History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

16 February 2011

The Writer's Process: How Do You Reward Yourself?

I juggle historical fiction and nonfiction, and lately I've found myself feeling a lot like the circus performers or vaudevillians who keep a row of plates spinning atop individual stalks, running back and forth up and down the line, giving each plate just the right push to keep it in motion so that all of the plates are spinning at the same velocity and none of them crash to the floor. An agile performer can also stop all of the plates from spinning without breaking a dish.

I've got five literary plates in the air these days, and it's taking every waking moment, plus every ounce of my concentration to keep them all airborne. I can't schedule vacations. Heck, I hardly take breaks.

But when I complete a manuscript and hit "send" to dispatch it through cyberspace to an editor, something happens inside my brain -- the equivalent of "Now comes Miller time!" to quote a famous beer commercial. And after analyzing my behavior over the past several completed books, I've discovered my pattern.

I find myself needing to shop.

Clothes. Shoes. Linens. But clothes mostly. In the past, this entailed physical excursions to (e.g.) Macys, Banana Republic, or my favorite little boutiques on the Upper West Side. Now I find myself surfing the net and scrolling through hundreds of images of dresses on sale at Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom. Or I venture outside my comfort zone and wonder if Topshop sells clothes that would fit my body type (we'll see). Or whether I'd look good in the white Reiss dress that Kate Middleton wore for her engagement photos (I don't).

Invariably, 90% of what I order during my "post-submitted manuscript behavioral reward interludes" gets mailed back to the point of origin because it doesn't fit. And as a respite from thinking so hard, for lack of a better phrase, my brain may need to scroll through photos of garments more than my body needs to wear them -- and certainly more than my credit card needs to fund them!

But this seems to be part of my writer's process, so I thought I would post it and ask my fellow authors to share with our readers how they tend to reward themselves after finishing a book.

Chocolate? Champagne? Massages? A vacation? A nap? And at what stage in the process do you tend to reward yourself?


Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I reward myself with sushi, a private dance lesson, a new dress or shoes, but mainly ordering books and DVDs from Amazon.co.uk. Last year, I rewarded myself with the trip of a lifetime, the first ever Anne Boleyn experience. Staying at Hever Castle for 4 days was a welcome respite before coming home to tackle my revisions.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

I'm with you feeling somewhat strung out and frenetic. In the past year I skipped my 40th birthday, having a part to celebrate buying my first house, all holidays (including Halloween, which just about killed me), and having any kind of life. The only days I wasn’t working in 2010, I was in Orlando at conference (which is just another form of working IMO).

I just turned in book two and you know how I celebrated? I took a single day off to lay on the couch with the dog and watch all the episodes of Supernatural that have built up unseen on my DVR. Next day, it was back to work . . .

Sometimes I feel like Lucy in the chocolate factory. *sigh* But at the same time, I really LOVE writing, and I love finishing a book, and I love sharing that book with readers.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

I should add that I'm rewarding myself by vowing to celebrate Halloween this year, and to ensure that I do so, I booked a trip to New Orleans with friends! I may end up writing during the day while they play, but I’ll play at night!!!

10:04 AM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Kerri, the Anne Boleyn experience sounds phenomenal! I didn't know you could stay at Hever Castle! One of these days I must get there. I can't believe I've never been. What sort of dance lessons? Ballroom?

Isobel, I feel the same way. I love to write and I wouldn't trade a minute of it ... but it would be nice to catch my breath and maybe not wake up with a headache every day. This morning I had these purple demilunes under my eyes and I thought my makeup from yesterday had smudged. Except that I didn't put on any makeup yesterday. After Pilates I looked more rejuvenated, thank goodness!

12:35 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Leslie, you can stay at Hever Castle in the Astor Wing which snakes out of the back of the castle like a dragon's tail. The Anne Boleyn experience was put together by Claire who is the mastermind behind The Anne Boleyn Files and The Elizabeth Files websites. She has two tours this summer, the Executed Queens tour and The Anne Boleyn Experience. On the tour last year, we even got to eat in the dining room inside the castle. As for dance lesson, it is ballroom. My instructor, Tobi and I usually rumba.

