Friday, June 17, 2011

Tips for Writing Away from Home

Elizabeth CraigElizabeth Craig/Riley Adams is one of the hardest working writers I know, writing multiple series at the same time, in addition to being a top-notch blogger and Twitter expert extraordinaire. I don’t know how she manages to juggle her writing with being a mother, either, but it’s truly inspirational. Why, she’s so busy, she needs two names! If you like fun mysteries, I highly recommend hers. Please welcome one of my favorite writing pals to the blog!

Tips for Writing Away from Home

by Elizabeth Craig

Do you ever write in cafes or coffeehouses? How about…swimming pools? I took my daughter and her friend to the pool the other day, intending to get some writing done while they entertained themselves. I was so organized, too—towels, goggles, snacks, membership card, sunscreen—but somehow the notebook that was in my hand didn’t make it into the pool bag.

Fortunately, the YMCA was obliging, even though they now think I’m a little odd. “Do you have any registration forms?” I asked.
The teenage staffer: “Registration for what, ma’am?”
“For…anything!” I answered.
There was a pause. “Day camp? Fall preschool? Gymnastics?”
“Yes!” I said.

Luckily, I got enough blank-backed registration forms to keep me in paper for the next couple of hours. (I had to write small.)

The pool isn’t the only place I write. Besides the usual cafes and coffeehouses, I’ve written at the park, at a bowling alley, skating rinks, Disney World…the list goes on and on.

Tips for Writing in Public Places:

Be prepared. Don’t be like me! Obviously, I’d run through my entire emergency supply of index cards when I ran into my problem at the pool. 4x6 index cards are perfect for writing—you can store them in your car’s glove compartment, or other small spaces. Pencils seem to be more reliable than pens (which have a tendency to be gloppy sometimes.) Have extra cards and notebooks with you, too, in case you run out of space in one notebook, or break the point on a pencil.

Voice recorders can be useful (if no one is close.) I’ve got a free voice recorder on my phone that holds a ton of recordings. Obviously, though, I’m going to restrain myself from muttering about murder if anyone is close by  :)

Shed your self-consciousness. Although you’ve got to be a little careful about the voice recorder, you shouldn’t worry in general about how you look when you’re out writing. Yes, I’ve had people come up and ask me questions about what I’m doing…usually they seem to think I’m sketching, which seems weird to me. I guess because I’m usually staring blankly around me as I write. But writing away from home really opens up a lot of possibilities if you’re open to the experience.

Choose a spot where no one knows you. Is there a local coffeehouse that’s a hangout for your friends and neighbors? It’s probably better to skip it and head for a spot a little farther from home if you’re genuinely trying to get some writing done.

Soak up your surroundings. There’s usually plenty of fodder for books in public places: you can find character traits, names, and other tidbits that can be worked into books.

An e-reader can be your friend. Load your files onto your e-reader for easy transport of your manuscript. Text files work best (at least for the Kindle), since PDFs can’t be enlarged. With your manuscript in tow, it’s easy to pick up writing where you left off, or check something from an earlier section of your manuscript.

Transcribe it before you lose it. If you’re writing away from home and don’t have your laptop with you, be sure to transcribe your scribbles over to Word when you get back home…before you lose them. I can’t think how many times I’ve had to search for small bits of paper that had important parts of my book on them.

Do you like writing away from home? Where is your favorite place to write? Any tips for writing on the go? And—many thanks, Alan, for hosting me today!

fingerlickindead--smallElizabeth’s latest book, Finger Lickin’ Dead , released June 7th. Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink.
Writer's Knowledge Base--the Search Engine for Writers
Twitter: @elizabethscraig



Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Thanks so much for letting me take over your blog today, Alan! I appreciate it. :)

Anonymous said...

Alan - Thanks for hosting Elizabeth. Wow! Two of my favourite bloggers in the same place :-).

Elizabeth - Thanks for those tips. I do write away from home sometimes and I've found that you're absolutely right: if you go somewhere where you're known, it's hard to get down to work. I usually choose places where I'm not known for just that reason. I've also found that a supply of memory sticks (which means a trip to an office-supply store :-) :-) ) is indispensable. I always keep one in my purse. That way no matter where I'm writing, I don't lose anything.

Jan Morrison said...

Thanks Alan for hosting dear Elizabeth. How great!
And thanks Elizabeth for keeping the inspiration coming.
Yep, I write away from home. Sometimes it is just my office downtown, sometimes my writing pal and I hit the restaurant at Peggy's Cove - which is where one of my books is set so perfect! Sometimes it is when I'm on a trip so I keep a journal and those notes always inspire my fiction. Away is good - we need away as much as we need a room of our own.

sheilamcperry said...

