Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Guest Blogger: Rakesh Satyal on Finding Time to Write

Rakesh Satyal is an Editor at HarperCollins, and his debut novel, BLUE BOY, just went on sale. Chuck Palahniuk said BLUE BOY "shows us a world too funny and sad and sweet to be based on anything but the truth." Rakesh also happens to be a sensational singer and a hilarious speaker, as the guests at my wedding can attest.

As I am an editor and a writer concurrently, I am often asked one oh-so-popular question: “Do you ever sleep?” The answer is a resounding “Yes,” and on many weekends, the answer is “Yes – several times in a day, and usually with Lime Tostito crumbs from incessant snacking still on my lips and many hours’ worth of (re)watching an America's Next Top Model marathon in my head.”

But just as I know how to make time for leisure and rest, I make sure I know when my time for work will be, too. The concept of my spending a great deal of time working, period – let alone this much time thinking of literary matters as I work – can cause quite a bit of confusion and incredulity in others, but I assure you that carving out a writing schedule that fits your otherwise busy life is not so daunting as it might seem at first. What you must always remember is the larger purpose of your work, the meaningfulness of your voice, and the characters who convey that voice.

Most writing instructors, and many established authors, extol the benefits of a morning regimen-cum-biological clock approach: you get up, go straight to your computer (or other writing instruments), write a thousand words, and call it a day, with perhaps some revision of those thousand words later in the evening. Unfortunately, not only the mutant pace of my workdays but the ensuing rollercoaster reaction of my body can preclude this sort of schedule from taking root.

Sure, there are weeks when I set the goal of following this biological schedule and pull it off, but the next week, a slew of work events may come up and render me fumbling for keyboard and words alike. What I have come to realize about myself as a writer is that I respond much better to thinking of the scope of a particular scene that I am writing and then envisioning the corresponding manpower that I will need to bring it to life. And then I look for loopholes in my schedule that I can refashion as writing time.

I wrote Blue Boy mainly on the weekends; I would go to a coffee shop that had deep-seated armchairs and reliable outlets, and I would plug in my laptop and set up shop for the afternoon. When I sat down, I had a clear picture of which scene I wanted to write (or resume), and I knew that I wanted to complete a particular emotional arc before I stopped. The rhythm of the main character’s mental pattern was very important to me, and I felt, as I often feel as a reader, that I could not stop living in that scene until it had come to a particularly satisfying emotional point, be it a resolution or a splendidly complicated moment of confusion. I could appreciate the emotional payoff of this stopping point all the more because, beforehand, I had taken into account the time I had to address the work at hand.

Writing is a difficult process, to be sure, and it demands from us determination, a dedication to a larger artistic goal, and, perhaps most of all, the a priori arrangement that our lives, on the whole, will make room for it. To that last end, especially, I am always thinking in the back of my mind, at any given point, when my next available moment for a time to sit down and write may be. I mean “available” not just physically but mentally.

For example, as I expect to expend a great deal of energy promoting Blue Boy during the next month, I have put aside my writing until the first week of June; I know that the headspace I have for writing will be taken up necessarily with concerns pertaining to the book. But I have a firm resolution to pick up where I left off. Once I resume writing, I will go back to plotting my weeks carefully: I will look at my calendar at the beginning of each week and figure out when I might shoehorn in a chance to write.

This process may not adhere to the strictures of a biological clock, but it is my responsibility to make the most creatively of the time that I have left after I do my editorial work professionally. Each of us as writers has a different set of circumstances that defines our emotional and physical wherewithal as artists, but we owe it to our stories and their characters to plot our own time as much as we do theirs.

And believe me – the sense of accomplishment once we’ve done so is astounding, not least because we can subsequently, and deservedly, hoist our salsa-laden chip mouthward and click Tyra’s model antics back on with the press of a button….


Marie Devers said...

Thanks for pointing out this:

"I mean “available” not just physically but mentally."

