This week we are featuring a day in the writing life of Chris Taylor who writes romantic suspense and who recently made the finals in the single title section of this year’s RWA Emerald Contest. Welcome, Chris.
What time of the day do you write? For the last three years, I had the luxury of being a stay-at-home mum to five children. I used to write every day from 9am until about 3pm, only taking breaks for morning tea and lunch and when my three year old demanded my attention (sometimes more often than others!). This year, I returned to part time work (3 days a week) and I’m finding it hard to get back into a regular writing schedule. At the moment, I write mostly at night after the kids have gone to bed.
Where do you write? Do you have your own special place? I have a great office with a huge screen desktop, fan, bottle of water and tube of lip gloss all within easy reach. I have a wonderful view outside my window onto the Nandewar Ranges, which is lovely. I always take my laptop if I’m out and have it at the ready if I get a spare moment to work on my WIP. I’m very fortunate that I’m able to block out a lot of extraneous noise and distraction and just focus on my work (comes from years of living with 5 young kids!)
Is there any particular rituals you do to set the mood / harness your muse? My inspiration for my characters often comes from a song. I love country music and anyone who knows anything about country music knows that the songs are usually tales of woe and bad luck – he’s lost his girl, his horse, his dog. . . you get the picture. If I’m getting nowhere with a story, I will often play the song that initially inspired me over and over and try and “become” the story the singer was aiming for.
What’s the first think you do before you begin to write? I like to re-read anything I’ve written the day/night before first thing the next day before I sit down to write anything new. I edit as I go although sometimes I know something’s not quite right and I just can’t find the right words. During these times, I write the passage in bold and underlined, so I can find it easily later and have another crack at it.
Are you a plotter / planner or a pantser? I am more of a plotter. I usually do a rough, handwritten draft before I start writing anything on the computer, just in general point form. Chapter by chapter, I set out the main points I want brought out in each chapter. This can change as I begin actually putting my draft down in book form, but I do refer to my initial draft quite frequently and the story does tend to stay fairly true to my original draft. Occasionally my story takes a completely different turn and I then adapt my draft accordingly.
Do you have a schedule that you follow for your writing time? Are you a goal setter with your writing? I try very hard to set writing goals every day. Before I returned to work, I had a goal of writing 3000 words a day, which I usually met. At the moment, I’m a little more relaxed and my writing output has definitely suffered. I’m determined to get back into setting a daily goal and having regular writing sessions.
What writing tools do you favour? Apart from my very first handwritten draft which really only covers the three or four major points which will arise in each chapter, I write everything on the computer. I’m lucky to be a fairly fast typist, and couldn’t imagine writing a book longhand. I am very much in awe of any writer who can accomplish this!
Do you use whiteboards, posters, visual aids to help in your creativity? I do keep a timeline separate from my WIP so I keep a handle on whether it should be day or night the next day, the next week etc over the course of my story. I also do a character profile on each of the main characters before I start and this gets added to from time to time as the story develops.
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 have a really, really good office chair and footstool that do their best to keep my posture correct. I tend to suffer from mild carpel tunnel syndrome too, so I generally wear wrist supports if I’m going to be at my keyboard for the day. I always have a bottle of water on my desk and usually go through three or four bottles a day if I’m in the zone.
Is your writing space messy, organized or somewhere in between? My desk is usually quite tidy. I hate working in a messy environment and I’m a very organised person. At the moment, my desk is a mess and gives me mild stress every time I sit down. I’m in the middle of preparing three quarterly BAS statements for my husband’s business and organising an overseas trip for me and my family. There are passport applications, photos, tour books and other paraphernalia spread all over the place!
What is your favourite form of procrastination? Do you have any tips to beat off that old foe “procrastination”? Procrastination can cripple all of us. The biggest thing I try to do is visualise the scene I’m intending to write before I write it. Ie. I will think about the scene while I’m in bed or on the toilet (sorry , too much information!!) and try and get a clear picture of what is going to happen, what’s going to be said, etc. That way, when I do sit down to write it (usually the next day), the scene is already in my head – I just have to get it down. The other way I fend off procrastination is to set a daily writing goal – I know I will have to keep banging away at the keyboard until I reach it, so the longer it takes, the longer I’m in there. . .
What’s the last thing do you do before you finish your daily writing session? The last thing I do after any writing session is SAVE my work at least THREE times – to my desktop, a USB stick and to my online backup. Those hard-fought words are just too precious to lose.
You can read more about me and my books at my website www.christaylorauthor.com.au
Thank you, Chris, for sharing a day in your writing life.