I like this post as it has given me one or two new ideas about places to write.
I belong to a small writing group and we meet to write in cafes etc. The one with the best facilities and the most tolerant staff is a large branch of Starbuck's with a great view of Edinburgh Castle - but we sit at the back in the 'study area' and don't look up from our work - much. Thanks to this group I have got over any possible embarrassment about being seen writing in public! We also try not to distract each other, and have other meetings which are purely social. But reading Elizabeth's post made me realise I don't have to go out and write on days when the group is meeting, I could do it any time, anywhere.

Laura S. said...

Great idea asking for registration forms at the pool! I prefer writing at home. It's comfortable and familiar and everything I need is there. Plus no one tries reading over my shoulder! But I always have a little notebook in my purse when I go out just in case.

Recently my husband has been going to the driving range, and I like going with him. It's a beautiful golf course with a gorgeous view of distant tree-lined hills and mountains, so I sit in a chair beside him and write. Golfers are more interested in their swing than in my notebook!

Glynis Peters said...

Interesting post, thanks for sharing Elizabeth with us, Alan.

I can often be found in the vineyards if I need to get away. I have jumped in the car and driven to another village coffee shop, when DH has decided to drill for the day. I always have a pen and pad in my bag. And even scribbled on an envelope in the toilets at my daughter's wedding.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Margot--The office supply store! Ack! As you know, I can't go in there without dropping a bundle...maybe I'll have to order my memory sticks online. :)

Jan--Sounds like a beautiful place to write, Jan! And you're so right--getting away from home can really help keep me inspired.

sheilamcperry--Oh, that would be a *gorgeous* place to write. I wonder if I'd be too distracted by the scenery? I've been to Edinburgh Castle (circa 1992)...such a cool place. I find that I tend to get more done in a shorter period of time when I'm away from home.

Laura--The main problem, for me, with writing at home is all the buzzers that go off! The dishwasher, dryer, etc...reminding me that I have more housework to do. Bleh!

And the *nice* thing about the golf course is that it's so *quiet!* And not too many distractions there.

Glynis--Wish I could write in some vineyards! Sounds like a peaceful, beautiful place. :) Too funny about writing at your daughter's wedding! Yep, I've dug out old receipts and written on them with eyeliner before once, when I was desperate... :)

Kathleen Ernst said...

Good advice! Thanks, Elizabeth and Alan.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Kathleen--Thanks for coming by!

Marji Laine said...

I find I am, like you, carting kids all the time. I'll really need your tips with volleyball season starts - 3 vball players! Last year, I graded essays through almost every game!

Anonymous said...

Thanks to you I have done it now and then, but I rarely need to as my children have grown up. I´d always bring my laptop, though, unless I write in the car where I use small notebooks (when I´m a passenger, I mean ;D)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I like the eReader idea!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Marji--The nice thing is knowing that you're getting stuff done while carting kids around. Otherwise, I start feeling very chauffeur-like. :)

Dorte--Ha! I was about to picture you typing on your laptop as you drove! :)

Alex--I've been using my Kindle to read my manuscript on the go and am really enjoying it! Am sure your iPad would be great to use.

Wendy said...

It never occurred to me to feel weird about writing in public. Contrary to what one might think, I feel like there are actually LESS distractions for me outside my house than in. I love writing while "out and about". No chaotic hubbub, no Internet, frequently nobody knows where I am. It's great.

Wonderful post and guest! :)

Alan Orloff said...

Elizabeth, thanks so much for visiting the blog today. You always have such great tips. And thanks to all the commenters today (now that you know you can write anywhere, get busy--I know I don't have any excuses any more).

Karen S. Elliott said...

I also find that writing (with a pen) on paper is a nice break from sitting in front of a keyboard. Different ideas occur, new personalities emerge, new characters take shape. Nice post Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Wendy--I love the feeling of escape it gives me. :)

Alan--You look pretty productive to me!

Karen--I've found that, too. And that's interesting, because I thought I'd made that change to being completely creative on a laptop...but sometimes I still do think better on paper.

M. J. Macie said...

Great blog post. Very insightful. I appreciate Elizabeth as much as the rest of you.
M.J. Macie

Anonymous said...

Excellent suggestions. I have a DVD player bag that I converted into a "writer kit". It fits a journal, 4 notebooks, post-its, pens and pencil in the front, and can fit my netbook in the back. Which apparently is the same size as the dvd player I've never owned.

Now to see if my phone has a voice recorder. Thanks Elizabeth!

Patricia Stoltey said...

I thought maybe I'd get some writing done this week while I play grandma daycare for a two-year-old. Proves how delusional a writer can be.