Monday, September 1, 2014

When Do You Write by Anna Adams and Melinda Curtis

Writers are often asked when they write. For Melinda Curtis and Anna Adams, it's become a case of how they write. They're both able to choose unconventional hours, and that helps, but if you have trouble getting words down - for a blog, a journal, or a book - maybe you should consider sprinting.

What is sprinting? You decide to write either alone or collectively during a specific time period - an hour or two. There is no social media allowed during this time and you better have hit the potty and refilled your coffee cup as well. Penalties help if you need motivation - shaming, dollars in the dinner fund, etc.  This isn't a new idea. But recently, Anna Adams and Melinda Curtis rediscovered the joys of sprinting together. They've decided to let you in on their sprinting sessions where they tag each other through text messages.

Anna: Here's how we start. Usually, it's me pinging Melinda.

Melinda: (Clearly this screenshot is from my phone where I identify myself by my puppy's picture - Anna, I need a picture of you.) We check in after an hour. Please note that Anna always has more words than I do in the first hour. I suck wind in the first hour (either that or she's fudging numbers...hhmmm).

Anna: I'd never fudge numbers! But I do fudge. Social media. I take a second to scan Twitter or FB. I answer texts from my daughter or the phone or door. But I'm painfully aware of our more honest friend, Melinda, out there, having collected her coffee and made sure she won't be slacking a second of the hour, and that gets me back to work. Otherwise a second of slacking could easily turn into hours of procrastination.

Melinda: Okay, apologies. I'm slow (the irony of sprinting, I suppose - she's the hare, I'm the tortoise). Even when we edited together you blew right by me page-wise. This second shot indicates I'm editing and Anna is racking up the words (despite all her distractions).

Anna: I don't think Melinda gives herself enough credit. Sometimes I'm faster. Sometimes, I'm asking why I don't run away and start a new online identity, so I don't have to 'fess up to Melinda how little work I've managed to complete.  Oh--that's the biggest benefit of sprinting to me. Accountability. I work harder, knowing I have to tell Melinda how hard I'm working.

And now your turn: Whether it's writing or a household chore, what do you do to make things go faster or easier? We know we'll hear a lot from Heartwarming writers, but any other writer or reader who comments is in the running to win a $5 gift card (either to Amazon from book-crazy Anna or from Starbucks from coffee-crazy Melinda).

Anna Adams and Melinda Curtis, along with their friend, Anna Stewart, have the pleasure of writing the first novella collection for the Harlequin Heartwarming line. Christmas, Actually is set in Christmas Town where local tradition has it that a kiss underneath the town square gazebo on Christmas Eve means wedding bells for the couple in the new year. Follow the highs and lows of the Banning siblings as they journey toward a happy holiday with a bonus kiss!

39 comments:

  1. It sounds like so much fun when you talk about it!

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    1. It is fun, Liz, as if you're working next to one of your best friends--and I get so much work done on sprinting days!

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  2. Ahhhh, sprinting time can be SO productive! You guys are really racking up the word counts. :) It depends on where I am in the book (drafting, editing, polishing) what my goals for the day are, but I've finally gotten serious with the having to something with the WIP every day. Maybe I'll start putting little star stickers on my calendar. Great post, guys!

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    1. Anna, I've sprinted through writing, editing, line edits and galleys. It can all be done! I just make myself understand what kind of count I'm looking for, and realize that forward movement is progress. I like writing best, but writing the original draft is always going to be my favorite part of the process!

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  3. We're back to sprinting tomorrow! Yay!

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    1. I can't wait! Working around holiday planning today. Looking forward to a full work/sprint day!

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  4. I don't think this would work for me, but I'm so glad it does for you ladies. I have tried NaNoRiMo twice and my brain froze. Instead of writing more I shilly shllied around and wrote virtually nothing. Is this like free writing like you just toss down words and edit later? Interesting concept.

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  5. It is sort of like free writing, Roz. Speaking for myself, I have a plan, and I use Scrivener so I use the sidebar to list the scenes I write while sprinting. It's actually cut dramatically into the frozen, staring at screen moments for me. ;-) I have to edit later, but it's not always just to fix the stuff I threw at the screen without thinking. I guess, because I'm thinking. ;-) Mel may have a different process for the initial drafting of a story than mine (she's traveling today), but she's also sprinted through editing. I think it's more a matter of keeping focus on writing vs. anything else that distracts us--an hour at a time.

    So nice to "see" you, Roz. And any time you want to give it a try...

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  6. Wonderful to have a plan that works for you to keep you writing. I go through spurts – sessions when I’m writing non-stop followed by periods of rest. But even though I’m away from the computer, my brain still focuses on my story and what I need to do next.

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    1. Marion, I've been so busy lately, I sort of fell into writing the scenes I knew, and then they started giving me the other scenes. Sprinting is also a good way for me to stop second guessing myself to create a perfect draft, which never exists for me.

      I agree with you about the brain working when you're on to some other activity. If I get lodged in a scene and can't make it work the way I thought it was going to, I take a swim and the water usually fixes me! ;-)

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  7. NanoRiMo is on my list of things to do... when I get time. I'm too busy writing to think about other ways to write. It would be cool to have a check in partner.

    Anna, I just purchased Scrivener and am about to take a class on how to use it.

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    1. I took the tutorial years ago, Pamela, and it was good, but right now, I'm only using one aspect of it. I'm interested in the corkboard features for sure!

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  8. Good morning Mel and Anna - and everybody! Whatever works is wonderful. I'm probably too old school for all your wonderful new methods. I have notes everywhere that I often have to shuffle for, a brain vortex of thoughts - some useful, some not, and I stare at the computer, praying for flow. But I have to do it by myself.

