Tag Archives: Writing Process

I like runts. And mambas. And sour patch kids. I’m sorry.

I am dead tired.

But feeling good about life.

I also feel good about John Cusick and this interview.

He really does mean what he says and he says good good things.

I don’t have enough energy to get into my underwear situation like I had hoped. Or my marriage advice–because I have a lot. Instead I am going to encourage you all to go to the store and buy your favorite childhood candy and then set it up, right by your computer, eat a little, eat some more, and then write.

Write write write. That’s my goal. to just write without worrying about the end. Whether it will be good. Whether it fits with other things I”ve written. Whether it’s YA or MG or PG. Just write. And have fun. And maybe color. I might get out my crayons and color and write and eat candy.

We all should. Nerds and gobstoppers baby.


Filed under Ann Dee, Life, writing process

Books on my Lawn

I am tired.

I did not write one thing today.

I also roasted a chicken.

Do not roast a chicken in a hot house. It makes the house hotter. Who knew?

On Saturday we cleaned out our basement. I mean we moved out all the boxes and boxes of books onto the back lawn. We moved here last September and we are finally getting to that one room where I shoved everything that had no place. Including my boxes and boxes of books. This house, our old new house, has no built in shelves. Our last house had shelves. And shelves and shelves and shelves. Heaven.

Here? None.

We started to unpack the books and there was no where to put them.

So I hauled them out so I could think better.

Right now, three days later, those boxes are still out there. Waiting. In the dark. With the deer.  Waiting for me to put them away. Waiting for me to bring them in from the cold. The hot. The hose. The boys. All my books (almost all) are in peril and here I am in my bed complaining about being tired.

Do you throw away books? Donate them? keep them and keep them and keep them because they are books and you don’t throw away books or donate them or sell them or do anything but keep them?

I was trying to figure out what to do with them.

My brain does not organize. I can lift stuff, move stuff, vacuum stuff. I cannot figure out where things should go. What’s the most practical place to put boxes and boxes of books until I get some shelves?

The garage? Move them back into the spare room? The shed? I asked my husband.

Just tell me where to put things and I will, he said.

That’s the problem, i have no idea where to put them. Should we get new carpet? Why are the baby toys in the Christmas box? What were we just talking about?

Sometimes I think I would be the cleanest house person in the world if my brain worked right. If I put things away and was all organized and everything had a place and things had labels and I folded my underwear. I would be so clean because I am always cleaning. Cleaning cleaning cleaning. But I never get anywhere.

I am too distracted. Too impulsive. Too scattered.

I think about my writing. Is this how I am? I think yes. Is this bad? I think yes. And no. What if I had a different brain. What if I could write with an outline? What if I knew where things were going and why they were going to go there? Would it be easier? Do most writers have scattered lives with tricycles tied up with climbing rope all over their yard and boxes and boxes of books in their garden? Will I one day have cabbage patch kids riding big wheels in my flower beds?

I know we all have our own process but sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it to try to train your way to a different process. I mean wouldn’t it be nice to clean something and have it stay cleaned? To know exactly where the scissors are when you need them? To start a novel knowing the end before you know the beginning? I wonder.

Please don’t take my books. They are helpless.


Filed under Uncategorized

Writing is Vomiting: An Extended Analogy by the distinguished Dr. Chris Crowe

I’m not exactly sure why Carol and Ann Dee chose to name their blog “Throwing Up Words,” but when I woke up at 4:48 this morning, it occurred to me that their blog label is more apt than even they may have imagined.

In many ways, very many ways, writing is like vomiting:

•                     it occurs only after some rumination

•                     there’s usually some internal stirring that signals it’s about to—or needs to—happen

•                     the process is usually difficult and unpleasant

•                     you feel much better when it’s over

And everyone who has ever experienced writing or vomiting knows that the end result of vomiting/writing is always the same: what was once inside is now outside.

Just as writing varies by author and genre, vomiting varies by puker and content, but there’s really no essential distinctive quality of vomit.  Minor differences exist in the mode of emission and in the content of the vomitus, but when it comes right down to it (or perhaps, right up to it) vomiting is vomiting is vomiting, regardless of what you call it:


















Because vomiting comes so naturally, some people, such as the famous basketball coach Bobby Knight, believe that writing is no big deal.  “All of us learn to write in the second grade,” the grumpy coach once said to a bunch of sports writers.  “Most of us go on to greater things.”

