

All my writing is done on my laptop however the destination changes. Most of my writing I like to do at my desk. It's my "comfort zone" if you will but there are times that I'm just not able to do that and I adapt. I'm the type that feels a deadline looming over my head even if it's months away. My editor always knows if she tells me something is due in August, she usually gets it in June. I'm just that way so I have to be flexible about where or when I write (two young kids at home so I steal my minutes whenever and wherever I can)so I can make it happen.

writermomof5 said...

When we moved into the new house, we converted half of a formal living room into an office. It's spacious and organized... and I can't use it. I still have a tiny (read cluttered) desk in the corner of my bedroom where I can hole up and write and the kids know to leave me alone.

Paul said...

My favorite place to work in the winter--a glider rocker next to the woodstove. When the house warms up I switch to the dining room table where I've set myself up to be able to work standing up.
In the summer I work in a small upstairs room at a desk. Yeah, I pretty much drag my laptop all over the house.

I feel fortunate to be a stay at home writer and have full run of our small house while my wife is at work.

Paul

Anita said...

90% of my writing is done in my second story home office. There's a window to the left of my desk. Through it, I can watch the neighborhood kids (mine included) play on an island of grass and pine trees that's located in the center of our cul-de-sac. When I need to holler at the kids, I do it through the window, which always startles the kids, even though I've done it a thousand times.

To the right side of my desk is another window which looks out a beautiful mountain range and the football stadium at the United States Air Force Academy. It's a coveted view...but the one of the kids is still better.

Kristan said...

Hah, I'll let you know when I finally find the place. :P

ryan field said...

There was a great article in this month's issue of Architectural Digest, where a novelist decribed her new, wonderful office. She has windows and gorgeous views; she's surrounded by her favorite books.

But all this passes me by. My office is in a back corner of the basement...the unfinished section...where there are no windows or distractions.

Diana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diana said...

I'm with Kathleen on the home office. I have the only second-floor room right under the roof of my 1930 bungalow, next to the attic. I call it my nest, because if I look outside, I am up high at tree-level. I have windows on three sides of my room, and love it when it rains. I can't write with any music or television noise in the background.

My thinking and puzzle-solving tends to happen when I go for walks. My favorite place to walk when I'm really stuck is among the old headstones in our local cemetery.

Craven said...

I have a day job. The only productive writing time I can rely on is my lunch hour at the office. By the time I get home, I'm wiped and not capable of writing anything intelligible. Weekends I can usually sneak in a little more, but feel guitly for encroaching on family time.

In that hour a day, if it's a good day, I can get in a thousand words. At that rate I can churn out a first draft in four to six months.

Jolie said...

I like to read at home sometimes, but there are also a lot of distractions there, so at-home reading only happens occasionally. When it does, I like it to be in large chunks of time.

Most of my reading gets done in transit, in small chunks. There are many practical reasons for me not to own a car (even in a city with limited public transit), but "being able to read while the bus driver takes care of things" is a big pleasure reason.

Robena Grant said...

I divided off my breakfast room from the kitchen with cherry wood floor to ceiling shuttered doors. They can be folded back, left closed with shutters open or completely closed where I feel coccooned. It's my private little world and I turn up every day, roll up my sleeves and get to work.
One wall is lined with bookshelves, the far corner has a spinner bike where I read magazines, or novels while exercising every day before lunch. If I'm reviewing my work I print it up and sit in a recliner chair in the living room in the late afternoon. Different places for when I'm wearing different hats. It seems to work.

Carol said...

I do all of my writing at my desk, located upstairs in a small alcove next to the staircase. I can see outside, but I don't have the distractions of being in a room with other people. I turn on my music and shut out everything while I type. My thinking and planning, though, are done while I walk around the driveway, or do mindless chores like dishes and cooking.

Anne-Marie said...

I'm old school too. I have blank writing booklets and love to do the first draft curled up on the couch listening to music or sitting on the balcony overlooking our ravine view. Only when I'm finished with a whole chapter do I transfer it to the computer. I then let it sit there for a few days before going back for the beginning of the editing stage.

I love the feel of pen and paper. My writing booklets also travel with me on any transit or holiday.

-AM

Colette Garmer said...

My husband and I commute together. So I go in at 7am to work and write until I start work at 9am.

Since I got this new job, I have gotten so much written for my WIP.
I look forward to writing every morning.

Sheila Deeth said...

The computer's downstairs, so that's where I write. But where I think about writing's a different matter. When the words dry up (or when the guilt gets too great) I do the housework, shopping, etc, or just take a walk. Anything that switches off brain switches on imagination.

Sooki Scott said...

I like my office. Scratch that, I love my office. Mount Rainier, the Cascades Mountains, all make for great writing atmosphere. But I also have good success writing longhand in front of the TV with the kiddos. Everyone is safe and sound, freeing my mind to wander through my story.