I often sit in front of the blank screen paralyzed by this idea: "Okay, I'm here. Now what do I do?"

Coming to the blank screen with a concrete idea of what you should be writing is a great tip.

Martin Willoughby said...

The biological clock works for some, but I'm with you on this. Write what you can, when you can and focus on the subject in hand.

Yvette Davis said...

I tend to write from 8 pm to 10 pm and any other time I can squeeze in. If I'm lucky enough to write during work hours, I can usually get 5k done. But not everybody can write during the day.

Still, I can't imagine being a high selling writer and sitting down to write 6 hours per day. Maybe that will happen for me, but it would seem very painstaking and forced, I think. I tend to write in bursts, scenes, whenever the insanity strikes.

Scott said...

What you must always remember is the larger purpose of your work, the meaningfulness of your voice, and the characters who convey that voice.Brilliant point, here. It is the whole and its necessity (and, at times, urgency) that drives the impetus. After that, it's being practical with what you can achieve. I tend to jag––day, night, in-between––until I'm beat, but I always have a clear point I want to reach, and usually give myself plenty of day-berth to reach it.

Excellent entry, Nathan, and thank you Rakesh Satyal. I'll be putting Blue Boy on my to-read list.

reader said...

Congrats Rakesh!

Love the title -- with a 12 year-old MC, is this for the YA or adult market?

And, um, as an editor, did you rep youself or did you get an agent? And also, how does it feel for an editor to get edited?

Alex Green said...

Thanks for this, fellas. It's great to peek into other's habits and glean something. Especially in the middle of rewrites.

csmith said...

I'm one of the "on the clock" writers (lunch breaks and evenings), but to be honest if I wait for inspiration to strike I'd be still waiting to finish the first chapter.

What I really do find useful is writing down what the next scene/chapter contains after I finish the last one. (Note that I have tended to flail about for a bit so some sort of loose structure is GOOD). One of my friends gave me a lovely moleskine book that I drag everywhere with me. It has about 4 different outlines for the novel I am currently editing, and pages and pages of sentances summarising the scene to come. But hell, it worked!

Because of my insane schedule, I cannot afford to be in the least bit precious about finding *time* to write. If I want to get things done, when I sit down, words MUST come. Even if I plunk out 500 words of dreck (normal word count is about 2k per day), as long as that dreck forwards the story, I'm good. Of course, it means that editing is a bitch, but hey, at least I'm moving forward, albeit slowly!

Strangely I've found that just sitting down and opening etherpad puts me in the RIGHT headspace to write. I don't need to wait for external impetus. I guess that is the joy of an online writing pad, wherever I go, whatever I'm doing, the environment is familiar!

Thank you so much for this post, most interesting. Though I now want lime crisps! Dammit!

Alan Orloff said...

I like your concept of "headspace" for writing. That's a great way to think about it. There's only so much space/energy/mindpower available and you've got to allocate it wisely.

Good luck with BLUE BOY!

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

Blue Boy sounds like a great novel, I haven't heard of this before. Writing definitely takes a lot of hard work. I have to work everyday from 8AM to 5pm, but if I have nothing to do, then I like to devote my time to edit my novel, which is almost done (YAY!). I also like to use the weekends to devote my time on writing, too.

Kristi said...

Thanks for this thoughtful post, Rakesh. I've read about several published authors who woke before dawn for years to write before going to their day jobs. As I have kids who get up between 5:30 and 6am, my natural night owl tendencies have been somewhat curtailed and I'm not sure anything could get me out of bed at 4am (well, maybe if it was on fire - maybe).

However, I do what Rakesh spoke about and every week I plot out times to write in pencil in my day planner (what can I say, I'm old school). It keeps me on track - in the last few weeks I've written several novel chapters, 3 picture books, and one and a half short stories. I probably should pick one genre and stick with it, but I figure I can do what I want until I'm published. :)

Lisa Schroeder said...

Great post, thanks!