Of course, vomiting is even easier than writing because it doesn’t have to be learned.  If something nasty gets inside us and doesn’t want to stay there, it’ll find its way out whether we want it to or not (and if it’s really nasty, it’ll use both exit ports at the same time).  That doesn’t mean, however, that all vomiting is automatic.  Some people, because they’re sick—physically or emotionally—try to induce to vomiting.  That’s another parallel to writing, isn’t it?  When writers are blocked, they’ll go to great lengths to unleash the partially-digested words within.

Different kinds of emetics exist for writers and pukers.  Pukers use the handle of a spoon, their index finger, or a teaspoon of ipecac syrup to trigger their spew.  Old time pukers (and old-time doctors) used a dose of algarot or antimony to purge the body of icky stuff in the gut.  Writers have emetics of their own.  Old-timers like William Faulkner or Ernest Hemingway relied on liquor to help them throw up words—and sometimes their lunches, too.  Some hard-core writers have snorted coke or mainlined heroin to nauseate the muse lurking in their bellies.  The more genteel among us use different methods to launch the spew of words: freewriting, pacing, guilt, goals, deadlines, and other such stuff.

But what I really wanted to get in this rambling barfy blog is the real genius in the title of Carol and Ann Dee’s blog: we can classify writers much the same way we can classify vomiters.  Here are some classifications I’ve come up with.  I’ve even added some names that seem to fit each category well.  I’m sure you’ll be able to find a category that suits you or one of your writing buddies:

Buffet Vomiters: the writers who can and do publish every kind of book for every kind of audience (Rick Walton)

Bulimic Vomiters: the absurdly prolific writers who can’t make themselves stop writing (Meg Cabot, Jessica Day George, Carol Lynch Williams, James Patterson)

Closed-mouth Swallowers: people who write often and well but refuse to stop rewriting or to submit their work (Cheri Earl)

Dry-heavers: writers who write lots of first lines or first pages but nothing else (most of us at one time or another)

Nauseated Non-emitters: people who constantly feel like writing but never get around to doing it (most of us at one time or another)

Pepto-Bismal Addicts: writers who are masters of avoidance, who find varied and ingenious ways to avoid writing (Chris Crowe)

Projectile Vomiters:  writers whose books make a very loud and a very big splash (James Dashner, Shannon Hale, Stephenie Meyer, JK Rowling, Sara Zarr)

Seinfeld Vomiters (“I haven’t thrown up since June 29, 1980”): writers who never get around to that next book (Chris Crowe, Harper Lee, Margaret Mitchell. . . notice how subtly I’ve managed to place myself among such lofty company?)

Spit-uppers: prolific writers who write short books (Rick Walton)

Sprayers: writers who vainly try to stifle their own flow (sometimes I wish there were more writers like this)

If I’ve whetted your appetite for more information about vomiting, check out this fine wikipedia article on the art and practice of puking: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vomiting


Filed under Uncategorized

Where Does Your Writing Muse Work Best?

Lucky, lucky us. For next two months or so, Amy Finnegan will be our guest blogger. Woot woot! We’re happy about this because Amy know TONS about the writing world. And she also does lots of research for EACH blog. Here’s her little introduction: Amy Finnegan has been an event coordinator for Utah Children’s Writers and Illustrators. She was the first place winner in the children’s and young adult category of the 76th Annual Writer’s Digest Competition. She ate an entire bag of strawberry Twizzlers while writing this blog entry. Admitting that in third person POV makes her feel less guilty about it.

One Friday night a month, I stay overnight at a Hampton Inn that is less than ten minutes from where I live. I leave my husband and three kids at home, and instead take my laptop, food to last me 24 hours, a small overnight bag, and my two pillows that I can’t sleep without.

I check in at 10 AM on Friday, and get a 2 PM Saturday checkout. At some point, I sleep about 5-6 hours, but otherwise, I work, work, work.

I’m not sure why my writing muse is so comfortable in that environment, but I get more done in one day at this Hampton Inn than I do in a week or more writing elsewhere. It just works for me.

But I can’t be a truly productive writer if I only write one day a month. I need to find a way to be less distracted at home, clear my mind, and get into this same Hampton Inn zone at my own desk.