Confucius says; man stuck in pantry have butt in jam.

Kate Douglas said...

We have a multi-level house so it's hard to say what floor I'm on, (there are five sets of stairs between my office and the garage) but I write in an enclosed loft on the top floor with a view of the forest outside--which is why I keep the curtains drawn most of the time. I call it my cave, and I'm here now, in my comfortable leather recliner with my laptop and "cool pad" in my lap. I write from such a deep point of view that I can't work with any distractions--this room is dark, quiet and warm in winter, sort of like a womb, rather than a cave--but whatever I call it, it's comfortable enough that I can regularly put in ten to fifteen hour days w/o losing what sanity I have left.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Until a few months ago, I did most of my writing on my desktop computer. However, since I also read a lot on the internet, and work a full-time job where I'm usually at a computer, I began to find my desk stifling and isolating, and grew to dread having to sit there for several more hours after a long day of work.

I bought a little notebook computer a few months ago, and it made everything better. I can sit on my couch and write in much more comfort, or I can write on my desktop and then go read on my notebook. The ability to write where I want has been awesome.

Devon Ellington said...

I can write anywhere. I've written on trains, planes, at the beach, backstage with only a bite light gripped between my teeth -- wherever I need to in order to get it done.

I prefer to work at home. I need huge swaths of uninterrupted work time. As I'm house hunting, I'm looking for space where I can set it up like an English country house library.

What's important is WHEN I write. I write my first 1K of fiction in the morning, after yoga, but BEFORE anything else. Then, I start my day, and switch back and forth between deadlined projects as needed.

But in order to really have a productive day, I need to do my first 1K before I'm "tainted by the day".

My best writing is done early in the morning or very late at night -- but usually, I can get more done between 6-10 AM than all the other hours of the day. And that first 1K usually takes 45 min. - 1 hour.

Paty Jager said...

I write on my keyboard in my loft, but I meet my characters and see them in scenes while driving tractor.

Silicon Valley Diva said...

I also just LOVE hearing from other writers about their writing processes.

For me, I love to tinker on my laptop in our living room. I can catch a glimpse of the Santa Cruz Mountains from the large window in this room.

Oh, how I envy you for having a Kindle. Just can't justify it right now, but I imagine it is a godsend for those in publishing.

Doug said...

Jessica,

I feel as if I am one of the shrinking minority of writers who still put pen to paper while writing. I use five subject spiral bound notebooks and write my text only on the right side. I reserve the left for notes, and ideas that pop into my head while writing. Before I start writing for the day, I will scan through the left side notes to try and incorporate those ideas. I also read at least the last two pages to get back into the writing "flow".

Since I have a day job, I write usually at lunch, or take a break mid-afternoon. I don't write in the office, there are too many distractions. I walk to a neighboring Carls Jr. restaurant, put on some headphones, and listen to wordless music, such as jazz, classical, ballet, opera, techno, trance, or ambient. I tend to pick different music depending on the scene that I am writing that day. If it is a high action scene, I may choose the techno. If it is a more feeling scene, I will tend toward the light classical.

Once I get a few notebooks filled up, I start typing it in. This is by far the part I hate the most. I wish there was a way for my handwritten text to appear in the computer, but I haven't found anything that works well yet.

When I am typing the text in, I tend to edit it, so that by the time I get done with typing everything in, I actually have a second draft.

Then, I put the entire book away for a couple of months, and think about the next one. It gives me a chance to get it out of my head so that when I come back to it, I can see it from a reader's point of view. This to me is the most fun part. I really enjoy discovering the story again, the parts that work well, and the ones that don't.

When I finish doing the revision a couple of times. I send it out.

I am curious to see how many other writers are still using a pen.

twitter.com/thenextwriter

DebraLSchubert said...

I do almost all of my writing in my bedroom. It's my sanctuary. I either sit up in bed with my laptop in my lap, my fake fireplace on, and my kitties surrounding me, or at my desk in the sitting area looking out at the beautiful (or cloudy, rainy, snowy, etc.) day. Yesterday, I worked all day at my dining room table just to change things up. That was an interesting experiment, but my bedroom still wins out! I'm lucky I'm able to write full-time, usually 8-12 hours a day.

Heidi C. Vlach said...

Four years ago, I went to a local coffee pub to bribe myself into writing with a piece of chocolate cake. I've been going there dailyish ever since (but not having cake every day, obviously). I go during their slow hours, sprawl out in a booth, and always make sure I have my laptop headphones for my own music. The regular staff all know that I'm Heidi the novelist and I take my coffee double-double, it's downright heartwarming.

Anonymous said...

I write on my laptop, sitting on the couch. I read everywhere, even if there are a hundred people around me talking.

Allison Landa said...

Hi Jessica:

Though I have a decently equipped home office and a comfy couch -- and am fine working from both -- at heart I'm a cafe writer. I work best when I'm sitting with a cup of something next to me, my headphones on, and my legs tucked on the chair beside me.