I am also primarily a weekend writer who has a day job. I love those Saturday mornings or afternoons where I get lost in the story for a big chunk of time.

Anonymous said...
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Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

Making time to grow as a writer is the challenge; finding minutes or hours to write what you have in your head is easy in comparison.

Tina Lee said...

Thank you. I found your comments on making head space for the writing and really sticking with a section until you have accomplished an emotional arc really validating. It is good to have someone articulate so well what I struggle with everyday. Really helpful. Thank you again!!!

Dan said...

Hey Nathan,

Maybe you should have author guest posts every day of the week ;)

Nathan Bransford said...

Ha. Thanks a lot, Dan.

Vicky said...

Everyone is different. Almost 2 years ago, I realized I needed structure. It was too easy to blow off writing for one reason or another. I joined a loop that had only 1 requirement: write 100 words a day. At the time, I was traveling as much as 2 to 3 weeks every month in US & Europe. Starting off w/such a small goal made me feel successful. That led me not to finish the book, win some contests, get several agent requests, and eventually sign w/an agent. I write most nights and am experimenting w/page goals, but when I get really tired, I take a day off. For me, having a set time to write everyday made a big difference.

Davin Malasarn said...

Good luck with Blue Boy! I think the key to being successful at managing your time is to really understand your personal working habits. The same formula doesn't work for everyone, as you mentioned.

serenity said...

Incredibly timely post for me. Um, weirdly so. I definitely appreciate it, and I'm looking right now for the shoe horn.

lotusgirl said...

Aren't those lime tostitos the best? Yum! Thanks for stopping by and helping us figure out when to write. I generally do it when I should be sleeping.

Jen P said...

"we owe it to our stories and their characters to plot our own time as much as we do theirs."Great post. Thanks.

Mira said...

Regarding what Dan said: Dan, don't even joke about it.

To Nathan: NO WAY!!!!!!!!!

....there should be a few more exclamation points...maybe 52 million.

Not that this isn't an interesting post, Rakesh. And congrats on your book! I hope it's mega-successful.

I like what you are saying about balance and pacing things. Very topical for this week's discussion.

Mira said...

Oh. Speaking of balance,
Come In Character is going to continue.

It will be a collective creative partnership.

I couldn't be happier - and I'm very grateful to members there.

If you'd like to be a part of that, let me know!

So, busniness as usual there for now.

Rebecca Knight said...

I'm like a few of the previous posters--I find I need some structure or I'm a Procrastinator Extraordinarre! But I totally agree with Rakesh about the head space being necessary.

Something I found really helpful to make sure I can pick up where I left off is the rule "never leave off at the end of a scene." If I sit down at my laptop and have just concluded something, I find I have no clue where to begin.

However, if I have left myself a little prompt by beginning the next scene, I already know the kind of emotions and actions I want to move forward with, and it's so much easier to get started.

Thanks for the awesome post, Rakesh! Best of luck with BLUE BOY! :)

Robin Constantine said...

This post made me smile! Awesome.

Wish you much success with Blue Boy. And getting the Tostito crumbs off your carpet, keyboard, or anywhere else you may find them.

Joel Q said...

...I knew that I wanted to complete a particular emotional arc before I stopped. The rhythm of the main character’s mental pattern was very important to me, and I felt, as I often feel as a reader, that I could not stop living in that scene until it had come to a particularly satisfying emotional point, be it a resolution or a splendidly complicated moment of confusion...I really like this part.
We have to know how are characters are progressing and why.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Thank you for presenting time management issues in a practical and realistic way, especially when you have another job to balance. It's been peeving me lately to see more comments in general on what you "have" to do to be a (real) writer: write for five hours every night to the exclusion of everything else, sacrifice kittens, etc. I find it quite ridiculous, as there's an inherent assumption that one method will or should work for everyone.