So I’m on a quest to learn what other writers do to be their most productive. Do they have a secluded office with classical/rock/reggae music playing? Inspirational books/quotes/posters around them? I’d like to find the best of the best ideas and mash them all together into an environment that helps me focus.

If you need that, too, I hope you can also learn something from the following authors who agreed to share a bit about their current workspace. I also asked what their “dream” writing environment would be like.

Jessica Day George said:
I work either sitting at the kitchen counter or at a table at the local library.  If I’m at the kitchen counter, then there are probably children running about and I’m only typing with half my concentration.  If I’m at the library, then there are probably children running about (although not my own) and I am only typing with half my concentration while I wonder when the public library became a daycare.  I would like to have my own room, with a comfy chair, and a desk for when I’m feeling tense and must sit up in a businesslike fashion.  There would be enormous bookcases full of my favorite books, and a sound system softly playing a Kennedy CD.

You can learn more about Jessica’s MG & YA novels at:

Ann Dee Ellis:
I write in bed. Always. I know this is weird and it’s even weirder when I try to write at the library or somewhere away from home and I realize I need to lay on the floor or on some couch to get into my groove. I also am terrible at writing consistently but when I do do it, it’s at night after the kids are asleep. My dream environment? I dream of waking up, having a nice breakfast. Maybe yoga or jogging. A long shower where I use a loofah or something like that. Then writing from nine to eleven. Maybe noon. I feel like I’d write beautiful things if I wrote from nine to noon. My head clear. My soul rejuvenated. The birds chirping. One day. Or not.

You can learn more about Ann Dee’s YA novels at:

Mette Ivie Harrison:
I moved recently into our “exercise room,” which includes a couch, treadmill, TV, stationary bike, lots of bookshelf space, my desk and computer, my filing cabinet, and a closet full of games and craft stuff.  I also have a window, albeit a basement one.  I suspect this is my ideal work space.  I love that it is quiet and cool, and that I have a heater to turn on to feel “cozy.”  I love that books are all around me, and that it is hard to find me, and that I can’t hear the doorbell when it rings.  The kids have to walk all the way downstairs to ask me if I want to talk to the salesperson at the door.  I don’t.  Also, there is usually plenty of chocolate there.  I write as soon as the kids are off to school, which is about 8:30.  I write for as long as I can, taking little breaks in between to break it up.  I play on the internet or get a snack and then back to the grindstone.  I take lunch at 11:30 most days, unless I’m in the zone.  Then I go back to work unless I have to do some real world stuff like shopping or appointments.  Or dishes and laundry.

You can learn more about Mette’s YA novels at:

Kristyn Crow:
My workspace is my laptop on the dining room table in the center of my house.  In other words, I don’t use an office.  There are several reasons for this.  a) From my vantage point in the dining room, I can monitor both the kitchen and the front door.  So I’m able, for example, to stop one or more of my seven kids from drinking straight from the milk carton, or from eating an enormous bowl of cereal five minutes before dinner, or from disappearing out the front door to some remote location.  You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.  b) The room I used to use as an office slowly morphed into a computer gaming zone, and I was competing against explosions, robots on the rampage, and bloodthirsty dinosaurs.  c) When I did use that room for an office, it got a little claustrophobic.  I love having a laptop because I can move around and change my scenery as I see fit.  Even if I don’t move around, the idea that I can if I want to is nice.   This year my youngest child started first grade, so I’m finally home during the day with time to write while all the children are gone. My dream writing environment would be sitting outside on a porch or balcony with a breathtaking view.  (As long as there weren’t any bugs. If there are bugs, give me the same view from a huge window in a roomy office.)

You can learn more about Kristyn’s Picture Books at:

Carol Lynch Williams:

At this moment my office is filled with boxes because we are moving in a week or two. Before that, though, it held my desk, a bookshelf, and our grand piano. I LOVE to write when my daughter (yes, our Kyra) practices her classical pieces. I do have a dream office in mind, though. It would be huge–large enough for all my girls to settle in with me. And there would be wall-space enough in the room to hold all my books. Finally, it would stay clean. And there would be a comfy chair for me to read in–though I’m not sure I would ever read there.

You could learn more about Carol’s books if she would ever update her website and make it look professional.

So, writers, what is your own workspace like? What would be your dream writing environment?

Tips I found online (some of the best are in the reader comment sections):






Filed under Uncategorized