Monday, February 12, 2007

Lori Foster GuestBlog: Writing Is Never Routine

Here to celebrate the release of the newest novel in her series with Ultimate Fighting Championship heroes, "Causing Havoc," Lori Foster muses on the writing life. Apparently, it involves lots and lots of caffeine. Please offer up a warm buongiorno to Bella friend, Lori...

So often, someone will ask me how long it takes me to write a book. Or what my writing schedule is like. Or how many hours a week I spend on writing.

My honest answer to all of the above is that I don’t know.

I’m one of those who writes by the seat of her pants, without much of a plan, so that leaves lots of room for variations. How it works in my brain is that a character will appear.
Yeah, just like that.
Poof. He’s there. (It’s usually a “he” not a she.)
Most often, he comes to me in a scene. A conflict. A first meeting with the heroine. A dangerous escape.
Sometimes, but seldom, a love scene.

From there, I start wondering about him. Not even consciously, really, because I can’t recall a time that I’ve ever sat down and tried to figure out a hero. But I’ll wonder who he is and what he’s up to – and by some strange magic, he tells me.
You know, as a quick aside, I have shirts that say:

I’m not schizophrenic, I’m a writer.
I get paid to talk to the people in my head.
Writer’s Block: when your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.

All of them work for me!

As more scenes appear in my brain, I decipher them the best I can and try to figure out which scene is the best place to open a book. And... that’s it.
That’s what I start with.
From there, from day to day or sometimes scene to scene, more stuff just “appears.”
I’m sorry, I know that sounds lame, but that’s what happens. When I try to force the scenes, I almost always write myself into a corner and then I have to walk away from the computer and do something mundane like laundry. Or eat. Or give a friend a call.
Basically, I fiddle around until the hero tells me what I did wrong and what I need to do to fix it.

My schedule – if you can call it that – is pretty flexible depending on what’s happening in my life. The most routine parts are that upon waking, I turn on my coffee and let the dogs out. When they come back in, I have my coffee done and we head upstairs to my desk. I eat a brownie or a chocolate Pop Tart or something along those lines, with my coffee, and I check email. I always have a TON of email. It usually takes me at least an hour to go through it all.

Next, I have some sites online that I check.
My message board
The Running With Quills blog


I get more coffee.
(Isn’t this fascinating?)

After all that, if possible, I write. Ta dum!
By “if possible” I mean if the phone doesn’t ring, or the dogs don’t have a problem, or my grandson isn’t calling “Maw-maw” to me. (My son or my husband do most of his daytime babysitting, but I can’t resist him!)
My other two sons check in almost daily.
Sometimes I need to talk with my agent or editor.
I do a lot of charity work, and sometimes I need to take care of that.
I have a cafe press store where I sell readers and writers stuff (like the shirts I mentioned above) with proceeds going to charities, and sometimes that needs work...

Yes, writing is a priority, but where it falls in the list of my priorities changes from day to day, sometimes hour to hour. (Never does it come before family.)

How long I spend on a book has too many factors to name them all. What is the word count? What’s going on in my life at the time? How easily does the book come to me?
My book lengths are:
Novellas – 25,000 to 30,000 words
Trade(for the L.L.Foster books) – 90,000 words
Mass market – 100,000 to 130,000 words
Obviously, the longer the book, the more complex the plot, the more time it takes to make it all nicely coherent for the reader.

One thing I do that seems to help me a lot is I light a scented candle. Like Pavlov’s dog, that scented candle helps trigger something for me, and I can get into the writing quicker.
I also stick with writing only books that I’m dying to write, and heroes I’m enthusiastic about.
Which right now, means writing about the UFC-type fighters. Talk about yum! They’re perfect for inspiration.

So now I’m wondering... does any of that meet with what you imagined as a writer’s schedule, or her process? Do you think I’m just plain nuts? Do you have something (like scented candles) that helps you get things done? And lastly, do you have strict routines for things, or like me, do you let each day dictate what needs to be done?

