A Day in the Writing Life of JM Bray

MarkLet’s welcome JM Bray to A Day in the Writing Life. Mark is one of our American members and currently resides in sunny California where I’d currently like to be (it’s pouring outside and freezing).

In one or two sentences, please tell us what genre you write in and what made you decide that particular one is your calling.
Romantic Fantasy. For me, the key is including things beyond normal. As a reader, I’ve always loved Fantasy, Horror and Sci-Fi, so when I started writing my brain went there straightaway. The romance comes in because I’m in love with love.

What time of the day do you write? Are you a morning, night-owl or anytime writer?
Hmmm…I guess I’m an anytime kind of guy. The key for me is getting the ball rolling, once I do I’m off and running.

Where do you write?
I do most of my writing in our family room. Our kids are grown and gone, and my wife goes to work at the crack of dawn. If I have a writing day it’s just our two dogs, the laptop and me. Like most authors, I’m still working, besides writing. I currently substitute teach school, which gives me days in the week to write.

Do you have your own special place?
I have an office and rarely use it to write. I do, however, knock out most of my editing there. That’s mainly because I can run two screens, which I find immensely helpful.

Does the location vary?
At times. I’ve written everywhere from Starbucks to a hospital waiting room.

Are there any particular rituals you do to set the mood / harness your muse?
She seems to like soft music playing in the background. Keren Ann, Jose Gonzales, A.A. Bondy and Carla Bruni are my go to Pandora stations.

What’s the first thing you do before you begin to write?
I’m not a ritual guy, so I don’t do any particular thing. I use a laptop, so maybe that’s it. While I might jot an idea by hand, I never write longhand.

Do you spend much time reading over the previous day’s work?
No. I use Scrivener to write and looking at the title of the previous chapter or scene is all I need. I’m blessed/cursed with a ridiculous memory for things I’ve read. I can’t find my car keys, but if I read a book ten years ago I can still remember the story.

Do you have a special system in place in order to begin writing or go with the flow?
I go with the flow, totally.

Are you a plotter / planner or a pantser?
I’m a poster-boy for pantsers. If I try to plot I get mentally constipated.

Do you edit as you go or prefer to edit after completion of the ms?
My editing brain and writing brain do not mix, maybe it’s part of being a pantser. I have to get it all down first.

Do you have a schedule that you follow for your writing time? Are you a goal setter with your writing?
No, and no. For me, either of those things are anti-pantser. When it happens, it happens, usually to the tune of 500 to 4000 words a day.

Do you use whiteboards, posters, visual aids to help in your creativity?
When I start a novel I randomly scrawl the basic concepts on a 4’ x 7’ mirror in my office. My daughter said it reminded her of the movie A Beautiful Mind or that maybe I’m a little insane. Everything else in the story happens in my head.

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 write till my mind starts to lose focus, then I get up walk around, maybe play a video game and then go back at it.

Can you name five objects that are always on or near your work desk while you write? Since it’s usually a couch or overstuffed chair rather than a desk, let’s see…a water bottle, a sleeping dog, and an Xbox One controller. Everything else is in flux.

Is your writing space messy, organized or somewhere in between? Mark desk
My writing space is usually uncluttered and includes a view into the back yard. My desk is a mess, maybe that’s why I don’t write there.

What is your favourite form of procrastination?
The internet. It’s a black hole of time suck.

Do you have any tips to beat off that old foe “procrastination”?
Shut off your internet browser. Not just minimise it, quit the program. That way it can’t “remind” you of what Bill tweeted to Sally or the latest sale at the hardware store.

What’s the last thing you do before you finish your daily writing session?
Finish a scene. I can’t leave things hanging or I literally can’t stop thinking about it. The words have to come out. Maybe my daughter is right about the slightly insane thing.

Thanks Mark!

MendingTheShroud_Final copyMending the Shroud, part two of the Shroud Trilogy is available from all good etailers now. Links here.

You can find Mark at his website here.

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  1. jladdicoat

     /  August 29, 2014

    Mark, don’t worry, madness and insanity is a prerequisite to being an Author. Who else have people in their heads telling them what to write next.
    Congratulations on the release of mending the shroud and I’m glad to see a man writing romance. It can’t be all one sided.

