A Day in the Writing Life of … Anne Gracie

Welcome everyone for our first post in A Day in the Writing Life of one of our fellow members of RWAus. We are starting off 2012 with a bang. Please make welcome…Anne Gracie.

What time of the day do you write? Are you a morning, night-owl or anytime writer?

First thing in the morning is my best time to write. I often wake up with a scene flowing in my head and I scribble it down straight away, or I lose the freshness. That said, the more I get into a book the less the time matters. If I haven’t done my word count for the day and the deadline is looming, I’ll make myself sit down at the computer at 10pm and … the time just flies, and so do the words.

 Really,  starting is always the hardest part.

 Where do you write? Do you have your own special place? Does the location vary?   I write in all kinds of places; in bed, when scenes or scraps of dialogue come to me as I’m falling asleep or just waking up, at my main computer in my office, on my laptop, and by hand in the library, cafes, or even sitting in the car waiting for someone. I always carry a notebook.

Are there any particular rituals you do to set the mood / harness your muse?   I have a few rituals that work for me when the muse is recalcitrant. Handwriting in the library is a good one — I take myself off to a quiet, public place and tell myself I can’t leave until I’ve written 3 pages at least. If I’m stuck, I start by asking myself (in writing) questions and notes about the wip and the scene to come — which don’t count toward the 3 pages, btw — or sometimes I’ll start by brainstorming opening lines. Usually one of them takes off. I use music sometimes — I often have a song that’s my song for the story – a different song for each story.  I also have a cd that always helps me sink into the zone, the same every time. (It’s Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater — the Academy of Ancient Music)

What’s the first thing you do before you begin to write?   Close my eyes and think of where my POV character is in the story, what’s just happened, how he/she is feeling.

Do you spend much time reading over the previous day’s work?    I try not to. When I’m trying to write fresh words I don’t want the internal editor on my shoulder, criticizing, and if I started by editing, well, that’s an invitation, isn’t it?

Are you a plotter / planner or a pantser?    All my stories are character-driven. I have an idea of where my story starts, or ends, or maybe of some significant scene in the story somewhere, but I don’t pre-plot. I can work out really good plots and characters to go with them, but the minute I start writing, the characters become different people with different issues and desires, and they take the story in different directions.

Do you edit as you go or prefer to edit after completion of the ms?   Both. I edit as I go, and some things will nag at me until I know what I need to change or fix, but as the story evolves and I understand the beginning better and the motivation of my characters more deeply, there are things I have to change. I usually don’t do that until I’m nearly at the end of a book. Once I’ve finished a story, or know how it’s going to end, I know how it needs to be set up, and I’ll go back and edit. Then I’ll finish the last few scenes in a rush. I’m always left wishing I had more time to polish.

Do you have a schedule that you follow for your writing time? I keep a daily word count. I always round down to the nearest 100 words, so if the count is 1670, it’s recorded as 1600 words. It has two advantages — often it tempts me to do that last 30 words so my total will be higher, and I’ll often do more, and end up with an extra few hundred words.  If I don’t do that, well, I’m starting with runs on the board the next morning.

Do you use whiteboards, posters, visual aids to help in your creativity?   I have a chart blocked out into chapters and sticky notes on it. I also make a collage for each book to help me create the world of the story. There are some examples on my website.

 Do you give yourself any writing rewards for achieving goals?   I usually celebrate with friends, when I’ve finished a book. And then do housework! But in future I’m planning to take a short holiday — by which I mean going away — after every book.

Do you take time out to stretch, rest your eyes etc and if so do you do any exercises at your desk or between sessions?   I do. I take regular breaks and stretch and do exercises to limber up. I usually do regular hand exercises, too, but I neglected this recently and ended up with tendonitis and carpal tunnel problems.

Can you name five objects that are always on or near your work desk while you write?   Two snow-globes with photos of some of my writing buddies in them (ie, a miniature staff room),  a “finish the damn book” mug from the first Gold Coast conference, usually with some cold green or peppermint tea in it, hand cream, notebook, a timer, all sorts of other crap..

 What is your favourite form of procrastination? Do you have any tips to beat off that old foe “procrastination”?   I get sucked into email and surfing the internet. Solution: take yourself to the library, away from the internet.  Second solution: use a timer to get started. Third solution — make a time/word pact with on-line friends.

 What’s the last thing do you do before you finish your daily writing session?   Back up whatever I’ve done that day.

Thank you, Anne, for taking the time to participate on our blog. We wish you all the best with your new release.