I like what you said about the scope of the scene. I've been taking an either/or approach lately: if I can write the scene in one sitting, I do it. (Usually these are scenes that are 1,000-2,000 words.) If the scene is longer, I often write it over multiple sessions, and try to get at least 1,000 words in per session. What I've found most helpful is setting a weekly quota or goal (i.e. "get these three scenes done"). That way, if I'm just swamped for a few days, or just need a mental break to reevaluate, I don't beat myself up for not meeting an arbitrary goal. I just remember to look for time slots where I can write a little bit more later in the week. The work gets done either way and I go less crazy.

Love the mention of ANTM--I often have it on as background noise when I write.

PurpleClover said...

Wow - total out of body experience there. I felt like I was reading my own thoughts. Right down to the America's Next Top Model (what is my fascination with that show anyway??).

The only thing he got wrong was I don't like the lime-flavored Tostitos...just plain with guacamole please.

Oh yeah, and I didn't write Blue Boy. Some minor differences though. Great post though!!! LOVED it.

Marilyn Peake said...

Rakesh Satyal,

Thank you so much for your blog post about writing schedules, and for explaining how you successfully wrote BLUE BOY. (It sounds fascinating, and I ordered a copy immediately.) I’ve heard so many times that you should write at the same time every day, and that you should type words onto a page during that time even if the writing’s bad, but I can’t work that way. I always wondered if I should be working that way. I tend to work around my family’s schedules, while making sure that I have blocks of time for writing when I won’t feel drained. I write best when I know that I’ll have enough mental energy to pour into developing the characters and the next stage of my novel or short story. It was wonderful for me to read about the kind of writing schedule you keep – very inspiring!

I also love that you said, "Writing is a difficult process, to be sure, and it demands from us determination, a dedication to a larger artistic goal, and, perhaps most of all, the a priori arrangement that our lives, on the whole, will make room for it." I think that the best art always involves "dedication to a larger artistic goal", and it’s wonderful to hear someone actually say that.

Walter said...

Thanks so much for this bit of advice.

TKA said...

It's always interesting to learn what works for others and glean ideas from their writing practices. The bottom line, as we already know, is to find what works for us and do it - adjusting as necessary for the rhythm of all the elements of our lives.

Thanks for the great post and best wished for Blue Boy.

Memoirs of a Bulimic Black Boy said...

Thanks for your insightful commentary. As a memoirist I also prefer to sit down with a clear picture of which scene/event I want to write (or resume). If it’s one that is perhaps more emotionally challenging, I make concessions for that. Regarding when to write/edit/rewrite for me it all depends on which one I’m doing. I can write my first draft at a neighborhood bar or coffee shop, conduct my first edit while re-watching a movie/TV show. When it comes to deep rewriting and deep editing an alcohol free quiet space works best.

Beatriz Kim said...

Thank you for the timely advice.

The last week, I have been working on a short memoir story. The story is highly emotional and traumatic, making this piece much harder to write than the previous pieces.

I am on the 10th editing round and I feel like my emotional and mental state are going to have a meltdown.

Part of the reason that I'm working harder is that an editor read my blog and is suddenly interested in my "little stories". It's great and it's nerve racking. Now I'm putting significant pressure on myself to write better and faster.

Sorry...I'm blabbing.

The advice to be mentally and physically available is so timely. I'm going to add emotionally available. I'm going to put this advice to use and slow down.

I don't even know if this story is going to end up in my real memoir. These are just practice stories...for goodness sakes!

Thank you for the timely post. What a relief!

Other Lisa said...

ACK!!! Another victim of the evil genius that is Tyra Banks!

Congratulations on Blue Boy, and keep it fierce!

Vancouver Dame said...

Thanks to Rakesh for this posting and these comments in particular:

"Writing is a difficult process, to be sure, and it demands from us determination, a dedication to a larger artistic goal, and, perhaps most of all, the a priori arrangement that our lives, on the whole, will make room for it."