    • Jladdicoat, I totally agree on the madness. As a panster it’s especially interesting when the characters take over…in the writing process, that is 😉 If they jump in bed with my wife, it’s a whole different thing.

      Hopefully my man-view of romance will resonate with readers. Thanks for the congrats and for stopping by!

  2. Dee

     /  August 29, 2014

    Thanks Mark! It’s interesting to hear how others write…& I so agree with turning off the internet. It is a ‘time suck!’

    • Dee, Awesome that you enjoyed it! Of course you notice that I didn’t exclude my video game console. It’s, um, ah, therapeutic. I’ll go with that.

  3. Loved hearing how unstructured your writing process is…someone else like me 🙂 … and if the internet did not exist I wold write so much more. Good luck with the series.

    • Thanks, Joann. Writing is a very free flowing, shiftable thing for me. I have to let things ‘mull’, to get the good stuff to the surface. That sometimes takes a while, but once they do the unstructured thing works to my benefit, letting me write whenever or wherever I am.

  4. Well put. Mental constipation. Yes. That is totally what it’s like if I try to plot. All bound up and nowhere to uh, go. I like organic: pantsing — or puzzling — lots of pieces that I have to fit together. May have to try scribbling on a mirror.

    • The mirror is an incredible tool. For me it’s long term, I scrawl, then leave it all there until the book is finished. I might add, but rarely remove or change things. It’s a thick, plate mirror. Not to sound too esoteric, but the way the words sort of float on the surface of the glass almost makes them dimensional. It really works to spur my thoughts.

  5. Plot?? I tried, and yes, Mental constipation is the perfect description. Trouble is now I’m at a place with my WIP where choices spiral out like bicycle spokes, which direction to I choose. Thanks RWA and JM, it’s great, thought provoking blog 🙂

    • Go Pantsers!

      Now, Louise, I will get esoteric. :-0

      I visualize the possible story paths and points as balloons, floating on the ceiling with ribbons hanging down. (My are red, with white ribbons. I have no idea why.) When I take a path I start tying the ribbons together. I can always tie in another, shift them, or take one or more out but I know the others are still there.

      Sandra said it very well. It’s like puzzling.

      Thanks for stopping by for a provocation! 😉

  6. I love that you are in love with love JM. I always thought I was a pantser but now I realise I am an outliner if I do more than that I also suffer from mental constipation too

    • Thanks for the great grin your comment produced, Cassandra. Love, or the lack of it, sets so much of life into motion.

  7. Love your description of trying to plot! Pantsers of the world all require heavy duty mental laxatives! Welcome to RWA…

  8. C A Speakman

     /  August 29, 2014

    I really like the mirror idea. After going to workshops warning of the evils of not storyboarding/outlining/etc. I tried to drop my pants(er) but my creativity ended up in a straightjacket with my derriere hanging out in the cold. Mental constipation is a great analogy. Thank god my CP is great at giving me (re)laxatives to keep the words flowing.

    • There are plenty of very successful pansters. (Stephen King) Hang tough, CA. Good CP’s are tough to come by. I’m glad you found one who’s helpful. 😀

  9. LOVE the mirror thing. I am so doing that.

    • We need to start a Pinterest group and pin pictures of them. :-)p I’m glad the idea is helpful!

  10. I enjoyed the look into your process. Thanks! The mirror idea sounds intriguing. Any particular reason for a mirror?

    • Thanks for stopping over, Carol. 🙂

      The mirror.

      I’d love to make it sound planned and deeply pondered, but the truth is it was happenstance. The room was my oldest daughter’s and we’d allowed them to decorate as they wished. We’d found the huge plate mirror at a garage sale and nabbed it. When she moved out I took over her room as an office and the mirror remained.

      Then, when had the idea for Tearing the Shroud, I jotted ideas on it, before starting. When I say the are random, I’m not kidding. Character names, here and there, bits of ideas in no particular order, nothing written on a straight line. Once they land there, I leave them, until the book is done, done. So, on the occasions i am in my office, I look up at it, and the room is reflected, with the words hanging there like they are coming out of my head. Putting it this way sounds a little silly, but there’s something about it…something magical.



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