Plea from the author: I wrote this blog mega quick, so please don’t check me on grammar, or for that matter, spelling! I’m currently ¾ of the way through my first L.L. Foster book (urban fantasy) due out in October, on top of planning a trip to my first live UFC event March 3rd, and collecting overflowing baskets of author goodies and books to benefit my local no-kill animal shelter, and collecting recipes for a cook book to be published by Samhain in June with proceeds going to my local Battered Women’s Shelter, and finalizing plans for my June 1st–3rd Reader/Author event.
So please be gentle with me. It's enough to drive a crazy person sane.

Encore! Marianne Mancusi is here tomorrow along with a great contest from Dorchester!
Encore due! And don't forget Val Day. Bella fave Anna DeStefano's back with one of her divine contests, and I'm at RidingWithTheTopDown.bgspt.


Playground Monitor said...

It all made perfect sense to me (which may mean we share the same psychoses *g* -- or not). Most creative processes can't be pigeonholed into a strict schedule. Yeah, you might say you're going to write from 9 til noon, but if the words ain't flowing, you'll end up playing online blackjack or doing that laundry thing you mentioned.

People think writers lead such glamorous lives. Uh... they've mixed up Paris Hilton and writers. Most writers I know lead lives of quiet almost-desperation at times cause there's a deadline looming or they have a plot hole you could drive a truck through or a child/grandchild/spouse gets sick and they have to help with that.

I've tried writing to music -- nope, too much distraction, but candles work well. I just have to find ones that smell good to me but don't irritate the DH's allergies.

Everybody wants the life of an author, but (and to quote Simon Cowell "I don't mean to be rude") I don't want your schedule, woman. I'd drop dead from exhaustion the first day. *grin* You're the Energizer Bunny!


Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno Lori and Bellas! Glad someone has some energy. Sheesh. My daughter was home all last week sick as a little dawg. I got a killer sinus infection Thrs and am just dragging off the couch. But I missed youz and am rearing to go at at least 1/2 speed.

Marilyn: I've not made that particular Paris Hilton/writing life mix-up. Must be the dearth of sleazy "writers caught on film" home videos...

Kati said...

Hi Lori! Welcome! Whatever your schedule, I say just keep writing, woman!

I have a career that seems glamorous too. I'm a meeting planner which involves a lot of travel and staying at fancy-pants hotels and eating fancy food. But really, it's 18-20 hour days, trying to be helpful and pleasant when you tell someone for the 500th time where the restrooms are, living with the "it's too cold in there, now it's too hot in there." quandry and of course, my favorite, "What? There's no Diet Coke at lunch? My entire experience is now RUINED!" Don't get me wrong, I love my job, and I've been doing it a long time, and I do get to go nice places and stay in nice hotel rooms (which I usually leave at 5AM and get back to at about 10PM), but it's not all big fun.

I envy you your ability to stay in your jammies all day. I used to love teleworking. I think it's one of the greatest perks in the world! More than that, I envy you the ability to create whole worlds and to spend time with incredibly hot men in your brain!

Michelle - hope the Baby Bella is feelin' better and that you are too! Sending big bouquets of kleenex over to you.

Vivi Anna said...

Hi Lori! Great to 'see' you here at RBTB!

I'm a very scheduled writer. Everything's about order for me, or I can't write. So you can imagine what happens to me when things go haywire...that's right I shut down and can't write. :-(

For example this past week has been one disaster after I havent' written one word on any project...

I envy you going to see UFC live. I love me some tough boys. I used to date this lovely sexy kick boxer named Trevor..mmmmm, he's was HAWT. I used to go to all the matches and sit in the front row and drool over all the the time the bouts were done I was horny as heck!

Does that make me weird???? ;-)

Ann Christopher said...

Ummm, Lori? You eat chocolate pop tarts and brownies for breakfast? How do you stay so thin??? If I did that, I'd weigh 800 lbs. Not that I'm bitter or anything...


Cherie said...

Hi Lori! Funny that you should mention brownies. Fudgy brownies are my favorite dessert. In fact, chocolate serves as a great motivator for me. When I have tasks that need to be done, I try to reward myself with something chocolatey. Nothing big or I will put on the weight but I love Snickers bars and the bite sized ones do the trick. I am a stay at home mom so I don't always have a schedule. With a 4 month old baby girl and a 3 year old boy it is hard to. I have learned to just take each day as it comes.

Cherie Japp

Vivi Anna said...

Ann, I'll be bitter for the both of us...

tetewa said...

