A Day in the Writing Life of Sara Donovan

SusanDonovanakaSaraDonovanphotoLet’s welcome Sara Donovan to the RWA blog. She’s just had her new book published.

In one or two sentences, please tell us what genre you write in and what made you decide that particular one is your calling. I thought of my genre as chick-lit when I was writing Love By Numbers, but when I got The Call from the fiction editor at HarperCollins, she called my novel a romantic comedy – a term I associate with movies. Since my life is like an accidental romcom movie most of the time anyway (that’s a story and a half) and I wrote my book as if it were a film (my dream), telling myself I write romantic comedies really floats my boat.

What time of the day do you write? Are you a morning, night-owl or anytime writer? Despite being a morning person everywhere else in my life, my best writing happens late at night – and I mean very late at night – from 1.30 am onwards. In fact, I often have my best ideas at about 3.30 am. I think the combination of tiredness and regular dark-chocolate-induced serotonin hits makes it easier for me to be open to ideas from my subconscious. Plus I’m more relaxed in the early hours of the morning because I knew no-one is going to interrupt me to tell me I’m being obsessive (because they’re all asleep).

Where do you write? Do you have your own special place? Does the location vary? I have a special space. It’s the home office of my day job but I have filled it with things that inspire me as a writer (landscapes, inspiring quotes and pictures of hero’s and heroine’s I love). I feel yummy and identify with being a writer when I look around at all my stuff.

Is there any particular rituals you do to set the mood / harness your muse? Love poetry by the stalwarts gets me in the mood (you know – William Blake, Mary Oliver, Pablo Neruda, Rumi). I sometimes ask my muse (my husband – who also does all the cooking and cleaning when I write. What a guy!!) to look me in the eye with ‘that look’ then kiss me. That gets me in the mood for love and writing about love. In case, that sounded too perfect, we often fight like cats and dogs.

What’s the first think you do before you begin to write? I do mindfulness practice for a minute before I write ie I close my eyes and track everything I can feel, hear, smell, touch; at the same time, ensuring I bring a curiosity and benign attention to everything that shows up.

Do you spend much time reading over the previous day’s work? Do you have a special system in place in order to begin writing or go with the flow? I write new scenes late at night and/or first thing when I get up, and I edit in the afternoons and early evenings. I can’t go to the next scene until I’m sure the previous scene expresses what I want it to express. What that really means is I’m terrified the last scene has failed and I don’t trust myself or the process enough to move on until I’m sure enough that it hasn’t. (Maybe this will change one day).

Are you a plotter / planner or a pantser? Do you edit as you go or prefer to edit after completion of the ms? I plot my stories to the last detail and edit as I go. Being a planner doesn’t mean you don’t have pantser moments (and vice versa I’m sure). I still get lots of surprises popping in my head as I execute my plan. The piece of my writing that particularly seems spontaneous, is the comedy. Most of that shows up as I write, which is a hoot.

Do you have a schedule that you follow for your writing time? Are you a goal setter with your writing? I work to deadlines, which I guess is the same thing as goals. The threat (or fear) of missing the deadline helps me focus.

Do you use whiteboards, posters, visual aids to help in your creativity? I use whiteboards, mind maps, posters, visual aids, music, paintings and poetry to help me in my creativity.

Do you give yourself any writing rewards for achieving goals? What a bloody great idea. Should do!!

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? No. I’m totally obsessive when I’m in the throes of writing and even resent going to the toilet, let alone stretching or anything as sensible as that.

Can you name five objects that are always on or near your work desk while you write? Inspiring quotes, my butcher paper, bright colour scented pens (so the mind maps on my butcher paper look pretty), my blue-tooth earpiece so I can dictate straight onto my computer if I notice I’m censoring too much and several hard copies of my scene construction template.

Is your writing space messy, organized or somewhere in between? Are you prepared to show evidence of your claim with a desk photo? SaraDonovanworkingspace My work space is busy, but organized and depending on how much research I need to do, ends up chaotic.

What is your favourite form of procrastination? Do you have any tips to beat off that old foe “procrastination”? Cleaning the house is my favourite form of procrastination. My best remedy is reading a particular Stephen King quote over and over (the hardest time is just before you start…) until one of two things happens. I actually start, or I work out what I don’t know that I need to know to start, in which case I research.

What’s the last thing you do before you finish your daily writing session? Read over a bit I particularly like. May as well. It’ll probably make me cringe the next day.

Thanks Sara! You can find Sara’s links below.


Love by Numbers

COV_LoveByNumbers_CD2 (1)A blurb about my new release: How to Fall in Love with (Almost) Anyone in Seven Easy Steps Choose an available friend who doesn’t turn you off, and rewire your brains for a hot and heavy romance.

1. Get emotional together while watching a sad movie.

2. Share an adrenaline rush by jumping out of a plane.

3. Show how competent you are at something, but don’t make a big deal of it.

4. Have him bring home food from the hunt — a good restaurant will do.

5. Eye gaze in bed without talking until it doesn’t feel weird.

6. Role-play each other’sprimal fantasies within reason and without judgement.

7. Sleep together like stacked spoons. Repeat the above until love and lust kick in. Then when they do, send your attraction into overdrive by not seeing each other. That’s when things really get cooking.

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  1. How fabulous, Sara. Congratulations. I look forward to meeting you if you attend conf this year. Oh, and you must pop over to my Calingarry Crossing bar for a chat one day. 🙂

  2. Your book sounds like fun, Sara! I read the bit at the bottom of the post first (no, I don’t know why) and I wondered for a bit if it were a how-to. I bet there’d be a market for it! 😉

  3. Love everything about your book, Sara. And naturally, because romantic comedies are my favourite type of movies. Look forward to reading it.

  4. Hi Sara, I loved Love By Numbers!
    Congratulations on a fabulously entertaining debut.
    Looking forward to reading the next one.


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