Phone calls, though, are pretty much exclusively made from home.

Amy Demner said...

Hi Jessica,
There is only one place I do my writing --- outside in my screened-in patio--- regardless of how rainy, cool (I live in Florida which means it’s cold when the temperature dips below 50 degrees), or dark it is. I have a writer’s ritual that follows these steps: 1) Put laptop on table. 2) Plug power cord into outdoor power source. 3) Attach to laptop and turn on. 4) Get cup of coffee while powering up and carefully place to the left of laptop. 5) Move orchid from center of table. 6) Place outline, pencil, cell phone, house phone to left of coffee cup (and hope it doesn’t spill). 7) Sit in chair positioned at six o’clock. 8) Write spontaneously!
Amy

j h woodyatt said...

I write on the bus to and from work. Sometimes, I write at home when the rest of the family has gone to sleep early. These are the only times I ever have to myself.

Jill James said...

I have a wonderful home office but most of my writing is done at Starbuck's. I love the atmosphere of the place.

Anonymous said...

Panera is a great place to hang out w/ a laptop and you can get free drink refills and lunch to boot!

Anonymous said...

I love the variety of responses -- and how many of us have flexible writing places

so how about me?

well, for ideas I take my dog for long walks -- and record ideas on the voice recorder on my cell phone.
walking along hte river with loud music in the headphones led to the current WIP where each section is read while a particular peice of music is playing...

during the day when I am working, running erroands or stuff I always have with me my moleskine notebooks and nice pen so I can sit down and write thoughts as they come...

then afetr dinner, I curl up on the sofa in the snug little room in my old cottage, I have the TV on in the background -- nothing I have to actually pay attention to -- and around 8pm I start typing up the notes -- then start writing scenes -- on the laptop --

I average 3 to 4 thousand words in this stage -- but most of them come between 11pm and 2 am -- so I can't do this every night!

I also find that a book has stages: when I start the late night writing, I have notes and thoughts so the actual first draft of my first novel took me 30 days to write...

and how about RE writing?

CJ

Anonymous said...

I love the variety of responses -- and how many of us have flexible writing places

so how about me?

well, for ideas I take my dog for long walks -- and record ideas on the voice recorder on my cell phone.
walking along hte river with loud music in the headphones led to the current WIP where each section is read while a particular peice of music is playing...

during the day when I am working, running erroands or stuff I always have with me my moleskine notebooks and nice pen so I can sit down and write thoughts as they come...

then afetr dinner, I curl up on the sofa in the snug little room in my old cottage, I have the TV on in the background -- nothing I have to actually pay attention to -- and around 8pm I start typing up the notes -- then start writing scenes -- on the laptop --

I average 3 to 4 thousand words in this stage -- but most of them come between 11pm and 2 am -- so I can't do this every night!

I also find that a book has stages: when I start the late night writing, I have notes and thoughts so the actual first draft of my first novel took me 30 days to write...

and how about RE writing?

CJ

Kerry Ashwin said...

I live on a boat and I perch on the v berth bed and write.
My laptop sits on a small shelf and my legs hang about near the sail locker (under my bed)
I have 2 portholes to view the horizon and listen to the occasional slap of fish on the hull in the marina.
It is just about the best place in the world besides up the mast. The view from there is magic.

AstonWest said...

I take a clipboard and notebook paper almost everywhere I go, and write when I can...then when I get home, put it all into the computer.

Usually on the couch, with my iPod.

I actually have an office, but haven't used it for writing in a long time. Go figure.

telleroftales64 said...

Hello,
How great is all this versatility? I love it. I'm a Laboratory Technician by day, so most of my writing is done in my head at work, then jotted down on scraps. Like December/Stasia, I too have an office upstairs that I blow off for a laptop and my sofa. I just have to get a kindle, you make it sound so convenient!

Melie Fiase said...

I write everywhere: in a notebook on the bus, on the subway, on a plane, in caf├ęs or at the park. I write at my dining-room table, in my bed or on the couch with my laptop on my lap, in the bathroom and the kitchen on Post it notes when I suddenly think of something to add somewhere, in a notebook that I keep by my bed and finally at my desk on my laptop. At times, I use my Dictaphone and later on type what I recorded.
I like to always have something at hand to write on as soon as I have one of my flashes of inspiration.

Like a lot of people I need peace and quiet when writing but sometimes it seems that I can completely leave aside the outside world.

Sarahlynn said...

Church.

Unlike Stephanie Meyer, I can't write while taking care of my young children. I write at the kitchen table at late at night after everyone goes to sleep, but that's not my most productive time.

Two mornings a week, after I drop my youngest off for nursery school a local church, I find a quiet, sun-drenched, internet-and-cell-phone-free spot and just write for 2-1/2 hours. Heaven!