I like the points you make regarding finding that "room" for writing. When we really want something, we can find that time, even if we shuffle other responsibilities. I also use the Moleskine notebooks that someone mentioned in their comments. It's a great way for me to put bits of writing together, and keep it in one place to use when I do get to that 'time for writing'. It's always good to hear how others approach the writing process.

Good Luck, Rakesh, with BLUE BOY.

RW said...

I'm always impressed with how seriously the people on this blog take their work, and it's interesting to see this example of a published novelist discussing his process in the same way.

I'd never heard of the circadian rhythm that some advise, but as it happens it's nearly exactly the routine I've developed. I need to make writing the first thing I do that requires any mental energy. I'm able to drink coffee and read the paper without squandering any mental energy, though, so writing isn't literally the first thing I do.

I also figured out a trick that Rakesh refers to -- knowing before you get to the writing chair what scene you're going to work on. I try to make up my mind the night before what I'll be working on the next day. Again, it's about avoiding anything that might sap the morning's first mental energy.

Laura D said...

Excellent points made by all. I find that for me writing works as an ebb and flow. Weeks at a time, I spend writing daily and then I break for a few. My motto is I play as hard as I work. It tends to keep my juices flowing creatively to leave a scene as a movie in my head for a while and then when I write it all comes out. It also works well for essay writing for me so it's been a habit for a long time. (I won't give my actual age, but it's been a while since I was in school.)
Goal setting helps me too, though. Having a deadline brings out my competitive spirit. Being under pressure gets my emotions stirred up, which in turn helps me write emotional scenes. Sometimes I need to feel along with my characters and get myself into the scene.
Congrats on the book. It sounds interesting.

Yamile said...

My story usually follows me throughout the day. I finish a scene, and that night it's like the next scene unfolds in my mind, and won't leave alone until I type it into my laptop. During the day, I take notes (of descriptions, dialogs, etc) so the inspiration won't be lost no matter where I am. I don't wait to be inspired to write; I do it when I have time, usually after my 4 babies go to bed. Time? Some people ask when they find out I have four young children. Yes, I make the time to write; it's my personal therapy, my pleasure, so I do it no matter what.

The First Carol said...

*Carol brushes the Lime Tostito crumbs off Mr. Satyal straight into her palm, pops them into her mouth and pats his head* Thanks for sharing, always looking for great tidbits. Oh, and I heard from Anne and May the book was on the way, lining up now to read it! Many Congratulations :-)

The First Carol said...

Oh, wow. I just realized the crumbs were on your mouth. I'd never be so impolite to grab your face like that. Kah-hum. I'd attack you with a wet washcloth, wipe thoroughly like anyone old enough to be your mum, then tell you to go to bed. hah!

Anonymous said...



#3,292 in Books

That's prtty good isn't it? Is that good (book's been out 3 days, paperback)?

Mira said...


I read your article again, and I really like your point about making time for leisure and rest. I feel I do my best work when I'm not pushing myself to my limits. Sometimes my mind needs time to think about nothing, and then things start to germinate.....

Nathan, in reading your introduction, it occured to me that, unlike Rakesh, I was not at your wedding. I just want to point out that I would have been a hilarious speaker. I also would have topped Rakesh, because I would have been a hilarious singer as well.

I'm just saying.

I realize you won't ever get married again, but you might have a special occasion at some point, like watching T.V. at home on some random night, or cleaning your kitchen floor or something like that.

I'm available, in case you were wondering.

PurpleClover said...


You seem to back to your ol' self! Glad you're feeling better. :)


Mira said...

Oh, I have a question.

Rakesh, did you go through the traditional publishing route - with an agent, etc.? Or did Harper Collins pick you up?

Mira said...


I got momentarily petrified at the idea of full-time school/work.

Then I had an epiphany. I realized the best way to handle this was to do a terrible job at both of them. I could get a D+ average in my sleep. And who does anything at work other than playing on blogs anyway?

Nothing like a little perspective to help.

Thanks for asking, P.C. :-)

Btw, when you coming over to play at CIC?