The new book Causing Havoc sounds great. Would love to see a UFC event live. Whatever your doing to get your writing done it seems to work. So keep it up!

kim h said...

sounds so good.


I love all of Lori's books and the new one sounds great.

Deborah Chan said...

I've got this book on my to buy list.

Lori Foster said...

Hi Marilyn,
Funny you should mention Paris. My current downtime includes flipping through those crazy mags and seeing all the clothes. But let me tell you - I wouldn't have Paris's life if they paid me to take it. Ick. I like my peace and quiet too much to hang in the limelight so often. LOL
You were sure dead-on about the deadlines! ;-)

Hi MaryKate. I've been sent to nice hotels, and I usually prefer the dives. They're more familiar to me. LOL. Same with restaurants. My favorite places are like... Cracker Barrel and Bob Evans! I can read the menus. ;-)
Living in my flannel pants and sweatshirts is *definitely* a perk of the job!

Hi Vivi anna. Hey, I'm so weird myself that I wouldn't venture say how weird someone else might be. LOL.
I think having 3 kids beat the need for "schedule time" out of me. Now I just fly by the seat of my pants. But... in contrast, my husband and I are very organized. Not scheduled, just organized, if that makes any sense.
Maybe it's an organized chaos? LOL

Hey Ann! Did I just see you at RAD? Was that you?
If not, sorry for mixing ya up. LOL
Well, I'm a grazer, so I eat all day, but I never eat all that much. And I've always had a fast metabolism (thank you, thank you!) so my weight isn't an issue. Lumpy, that's an issue.
Droopy, that's an issue, too. I really need to start exercising or something.
But... when!? LOL



Shuck Ying said...

Whatever you are doing to write your books seem to be working because I think all your books are great.

Lori Foster said...

Cherie, you're a woman after my own heart! Day by day is the way to go with kids that young. Hang in here! BTW, I love Milky Way and Grand candy bars. They're my faves.

Hi Teresa, I'm soooo jazzed about the UFC event. It's going to be great, whether my faves win or not.

Kim, Lisa, Deborah - hi, and thank you!!!

Michele, I so hope you and your daughter feel better soon. We've had that round of ickies running through our house too. It was awful!

Hugs to all!


Julie in Ohio said...

Hey, Lori, Welcome Back!!!

Like my Daddy always says; If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
One persons disorder is another persons filing system.
I am frequently made fun of at work because my desk is quite a mess but ask me for any piece of paper and I'll be able to find it in no time.

Whatever you're doing, keep it up. I can't wait to read "Causing Havoc."

Lori Foster said...

Shuck ying and Julie, thank you! I couldn't change things if I wanted to. Life dictates the disorder. LOL.



Jennifer Y. said...

Hi Lori! I am not feeling so well, but wanted to check in and say that I really enjoy your books!

Julie in Ohio said...

Michelle-- I'm sorry you and your little girl aren't feeling well. I hope yous get to feeling better. Although, if your weather is anything like ours, this is a good time to be snuggled in bed with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book. :o)
I'm sending you some cyber-chicken soup. It cures all viruses. :o)

Wolfy said...

Lori - So great to see you here, your schedule seems to work great because you come up with terrific reads. Anyone who has not read this latest book should do so it is super !! But then that was no surprise, you always write great IMO.

katie said...

Lori, I have ready some of your novellas that are with the plotmonkeys. I will have to check out your novels. If it's not broke, don't fix it!

ev said...

I spent the afternoon catching up on the Nora Roberts' movies on TV amd now
I have to go to work, and hopefully I will be able to come back tonite and read everything.

Hi Lori!!!!

Ann Christopher said...

Oh, good, Lori. If you're dealing with lumps and droops like the rest of us, then I won't hate you over the whole brownie thing like I was planning to! :) Vivi Anna--we'll have to let go of the bitterness thing, won't we?

That WAS me at RAD, Lori--great to see you there!


Lori wrote:

Hey Ann! Did I just see you at RAD? Was that you?
If not, sorry for mixing ya up. LOL
Well, I'm a grazer, so I eat all day, but I never eat all that much. And I've always had a fast metabolism (thank you, thank you!) so my weight isn't an issue. Lumpy, that's an issue.
Droopy, that's an issue, too. I really need to start exercising or something.
But... when!? LOL

Playground Monitor said...

