Girls Write Out
Thursday, April 05, 2012
There was a time, long, long ago, when I quit my day job to write. Please don't laugh. I know a lot of people do that but they're too embarrassed to admit it. No, I hadn't sold anything except nonfiction pieces, and no, I wasn't making enough from my writing to live on, I'd simply saved enough money to support myself for quite some time before I had to find another job. I intended to write novel after novel until I sold one. At that time I felt sure I would continue to sell after the first one.

A passion for writing kept me writing from early morning until late evening. I ate and slept with the characters in my head, and sometimes I would even find myself praying for a particular character, they became so real to me. I could write up to twelve pages a day.

Four years went by as I wrote novel after novel, trying different styles, learning to market, attending conferences. Even after all that time I loved my nonpaying job.

Eventually, I did sell--fourteen years, thirteen unpublished novels, two jobs and one marriage later. And true to my expectations, I continued to sell, after I began to base the male lead characters on my husband--and after he started working with me to rewrite everything I'd ever written. I changed publishers, the sales increased. Awards started coming. I even started to earn enough income from the writing that I could have lived on it if I lived very frugally--beans and rice, no furniture, no car...I do have a bike.

These days I'm very content with my writing life. I have editors I love to work with, wonderful friends who also write and understand the peculiarities of being a novelist (this means you, girls), and I still enjoy the love of creating stories, just like my daddy did before me.

The first year I started writing novels, I wrote four. I'm happy to say those are all published after dozens of rewrites. I slowed down after that. Life does get in the way. We've been talking about our writing schedules this week on GWO. Here's a typical day for me lately:

Take huge mug of coffee into sunroom, sit in recliner, place laptop on my lap.

Realize I forgot to put cream in my coffee, get up and do the coffee right.

Sit back down, realize I need to read my Bible, take it down from bookshelf and read.

Set Bible aside after a chapter or two and pick up my laptop.

Read the two pages I managed to complete the day before. Decide I can't really get away with killing that many people in the first chapter, so holler to my assistant to research on computer and find out how much other LIS writers have gotten away with in the first chapter lately.

While waiting on assistant to complete her task, I focus on rewriting some of the other scenes I've done lately. Two minutes later I realize I didn't feed the cats!

Get up, feed the cats, decide while I'm in the vicinity I'll toss a load of laundry into the washer, but first I need to gather more darks for a load, so I go back up the stairs and get to the master bedroom before I realize Mel is off today and he's still asleep.

I decide to finish laundry later and head back for the sunroom when the phone rings. I shouldn't answer it. I'm working. I look at the caller ID number and don't recognize it, but if it keeps ringing it'll wake Mel up.

After I finish with the hour-long phone call from a distant relative, I decide to make breakfast. After all, Colleen did say we have to have a high protein breakfast with tons of eggs and bacon.

I get started on that and while the bacon's cooking I go back to my recliner in the sunroom to work a little more on the book. My assistant tells me she doesn't find anyone getting killed recently in any LIS releases, so I'm going to have to change everything. Rats!

The bacon burns.

I run through the house opening windows and turning on the exhaust fan. I realize it's time to let the cats out of the basement and try to lure them outside.

After a 2 pm breakfast of burned bacon and runny eggs with Mel (the smell of burning bacon lured him out of the bedroom) I settle back to rewrite what I did yesterday. This takes no time at all. I love rewrites.

After two minutes of editing I complete rewrites and settle back into the scene I'd been working on yesterday. The editors want more romance lately, and that's when I realize I'm not even writing a suspense, I'm writing an historical novel this time!

I call out to my assistant (who works in the dining room so we won't spend the day talking) and ask her to check out how much historical detail the latest LIH novels have included. I'm writing an action scene. I hate action scenes. Give me dialogue any day.

I'm well into my third paragraph of the day when Teddy Bear, the obnoxious matriarch of our family of four cats, taps at the window beside me with her paw. I glance over at her. "Not yet," I say. "Enjoy the good weather."