Anonymous said...

since he's an editor at Harper Collins, I'm guessing he knew what to do.

Mira said...

Well, it wasn't published by Harper-Collins. And Amazon has some wonderful reviews, so I'll bet it's a good book.

What does an editor at a publisher do? Is that a terribly ignorant question?

Samantha Clark said...

Thanks for the post, Rakesh, and good luck with Blue Boy. I wrote about this subject a few months ago on my blog. I used to "find" time to write and ended up writing a few days here or there every few months. Finally, I realized that wasn't working for me and I decided to change the way I was thinking about it and "make" time to write. For the past year, I've been setting my alarm for 4 or 5am and getting up as close to that as possible. Many mornings I'm dreary eyed, but by doing this, I managed to finish my novel and do a number of rewrites, so it's working for me. Although, I do always feel tired and tend to crash when my husband and I are watching late-night movies. Oh well.

PurpleClover said...

Mira -

I don't even have time for the blogging and commenting I

BTW- what is your focus for grad school?

Anonymous said...

It's best to write every day. If you have to work a day job, which most of us do, then you're either going to be writing early AM if you're a morning type, or late night if you're a night owl. I'm a night owl. Then weekends are family time.

To write only weekends, if you ask me, is not enough time to fully develop your craft. You want to go for it every day--begin by reivewing and self-editing what you've written the previous day, then continue on with new stuff.

Amazon # in 3,000's i smighty good, but the whole Amazon ranking system would make for a good post topic in and of itself, right?

Mira said...


Really? Time's an issue? Hadn't thought of that. :-)

Social Work. Partly because it's my field, and partly because if I write a couple books I have in mind, an M.A. would give me more legitimacy.

Rakesh Satyal said...

hello, everyone! apologies for being MIA as you all submitted these great responses. Thanks to all of you for all of your kind well-wishing and enthusiasm; it means a great deal to me, and I hope that I am paying it forward by giving whatever helpful advice I can!

I am going to try to address the various straggling questions in order of your posts, so here goes!

reader -- Blue Boy is a book for the adult market, but there is certainly YA crossover appeal, although I should mention that there are one or two scenes of more explicit sexual language in it.

Anonymous – genre fiction can very much be art; don’t second-guess yourself! A “different set of circumstances” can certainly apply to writing genre fiction since there are particular rules and tinges to genre writing that you must take into account as an author. embrace the artfulness of THAT and go with it!

Mira – you ask a VERY good question. Yes, I most certainly went the traditional route and got an agent and submitted to publishers like any other author. I did this because the process of getting an agent is very necessary; it is not just a formality but a sound business transaction and social calibrator, as an agent deals with the finer points of negotiations and communication with literary types that can be outside our frames of reference or propriety as authors. It was in many ways MORE important for me to adhere to protocol since I work in the industry.
To the editor point, I could take up pages and pages with explanation of my editorial work, but suffice it to say that my job is to act as liaison among agents, the publishing house, and an audience and to find new talent by way of those agents, fall in love it, and publish it to the best of my ability!

Thanks, again, to all of your for being so perceptive and welcoming and enthusiastic! Now I know why even more why I respect Nathan so much!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Rakesh!

Mira said...


Thanks for answering! I think it's wonderful that you went an ethical route with this. I think it's a example that many who are involved in publishing really do love books and love to write.

I wish you the very best with your book. There's your job - editor - but I'm sure that writing for you is more personal and meaningful, like it is for many of us.

Also, now that I know you are evidentally a powerful person in the publishing field, who can make writing careers, as well as a fellow author trying to have his work been seen and appreciated, I would like to apologize to you.

I'm sure you did a very good job at Nathan's wedding. I'm sorry I hinted that I might have done a better job. I'm sure your singing was very nice, even if it wasn't as hilarious as mine would be.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

I have a (possibly) "yes or no" question for the author:

Do you consider BLUE BOY to be magic realism? Or to contain elements of magic realism. Or you wouldn't really describe it as magic realism at all...