I was gonna mention those chocolate Pop Tarts too and decided to be nice. *g* Glad to know we've all agreed not to be bitter. I had fast metabolism too until the menopause fairy turned it off.


500th blog on the Playground tomorrow
Special Mr. Valentine blog on Wednesday

Lori Foster said...

Jennifer, feel better soon!
Cryna, thank you! :::smooch:::
Ann, yay, I'm glad I had it right. There was such a mob there, and I saw a few people only briefly, that I wasn't 100% sure. :-)

Everyone else - hey there! Hope you all have better weather than what is predicted for us. Lots of snow and ice. Egads!



Lis said...

I usually make soundtracks for each wip to help set up the scenes. Love the 'Writer’s Block: when your imaginary friends won’t talk to you' quote, may have to stick that up above the computer :)

Michele said...

Lori, welcome back! And thanks for the insight into the daily life of a writer.
Sounds like it's as unpredictable as a romantic mystery/suspense novel.
The best thing however,is that you write the HEA.

Darn, I had hoped I'd be here earlier to chat and get the skinny.

Getting skinny is hard to do when eating DH's B-day Cake. Chocolate Butter Cream center with Vanilla Butter cream all over the top.
I think brownies are fine (with nuts-gotta have nuts).
Chocolate poptarts, however... never had one. I'm partial to uncoated blueberry. Bland, I know.

I wish I heard voices in my head.

The way I'm going, I probably will end up writing about the Loudness of Crickets, or If Sound is a Vaccuum, Why Am I Blowing Hot Air?

Anyway, even if you never see this post, glad you come by to share your insight. You are an inspiration!

And Michelle B. Hope your daughter is feeling better. It's tough when they suffer and we can't make it better for them quick enough.
HUGS to you and your daughter.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Thanks, Michele and MK, and Lori and everyone for the get well wishes for Jinny and I! And, Jules, the cyber-chicken soup is mmmm, mmmm good. How did you get those little cover model-shaped noodles to float? They seem a little lopsided, what with the little...oh. OH. They're very realistic...

I'm really impressed when people have definite schedules they can stick with. I work at home and the best-laid plans often go astray. I generally get most work done if I wake really early and work when everyone else is sleeping and nobody can be communicated with online or by email.

My vote is for strawberry frosted Pop-tarts. With a big glass of milk.

Anonymous said...

You are a very busy woman, Lori...but keep on writing because I love your books.


Julie in Ohio said...

Michelle-- I made the noodles myself. You'd be surprised how hard it was to get them just right... :P

Lori-- We are getting that yuckiness up north, too. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a snow day. I could use a "stay in my pjs all day with a good book" kind of day. :o)

Stacy~ said...

Once again, I'm late to the party, and not only was Lori here, but I'm stalking Ann Christopher too LOL. Btw Ann, I was looking for your book this evening at Borders and found out they have to order it - what a bummer. I was so looking forward to reading it this week. Oh well, Amazon here I come...

Lori, I am constantly amazed by your schedule, but I think it keeps the creative juices flowing. I can't wait for your paranormal stuff - how's that coming along (if you're still here, that is).

Hi Bellas!

Lori Foster said...

Hi all. the weather hit. I woke up early to the sound of ice tappppping the windows. That is, ice over about 6" of snow already. Looks like everyone will be home today. Course, that's where I need to be. :-)

Stacy, you know me too well. Maybe Ann will be back, tho. It was so nice of her to come by!
On my paranormal/urban fantasy stuff... it's moving right along and will be out in Oct of this year. Geez, I hope I know what I'm doing. Having never written this before, and doing it "my" way instead of any other way, who knows? Fingers crossed!

Hi Randy and everyone else!

Michele, my chocolate poparts are chocolate on the outside, vanilla cream on the inside and they have vanilla frosting. They are SOOOO yummy.

Michelle B., I also like the frosted cherry every now and then to shake things up. ;-)

Julie in Ohio, be safe. This is really a bad storm. Just west of us, they changed it to a blizzard warning. Egads!

Hugs to all!


Barbarita V said...

I bet it's hard to spend many days behind your keyboard but you write the best sexies books outhere, so Thanks for that.