She taps again, this time more insistently. I lower the shade. I hear a cat growl, more tapping, harder and louder. I give up, raise the shade, open the window and let her in. She meows lovingly at me as she hops inside and heads for the kitchen.

Assistant calls to me that there's quite a bit of historical detail in what she's read, but not as much action as I'm planning. I think I'm doing fine with what I have. After all, I've got a wagon going into a flooded creek, several people almost drowning, and because they swallow a lot of water, several will contract cholera and die before the second chapter. Now I just have to find out if they called it cholera or blue death in 1855. Mel tells me the bacteria that gave cholera its name was discovered in 1883. I'll go with blue death. However, my heroine is a doctor, so the medical must be accurate. I make Mel look it up.

I think you'll be ready to strangle me and my cats if I continue with the remainder of the day. I think I've given you an idea about my schedule. When the deadline approaches I resort to a good set of earplugs and my keyboard heats up. Instead of relaxing with Mel and watching four episodes of our favorite shows on Netflix, I come back out to the sunroom and write until well after midnight. The book I'm working on now was due last October, but life happened. My editors understood and encouraged me to focus on Mom for the remainder of her days.

How I wish I could be like Denise and break everything down into logical stretches of time. She has a household to run, a family to raise (and kids aren't as easy to control as my cats) and life to deal with. She still writes amazing stories and gets her work in on time.

I wish I could write a chapter a day like Diann, and make those pages hilarious and uplifting the way she does.

I wish I could smoke the keyboard like Colleen and churn out bestsellers with a huge readership like hers.

I'd love to be able to have the sassy, in-your-face style of Kris Billerbeck.

What I do is tell myself I've done it before, I can do it again, and again, and again, and as the storyline I wrote for my editors in the beginning plays itself out page after interrupted page, I remind myself how blessed I am to have this job, this life, this much fun.

Hey, girls, how do you keep up your schedule?


Hannah Alexander  
posted at 11:04 PM  
  Comments (7)
Delicious Delicious
At 9:55 AM, Blogger freddikb said...

I enjoyed reading about your writing day. It reminds me of mine. As much as I would love to have a sure-fire 'this is how many words or chapters I will do everyday to finish the novel in such and such amount of time' plan, it never happens. I seem to have a constant flow of laundry that doesn't do itself if I ignore it, the dishes don't put themselves away, and I have a cat that likes to sit on my lap while I write and watch the mouse move across the screen. That tends to get distracting.

It is nice to see, though, that as different as everyones schedules are, the stories get written, and wonderful books are published. Keep up the work girls!

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Mocha with Linda said...

This was every bit as entertaining to read as your books! How you get there isn't important - what matters is the books on the shelves and in readers' hands that say "by Hannah Alexander."

BTW - do y'all have any Texas ties? All the way to Houston yesterday I kept seeing signs for Hodde Realty. Made me smile.

At 11:32 AM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

I know what you mean about the laundry, freddikb. I even have my assistant do laundry, and yet I can't hide behind her for everything. No matter what, there are distractions.

Mocha with Linda, thanks for the kind words. You're right, getting the books out there is what matters. I don't know about any Texas ties except for my girlfriend who lives in Mustang. Hi Doris! But though she may be a hottie, she's not a Hodde. There are so few of us that I'm always interested when I find one.

At 3:04 PM, Blogger Peggy said...

I loved this post! Sounds a lot like my typical day. Including a husband and cats--7 of them--and one dog. Add in some arthritic hands, a gimpy left foot (temporary, I hope) and . . . well, maybe I'll write my own blog post on life in Phiferland.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Congratulations, Peggy. Seven cats and you're still going!

At 8:54 PM, Blogger Mary F. Allen said...

Thanks for mentioning husbands and movies. I've been wondering how lady authors manage that...

At 10:42 PM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Actually, Mary, I'm as bad as Mel, so I can't blame him. When he's home, watching shows is what we enjoy doing together. His job is stressful, so it's relaxing just to sit and let the world go by.


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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

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