How I Do It

Many of you told me you’re curious about my personal writing habits. I, too, am naturally curious of the writing habits of authors.

Stephen King has become a legend in his own time primarily because he writes great stories and novels. But he also generously reveals the secrets of his craft, and that has endeared him to countless constant readers who want to know the man behind the legend.

I recently took James Patterson’s Master Class on Writing to learn how Patterson works his magic. James was very forthcoming about his work habits. His course was a revealing experience and worth every dollar.

So let me share some of my work secrets with you. I won’t charge you a dime. But, please remember, what works for me may not work equally well for everyone.

Let me begin with my daily schedule. Today I have three novels in progress: Time, Sledgehammer, and Impossible. I also have three other novels I’m editing for pending publication: Deviants, Spilled Milk, and Mysterious Ways. I have three other novels in the opening chapter phase. I’ll get around to them next.

I am also working on a dozen short stories that are in various stages of completion. I switch between them as ideas come to me. Today I added a few new pages to 2 short stories that are developing nicely.

I began writing this morning at nine, shortly after feeding the three cats, washing my face and brushing my teeth, and fixing black coffee for me. I re-read and revised yesterday’s thousand words of Sledgehammer before beginning on today’s thousand new words. I broke at noon to read 205 new e-mails and make a few short posts to social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

At 1:30, I crafted a fresh post to one of my blogs, then I picked up reading where I left off yesterday on a Neil Gaiman book (Sandman: Overture) I promised to review before its November publication. I have fourteen other ARCs to read and review before their November publication dates. Reviewing books helps me to keep current with what’s being published in my chosen genres. I love to analyze what works and what doesn’t work in fiction. I write my book review as I read, switching between screens as necessary. I finished the review of Sandman: Overture and set it aside to reread tomorrow before sending it off to the publisher and posting excepts to GoodReads, Amazon, and my five blogs.

At 3 PM, I answered a telephone call from my daughter and we talked for a good half an hour. Tammy calls me every afternoon, but she keeps our calls relatively short because, as an author herself, she is cognizant of my work habits and deadlines. While talking with her on the phone, I checked for new e-mails and discovered my program schedule for Windycon includes two panels, one signing, and one reading.

Here is my November 14 Windycon schedule:

Saturday 10:00 Autographing: Hallway: P. Anderson, B. Garcia, M. Oshiro, K. Wynter

Saturday Noon: Beyond Adams and Pratchett: Junior A: What Humorous Science Fiction/Fantasy Do You Love? P.D. Anderson, A. Bentley, R. Garfinkle, C. Johns J. Nye

Saturday 2:00 Is World Building Necessary?  Lilac C: Fritz Leiber, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and others created their worlds as their works evolved.  Can that technique be used by modern authors whose readers have modern sensibilities? T. Akers, P. Anderson, R. Frencl, T. Trumpinski, Gary Wolfe (M)

Saturday 9:00-9:25 Reading: Cypress A: P. Anderson

At 4 this afternoon, I answered a phone call from Lizza regarding a review of Light she wanted to post on Amazon.

At 4:30, I began revising Time. At 6:15, I read several stories submitted for Stoker Long Fiction jury consideration. At 8:00 PM, I worked on Impossible.

At 10:00 PM, I went on Facebook and read today’s new posts while chatting online with Lizza. I posted a few comments to posts on my timeline, and I responded to e-mails that needed replies.

At midnight, I gave the cats a treat, ate a light midnight snack, planned out tomorrow, and went to bed with a book. All 3 cats joined me and demanded fifteen minutes each of petting. Then I read for pleasure until my eyes felt heavy and needed to close.

I write nearly everything on the laptop computer these days. I used to write exclusively on an upright manual typewriter and made revisions by hand on a typed manuscript, but I have used computers since the early-eighties (Smith-Corona Word Processor, Apple IIe, Apple SE, Macintosh, i-Mac, Windows) and I’m comfortable reading and writing and revising electronically. I prefer Microsoft Word to Scribner. I back up my documents to the cloud and to flash drives.

I do the same essential things in the same order every day, holidays and weekends included. I deviate to attend conferences and book signings, and Lizza and I spend two evenings a week watching movies on DVD or at the theater. We eat pizza or Italian beef or Subway sandwiches.

NEXT: I’m a pantser, and my first draft is my outline.

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5 thoughts on “How I Do It

  1. Fascinating! I have a strict writing schedule too, seven days a week. My problem now is fitting in time for promotion and marketing. With the same schedule for so long it’s a hard habit to break, but it’s a must. Can’t sell books if we don’t promote, right? Where do you fit it in?

