A Day in the Writing Life of … Deborah Challinor

Welcome everyone to DWL of historical writer, Deborah Challinor.

Deborah is both a writer and a historian (and also a KIWI but we wont hold that against her). She has relocated across the ditch to research and write her current series of novels set in Sydney in the late 1820s about four convict girls who are transported from England.

What time of the day do you write?     From about 9am to 6pm, usually five days a week, unless I’m behind schedule. Then I’ll work in the weekend as well. If I’m coming to the end of a book I’ll work until 8 or 9pm or later because I just can’t stop – it all gets a bit out of hand then.

Are you a morning, night-owl or anytime writer?     An anytime writer, I suspect, though I am a bit slow in the mornings.

Where do you write? Do you have your own special place? I have an office at home (spare bedroom). I only ever write there, though I ‘think’ dialogue and plot everywhere. In the shower, in the car, at the shops, all over the place, and I have a notebook in my bag for jotting down bits that might fall out of my head. There’s a notebook by my bed, too, for middle of the night ideas.

Is there any particular rituals you do to set the mood / harness your muse?   No. After a dozen books I’ve learnt I have to write whether I’m in the mood or not, and if I sat around waiting for my muse to turn up, I could be doing nothing for weeks. This is my job so unless I’m sick, I just do it.

What’s the first think you do before you begin to write?      Get a cup of coffee, check my emails, send some if I need to, have a look at a few loops – RWA and my group loop, Hunter Romance Writers.

Do you have a special system in place in order to begin writing or go with the flow?     When I finish work the previous day I always leave a few notes to remind me of what’s coming next in the scene/s, so I don’t have to start ‘cold’.

Are you a plotter / planner or a pantser?      A bit of both. I do a 3-4 page outline before I start and refer to that quite a lot so I don’t get hopelessly lost, but the books in the series I’m writing at the moment are 130,000 words long, and with that many words things happen and characters appear I hadn’t even imagined at the beginning. Which, to me, is half the fun of writing.

Do you edit as you go or prefer to edit after completion of the ms?    I do a rough edit each day of the previous day’s work, and a more thorough edit of the whole ms when it’s finished. It’s never a very good one, though – I’m hopeless at editing my own work.

Are you a goal setter with your writing?     Yes, I am a goal setter. Obviously my contracts have submission dates, so I’ll choose a date well before a ms is due and set up a spreadsheet on Excel (actually my husband does that for me) that tells me how many words I need to write every day, with graphs and all sorts. Very motivating. I’ve learnt from experience that choosing an early goal date is much smarter than leaving it all until the last minute. No matter how much I’d like it not to, life always gets in the way.

What writing tools do you favour? Long hand, computer…. I use a computer. Writing longhand would drive me mental. Occasionally I’ll stick up pictures of a particular scene I’m working on, eg. the Parramatta Female Factory, or the prison deck of a convict ship, or a map of the Rocks in 1830.

Do you give yourself any writing rewards for achieving goals?     No. Royalties are always nice.

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?     Yes, I stretch and I go and look out the window at the church steeple on the hill.

Can you name five objects that are always on or near your work desk while you write?     Roget’s Thesaurus; smooth black ‘worry’ stone I found on the road; image of my cat Albert (still in NZ) on my monitors; piles of reference books and notes – character list, 1829-1830 calendar, maps, 19th century illnesses, underworld slang, etc; USB for backing up.

What is your favourite form of procrastination? Do you have any tips to beat off that old foe “procrastination”?    Checking out online shopping. Dear oh dear. I tell myself out loud that if I don’t write I won’t finish the book, and if I don’t finish the book it won’t get published, and if it isn’t published I won’t get any money. Or another contract.

Usually if I’m procrastinating it’s because what I’m writing is boring me, and if it’s boring me, it will bore readers. So when I’ve worked that out I scrap it and go in another direction. Fortunately I have a bit of experience under my belt now and I’m only talking about a few paragraphs, or a page or two at most, these days.

What’s the last thing do you do before you finish your daily writing session?     Enter my stats into my swotty little Excel spreadsheet, then back up.

For further information, please visit Deborah’s website   www.deborahchallinor.com

Her next book, called Behind the Sun, published by HarperCollins Australia, is due out in NZ in December 2012 and in Australia in January 2013.

Thank you, Deborah, for sharing a day in your writing life and we look forward to seeing your next release.

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  1. Deborah,
    Wonderful to hear more of writing story. It’s seems no time at all since we were welcoming you to our Australian romance writers and you’ve been charging ahead with your Australian story.
    Thrilled that the move is going so well for you.
    Thanks for bringing us another great author story. Your hard work is much appreciated.
    Suzi Love

  2. Thank u, Suzi L, always nice to be appreciated. Deb is a valued member of our f2f writing group, that’s how come I was able to add a wee bit more in than I normally do. 🙂

  3. maryde

     /  June 8, 2012

    Hi Deb,
    It has been a pleasure to welcome you to our sunny shores. 🙂
    Where we have great internet, wonderful Telco services and communication devices, as well as linesmen to make a girl’s heart go pitter-patter. LOL

    I suppose many writers (I know I can) will relate to having to write even when you have no muse or other excuse for the day.
    I understand the drive when you are already published/under contract, and I guess for unpublished writers, it is the final achievement to say “I am now published,” that has to be our motivation.

    Key point for me when you said, “If I’m procrastinating it’s probably because what I’m writing is boring.” Makes loads of sense. 🙂

    It must be hard for you to leave family and pets behind for long periods of time.:) Always welcome to borrow my X Husky/German shepherd to fill in the lonely moments.

    Aren’t *the Rocks* just the most amazing place?
    Looking forward to your stories.

  4. Hi Deb,
    Even after all these months of chatting with you at our little face 2 face group we’re finding out more about you.

    Umm procrastinating, that’s all I seem to do these days. Not good when you have to get a book finished, or the fact that you’ve set goals and know very well you’re going to have to wear Mary’s silly hat at our next meeting for not reaching said goals. LOL.

    • maryde

       /  June 8, 2012

      Hey …. no more MY silly hat. 🙂 the smiley hat belongs to the group now. Its new home. Gotta share the love around 🙂
      Agree with you Kezp … 🙂

  5. kezp

     /  June 8, 2012

    And most importantly, you don’t write crap 🙂 I love that photo of you looking all ‘authory’ and not your usual smiley self ;p

  6. Hi Deb,
    Lovely to learn more about you. It’s nice to see you at our meetings as well. I agree with Kez, very authory photograph, and not your usal smily self. 🙂
    Love the title Behind the Sun, sounds intriguing.

    Suz 🙂 Oh the other one. lol 🙂

    Oh btw, I thought it was the naughty hat. 🙂

  7. One typo and I can live with, but two. I think computer keys are sticking. Slow and steady wins the race, isn’t that right Deb. 🙂


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