Anne’s latest book, A Bride by Mistake is available from January 2012.

For more information on Anne, please visit her website : www.annegracie.com

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  1. Hi Anne,
    So great to see you featured here. I love that just about all your answers have a tip or an idea we can take away – particularly like the idea of going on a holiday after finishing a book!
    Hope the hand is improving and all the best for Bride By Mistake. Mine should be here any day now and I’m looking forward to it 🙂

  2. Hi Louise, I hope people can find something useful in a post. And yes, I’m wishing I was on holiday now, and the book was finished, but no, I’m here, beavering away. 🙂

    hope you enjoy Bride By Mistake.

  3. Lilian Begelhole

     /  January 6, 2012

    Hi Anne,
    Had to say hello – Lovely to see you on Blog Bites. I’m madly nodding my head agreeing with you about the way characters seem to take off in their own directions as one writes. Makes plotting a bit of a task for me! I’ve still got to get Bride by Mistake. Looking forward to it. All the best.

    • Hi Lillian, lovely to see you here, too. It can be difficult when characters take off in a different direction from what you’d planned, but it’s a lot better than if they fail to spring to life. Best of luck with your writing. And you never know, you might win the draw for bride By Mistake.

  4. Hi Anne, lovely to learn more about your writing process and, as always, a couple of good tips that turned light bulbs on for me!

    Looking forward to reading Bride by Mistake, as is Mum who’s now a devoted fan of yours!

  5. Hi Helene, can’t believe that you need any of my tips but thanks anyway.

    Hope you enjoy Bride By Mistake. Your mother is clearly a fabulous person. LOL

  6. LOVE your idea of a holiday after every book – that should be a law!!!

    • Hi Rachael, I think we could make it an RWA regulation, don’t you? Move it at the next AGM. Because we certainly deserve a holiday after finishing a book, but what most of us do is a major spring clean to catch up on house work neglected while on deadline. That’s a TERRIBLE way to celebrate finishing a book, even if a clean house is a pleasure to have.

  7. Lovely interview Anne 🙂

    Like Rach, I also thought it was a fab idea to take a holiday after finishing a book. Although, celebrating with friends is a close second 🙂

    I’ll second your motion at the next AGM for the new RWA regulation 😉

    Wishing you a happy new year and all the best with your new release – can’t wait to read it.

    • Thanks, Joanne, yes, I don’t think we’ll have much opposition for that motion. 🙂

      All the best for 2012 to you, too. I’m sure it’s going to be a year of success for many of our members. That’s one of the things I love about this organization — the number of members who get published grows each year.

  8. Kylie Griffin

     /  January 6, 2012

    Lots of great tips here, Anne. Particularly the word count one of rounding down. Ahh, the psychological tricks we play on ourselves…:-D

    And I’m so in agreement with the holiday idea – maybe Norfolk or Fiji or New Zealand or some other lovely place could be the designated destination! 🙂

    • Thanks, Kylie. That word rounding down trick really does work for me, and yes, psychological tricks R us. 🙂 I need ’em all. 🙂

      Ohh, I like the idea of Norfolk Island — I’ve never been there. Except that for me it spells “writing retreat” rather than holiday.

      I think when I finish this book I’ll head for the beach.

  9. I love your answers! I don’t feel so alone! *LOL* Now to go apply some of your awesome responses to my own writing! 🙂

    • Hi Hellion, I didn’t realize you were also a writer, as well as a reader and blogger. That’s wonderful. All the very best of good luck with it.

  10. Hi Anne,
    Lovely to see you here. You always have the best tips and are always generous with your advice.
    Mega congrats on the release of A Bride by Mistake. I know it’ll be bnilliant!!!

    Great blog to start the new year, Suz!

    • Hi Serena, thanks for the comment. I hope my tips are helpful — not much point in giving them, otherwise. 😉
      Thanks also for the good wishes on my Bride By Mistake.
      Happy new year!

  11. Hi Anne, sorry I didn’t get here on Friday. It is wonderful to read about your writing life and how you manage to stay on track. Timely tip to kick of the New Year. All the best for 2012.

    • Thanks, Sandie, no worries — it’s a busy time of year. Thanks for finding the time to drop in. And staying on track is always a balancing act. Happy new year to you, too.

  12. Anne,
    So lovely to read more about your writing life,
    Love your writing tips about procrastination, and especially love the idea of a holiday after each book.
    You know I already adore your books, but I’m looking forward to the new one,

    • Hi Suzi, thanks for dropping by to say hi. Hope the tips are useful. All the best with your writing, and happy new year!


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