I went and read about BLUE BOY at - and that's what I'm wondering. Sounds like a great book, whatever the case.

Jen C said...

Kristin Laughtin said...
Thank you for presenting time management issues in a practical and realistic way, especially when you have another job to balance. It's been peeving me lately to see more comments in general on what you "have" to do to be a (real) writer: write for five hours every night to the exclusion of everything else, sacrifice kittens, etc. I find it quite ridiculous, as there's an inherent assumption that one method will or should work for everyone.

I couldn't agree more. I always find my own way of doing things, which is often the opposite of how other people operate. The phrase "whatever works for you, man" comes to mind...

Rakesh, this was a wonderful post, thank you for writing it!

On a side note, today is May 1st (well, here in Australia it is, anyway), which means that Support a Debut Writer Month has started. This means, you must immediately rush out and buy a book by a debut writer. Or, two if you're so inclined...

Richard Lewis said...

From Amazon's look inside (at a writer's group we've been talking about opening scenes and paragraphs):

First two paragraphs

"I'm surprised my mother still doesn't know."

Surely she must notice her cosmetics diminishing every day. Surely she has noticed that the ends of her lipsticks are rounded, their pointy tips dulled by frequent application to my tiny but full mouth....but here she is again, cooking obliviously in the kitchen, adding fire-colored tumeric to the boiling basmati rice and humming in her husky alto."

The rest of the first page goes on to establish the narrator is a school boy, who also takes ballet classes, and who lives in Cincinnati.

I'm intrigued...I love cross-cultural fiction.

Yat-Yee said...

True Renaissance man. It's great to read of someone who makes time to do different things, and do them well. I've done my part to spread the word about Blue Boy. Can't wait to read it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Rakesh.

Julie said...

Fabulous post. It made me realize a lot about my own writing schedule, and the fact that I am mentally writing even when I'm not physically writing. I'm heading for that deep armchair at the coffee shop right now!!!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I think leaving off when you know where you will start next helps.

But "Blue Boy". Man oh man my Granny had a picture of Blue Boy in her bedroom and we always had to cover his face with a magazine or towel.

JustineHedman said...

Thank you for sharing Rakesh Satyal- I'm so lucky that I don't really have to worry about this issue. I write when ever the need hits and often hours out of the day. At least when my kids are playing together and there aren't chores around the house calling to me.

Patrick said...

I go for a 45 minute walk every night and then I come home and write and it works wonders for me. That 45 minutes before I begin writing allows me to run chapters through my head and plot what I am going to write that day as well as hopefully helping me get in shape.

The days I just try and sit and write without having taken a walk first never go that well.

I think every writer has to find what works for them and they try and recreate that scenario every day.

Rakesh Satyal mentions sitting in a coffee shop for hours on end writing, I could never do that. It would drive me mad all that noise and distraction and I would get nothing done whatsoever.

You have to find what works for you and do it every day, heck of waking up early and getting an hour in first thing in the morning works then do it. I like to write at 6pm though every night.

marye.ulrich said...

Thanks Rakesh for sharing your dual talents. Great suggestions.

It reminds me, I have been hearing confusing information about whether an editor/agent could or should also be an author.

Apparently some publishing houses say the skills needed for each job are different, and editors/agents in their houses are NOT supposed to also be authors.

Some writers I know say they could never trust an editor/agent who was not also an author.

Just wondering what others thought.

Rachel said...


Blue Boy sounds fascinating. Can't wait to read it. Thanks for your insight, too.

Maya said...

Btw, Nathan, have you ever posted to analyze why writers are so obsessed with reality TV? I get easily fascinated by incredibly dumb shows... the Hills, Girls Next Door, ANTM, what have you... and I suspect that it is something about my desire to spy on other human beings that makes me want to write and create worlds. (Do writers also read advice columns? Or is that just me?)

AravisGirl said...