During the writing of Scandalous Women, the last month, I never went to bed before 4 am. Not a beauty regimen, I would recommend.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Some lovely rewards here and some frenetic lives as well !!

As I work 40 plus hours a week at the day job my every moment outside of work is divided between animal care, MINIMAL household chores, personal hygiene and sleep and ... WRITING !! Writing gets the lion's share of my "spare" time with animal care coming in a close second. Everything else gets short shrift at times depending on how well the muse is cooperating with me. When I say writing I include research in that, although I do try to take research books with me to work so I can read them during breaks and lunch.

The Anne Boleyn Experience sounds fabulous! I am green with envy! And a trip to New Orleans for Halloween? I wish! New Orleans was my home away from home when I was in grad school in Mississippi. One of my favorite places on earth and I haven't been in years.

I usually celebrate finishing a book with a little shopping and buy one of the more expensive research books on my list to commemorate it. Bought The Regency Companion when I finished my last one. Not very adventurous, I know. I will try to be more adventurous once I actually SELL a book!

6:23 PM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Louisa, apart from the animal care issue, I empathize! It took me until I was in the middle of my 3rd book contract (and they were all with big NY publishers) until I made enough of a living from writing to quit being an office drone for someone else (or several someone elses). Until then I had a full time job (actually at one point I was working 3 survival jobs simultaneously) while I was writing during every moment of available time. I look back now and it amazes me that I was able to get so much writing done, plus all the revisions, copyedits, galley reviews, promotion, etc. that it takes, AND put in 40 hours a week in office jobs. Clearly, where there's a will, there's a way ... which is how most of us get started as authors, but we sure become experts at time management, deadlines, multitasking, and pleasing demanding bosses. :)

7:56 PM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Ditto! I love my life, but I too frequently feel as though I'm juggling multiple plates in the air. I also find shopping (or even looking at fashion magazines) a wonderful reward. I buy a lot of my clothes online too. It's the main place I can find Temperley, my favorite designer (who I pretty much only buy at 70% off). I wrote a lot of the first draft of my current book by letting myself read a short excerpt (usually of Deborah Crombie's wonderful mysteries) for every 100 or so words I wrote. And champagne is always a great reward...

9:16 PM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Yay, Tracy, you broke through Blogger's sudden unnatural defense walls! I have one Temperley dress which my husband bought for me (at full price -- I almost had a heart attack! -- it became my birthday, Christmas, next anniversary, and following birthday present!) when we were on vacation in Seattle a couple of years ago. I saw it on a mannequin in the window; it's a black and cream knit and looks like a cross between something a Noel Coward and an Edward Gorey character would wear; fitted, with a band that makes it appear to have a drop waist, and unfortunately (because of the outrageous price) nothing has ever made my figure look at good. The saving grace was that because we were traveling by motorcycle we couldn't fit it on the bike and take it back to the east coast, so we saved the tax by shipping it across the country. But it's my special meet with my editor dress. The irony is that since they don't know what else is in my closet, I wonder if they figure I just have just one dress! It certainly is my best dress, and heaven knows, my most expensive one.

4:45 AM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

You're gonna wear that when we're all in NY, right? I simply HAVE to see "Noel Coward meets Edward Gorey" in fashion form!!!

7:10 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

The dress sounds amazing, Leslie! I love how unique her clothes are and the period detail they often have. (I have a deep blue one with a sort of mock jacket that looks very 1940s). Have you tried her Alice by Temperley line? It's more "affordable." Which means that though I also buy those dresses on sale, they don't have to be 70% off :-).

7:18 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I have an Alice Temperley dress from when she did her Target line. In fact, they are bringing back one of her dresses this March. Temperley always has sample sales and one day I'm actually going to go! Or buy one off Ebay, where I get all my Diane von Furstenberg dresses.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

How great to be able to sample sales! I got a great buy on a Temperley dress at Yoox that was my Christmas present to myself and is going to be my "booksigning dress."

8:29 AM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

As long as there's AC, I can wear the dress (it's a lightweight wool knit)! I won't be at the conference though (don't have the bucks, or a novel out this year), though I will be in NYC, as I mentioned, for a hoyden reunion then. Tracy, I've never heard of Yoox! And I never thought of buying DVF on ebay!

11:07 AM  

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