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  2. I’m the shy, quiet type who finds self-promotion nearly impossible. I know that’s shooting myself in the foot, so I allow myself limited exposure at conventions and bookstore signings. I’ll devote an entire post to marketing (probably a series of posts) in the future to explain my reasoning for what I choose to do. Meanwhile, here is a list of my scheduled appearances for the next year:

    November 13-15, 2015, Windycon, Lombard, IL

    April 28-May 1 2016, World Horror Conention, Provo, UT

    May 12-15, 2016, Stokercon, Las Vegas, NV

    May 27-30, 2016, Wiscon, Madison, WI

    Aughust 17-21, 2016, MidamericonII (World SF Convention), Kansas City, KS

    September 15-18, 2016, Bouchercon, New Orleans, LA

    Events in Rockford

    September 30, 2015 at womanspace, 333 Maria Linden Dr, Rockford, IL Selling Your Writing in Today’s Marketplace

    October 28, 2015 at Rockford Public Library:

    Attention scare fans! Did you know we have our very own creep-tastic author right here in Rockford? Paul Dale Anderson is the author of the Instruments of Death Series, including Claw Hammer and Daddy’s Home. He’s taught creative writing at U of Illinois Chicago and Writers Digest School and is a successful blogger at: http://l.facebook.com/l/qAQE-qgQoAQFtYgmiZe-Mt6hHyM2wrqn2-HzzjQb91l0Row/pauldaleandersonwriter.blogspot.com
    Join Paul at the Nordlof Center for a talk about his writing followed by the movie Psycho. What better way to celebrate hump day in October than with a creepy old guy and a scary movie?!!

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  3. Lizza’s musings: I didn’t know what a “pantser” was! I had to look it up. (https://thewritepractice.com/plotters-pantsers/) I like to think I’m a plotter, but there is something pansteresque about my process. I think I wrote about five different endings for my novel, and submitted it with a plot twist that came right out of that weird space we all inhabit when we’re exhausted and suffering from severe “Magic Number Seven Plus or Minus One..” With regard to your post, I am still mulling over our conversation today over pizza, in which we compared our thoughts on how we are drawn to a book – from mild interest to a compulsion to read. I agree that marketing is an energy drain. Anything that takes a writer away from writing had better be worth it. So how to self-promote, in today’s publishing world where midlist authors have to cultivate the art of essentially saying”READ MY BOOK!?” I think a recommendation or blurb from a major author is a plus. I will read a book that is recommended by Curtis Sittenfeld or J. Courtney Sulllivan or Chris Bohjalian or Diana Gabaldon—who else? Wally Lamb. Liane Moriarty or Laura Moriarty (who, in fact, are not related to each other). Diane Chamberlain, Meg Wolitzer, Donna Tartt (when is she ever going to write another book?) — and, yes, Jodi Picoult.

    So now that my response to your post has turned into a personal digression and a list of my favorite authors, here is a plug for you, Paul Dale Anderson. Take a good, long look at who I read. Anyone who reads my response, consider my list.. And YET— I firmly believe that those with my reading preferences would also not only enjoy but become addicted to the Winds series — and I daresay that even though they are by no means chick lit, they are definitely literary fiction within the realms of genre-bending. They are marvelous. I asked you yesterday, in that phone call about a review for Amazon, “HOW am I supposed to review your books?” And this segued into my question, “Paul Dale Anderson, how do you do it?” How indeed do you do it? I see your workflow above; I am more than honored to be one of your digressions. (smile) But you simply have an extra chip, rather like the individual who can replicate music by ear with no sheet music. You write by ear. By soul. And yes – by discipline. But you have a great gift. Yup, I’m your girlfriend, but I’m also a fierce critic and I am extremely fussy about what I will read. You get it right – the tone, the cadence, the storytelling. And sadly, I’m not the person to promote you. I want to hear you interviewed on “All Things Considered.” I want to read an article about you in a scholarly book selection periodical. You’ve already nailed it with a great review of Light from Kirkus. I want a blurb from Stephen King to appear on the jacket of your next book. I want every indie bookseller in the country (how many are left?) to hand-sell your book, and every librarian to talk it up.

    So – anyone from the Rockford area reading this, do show up at the Nordlof Center on October 28 for the event you listed: a talk followed by a showing of the movie Psycho. I promise you that this panster will scare the pants off you, and leave you wanting more!

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