I write in the morning when I can but lately that's been Difficult

Brian South said...

I can certainly appreciate the need for mental availability when one attempts to write. So often life demands a window on my computer screen.

I find that I need the regularity of a set schedule. I come home from work and write for at least an hour. My mind is (slowly) learning that when it's writing time, all the other distractions must be put away.

But afterward, the catharsis is amazing. When I've had a productive writing session, I can truly enjoy my evening.

Whirlochre said...

It's a shame writing so often gets to thrive only on the fringes of Everything Else — which is why it's so important to know where the perimeter of life's lace doily lies.

I'm glad to hear that someone else experiences (and advocates) a degree of slack between the need to set a biological clock and the fickle relativity of thinky-breedy time (without which, as Marie Devers notes right at the start, the blank page is so often a record of unrealised inspiration).

I've tried all manner of slavish working regimes, and have even knitted a costume a la feng shui de fashion, specifically geared up to enhance my productivity, but I've always found these to err unecessarily on the side of perspiration.

What givens are there when you're wrestling with an unknown beast? Some of my best stuff has been written out live, whole and gutted in twenty minutes, while on other occasions, eight word sentences have taken months of work to fix.

Matching the writing time to the nature of the stuff you're writing is indeed the key.

Marie Force said...

To that last end, especially, I am always thinking in the back of my mind, at any given point, when my next available moment for a time to sit down and write may be. I mean “available” not just physically but mentally.

I can relate to this. With a full-time day job of my own and two kids, the writing has to be fit in around a million other things. Being physically available is only half the battle. The mental availability tends to be the bigger struggle. Congrats on your book!

Reesha said...

Wow. April is over and I've been spending my time mostly at Robert Brewer's poetic asides blog for the National Poetry Month challenge.
But I really missed you, Nathan, and the community on your blog so just wanted to say, now that April is over, it's good to be back. There is always content here that manages to inspire me.
And yes, I did just de-lurk myself. Oh the folly of liking blogs too much to stay quiet.

The Bookaholic said...

This is really interesting to read and very helpful too. For writing as well as for most things, what is good for the goose, may not work for the find your own rhythm and swing your pen in resonance to it. Happy writing!

PurpleClover said...

Mira said: I'm sorry I hinted that I might have done a better job. [bolding is mine]

OMG Mira...I think you are improving comedically by leaps and bounds each and every day!

ryan field said...

This was a very enjoyable post. And now I'm going to have to order the book, too.

Mira said...

P.C. Thanks :-)

I don't know though. With comedy, sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss. When you miss, you have to shrug your shoulders and move on.

One of the most challenging things about writing comedy, is when you go back to re-read it, you can no longer tell if it's funny. It's so weird that it works that way.

One of these days, I may take a class - on how to evaluate your own comedy writing.

Matilda McCloud said...

Thank you, Rakesh, for your comments. I especially liked what you wrote about completing a "particular emotional arc" for each scene. I look forward to reading BLUE BOY.

Re: reality TV. I prefer The Amazing Race because it leads to discussions every Sunday night with my husband about who will do the bungee jumping, who will ride the camel etc. when we are selected to go on the show (ha)

Kristin Tubb said...

Thank you, Rakesh! You have just described my writing schedule to a T. I have two young kids, and i write whenever I can get snatches of time. But I'm constantly thinking about the next scene, so my "writing time" is not just limited to when I'm sitting at the keyboard. I think the worst piece of writing advice ever is, "you must write every day." I *can't* write every day. This schedule works fine for me. Thanks for sharing!

Steve Stubbs said...

Good luck with your book. If you are getting kudos from major writers like Palahniuk I suspect it will do well. Rowling started writing in coffee houses.

Janet said...

what a relief to know someone else could only find weekend time and snatched time here and there during the wrote a successful novel. That is all the time I usually have and I approach it pretty much like you do. Hope I succeed!

Chuck Dilmore said...

Thank you for this!


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