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    1. I've definitely done your way, too, Muriel. In fact, I'm doing it now, with Scrivener. I'm just following the synopsis when I'm sprinting with Mel. :-) And I wonder if we didn't explain it well enough. One of us just notifies the other we're available for an hour. We agree to sprint, and then we work on our own work for the next hour and report in progress, whether it's pages edited, words written, or AAs read. It's been really good for my focus.

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  9. When I start a new book, I set a goal of 15,000 words each week. That breaks down to 3,000 words a day for 5 days. If I make the 3k a day, I take the weekend off, if not, I keep going until I get the 15K. Some nights I'm up until 11:30 trying to squeeze out that 3K. :-)

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    1. Wow, Patricia. You have a lot of focus. That's really great focus. I feel your pain hanging out trying to get those last words for the count!

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  10. Sprinting. What a great idea! I tried Book in a Week once--but found it frustrating, I think because it was too big a chunk by far to deal with in that short a period. I try to set a goal each week of 1-2 finished chapters (made the max last week!) and at least a scene per day but often do more. I'm stumbling along through Scrivener now--and like it--on what Stephen King calls my "toy truck" book, one that isn't under contract with a deadline. Unlike the WIP right now. I'm with you, Anna! I love writing first draft.

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    1. Leigh, you're welcome to let us know you'd like to join in, any time! I agree with you about BIAW. I've tried it many times, had success, but also failed. This works for me because I hope for a certain goal, but mostly, on days Mel and I are sprinting, I manage to do more than I'd hoped for!

      Yay, for a yummy first draft! Hope your toy truck turns into a competitor for Tonka!

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  12. Thanks guys--this is so interesting! I like the accountability aspect of this concept. I do a form of this sprint-writing because I'm not as good at multitasking as I thought LOL! I have to write my first draft without distractions. I'm big on getting words down and then fixing them later--it keeps my 'screen-staring' down to a minimum.

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    1. I have another friend who does it your way, Carol. I'm always envious when she's flown through her first draft. But I don't love editing as much as she does. Thus the struggle to make everything perfect (as if anything we write is as perfect as it appeared in our minds), and then I start double-doubting. Sprinting is working for me right now. :-)

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    2. I'm so amazed and grateful for what I learn on this blog!

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  13. What a great post! I definitely need to work on this accountability piece. I set impressive goals and they're probably doable but someone needs to make me sit in my chair and concentrate. This focus is the part I have trouble with.

    says Cheryl, who is supposed to be writing RIGHT NOW

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    1. LOL, Cheryl! As I admitted, I'm not as good at fending off the distractions, but knowing I'm going to have to report some numbers to Mel keeps me honest!

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  14. I've sprinted, but only with myself and an egg timer. I'm good about not hitting social media during sprints, but I have gotten off track with uncontrollable distractions like the school calling, doorbell ringing because delivery needs a signature, smoke coming out of the oven because I didn't set THAT timer etc... LOL. Your team effort text sprints made me smile :). Fun!

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    1. Honestly, Rula, I'm worse with the life distractions. We're having some work done on the house, and backhoes, and cement trucks are really loud, as are the calls that this guy or that one isn't able to show up.

      But tomorrow, Mel will be available, and we will sprint again! :-)

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  15. I have never tried this but maybe it would work. My productivity is sporadic at best. I get interrupted constantly and when I have peace and quiet, I get antsy and have to get up and move every once and awhile. It might help to work with someone like you guys do - it's like working out. If you are accountable to someone else, you show up. When you're alone, you will cheat!

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    1. Amy, that's exactly the way it works for me. I still waned a bit, but I know I'm going to be embarrassed if I have to report mega-wandering and no words to Mel! ;-)

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  16. What a cute post. I love how you all like to help each other out. For me (I'm not a writer....at least not yet), I like listening to audiobooks when I'm doing chores like preparing a meal or unloading the dishwasher. I often resort to some of my favorite classics like Jane Eyre, or I'll put on any one of Jane Austin's books. When I need to feel happy, I'll pop in Anne of Green Gables or Heidi or something childish that allows me to dream. I need a little happy right now because I did something to my back and I'm in bad shape. ) :

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  17. Hey, Laurie! Sorry about your back. I used to listen to books on dvd when I was still working at my day job. I've lost track with audiobooks, but I love to listen to classic radio shows in the car. You don't mention Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, but I'm positive you must have read/listened to it? It was my mother-in-law's favorite book ever, and I bought a copy in Los Angleles once, when we were moving from Hawaii to Virginia. I was going to read a few pages, and I need up spending several sleeping-designated hours propped in a hotel bathroom, finishing it!

    Hope you feel well soon!

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    1. Thx Anna, and yes I love The Secret Garden. I listen to classic books at Librivox.org. It's free; the readers are volunteers and some are EXCELLENT! My favorite reader is Elizabeth Klett who goes by the name Gloriana. I love her Jane Eyre reading. Thx for the great post. ( :

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    2. Laurie, thanks for this excellent information. I'm going to investigate right now! And I'll look for Elizabeth Klett's readings! Thanks again!

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  18. This has to be one of my all-time favorite posts! It had me smiling from start to finish. . . and not just because Melinda uses a pic of her puppy on her phone!

    I look forward to reading your novella collection.

    Thank you for the entertaining post, ladies!

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    1. How nice to see you, Kate! LOL on Mel's pic of Tally! I'll be sending her one of George, my kitten this week!

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    2. Perfect! I look forward to seeing George's pic in a future post.

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  19. Melinda will be along to choose winners! Thanks, everyone for stopping by today! Lovely to talk to you all!

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  20. You guys are the best!! Thank you so much!! This is the best blog....such great topics from such talented authors. It's a pleasure to stop by and visit with all of you as often as I can. ( :

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