Monday, May 16, 2011

Author Jean Henry Mead On Writing Schedules

It’s my pleasure to welcome author Jean Henry Mead as the special guest blogger here today as she makes a stop on her virtual blog tour with her latest release.

Jean’s current release is MURDER ON THE INTERSTATE. Here’s a brief blurb about it: Two feisty 60-year old women sleuths encounter murder, homegrown terrorism, kidnapping and disasters as they travel Arizona in their motor home. The third novel in the Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series, MURDER ON THE INTERSTATE will leave you breathless.

Jean stops by today to talk about a steady writing schedule, no matter what.

When I sat down to write this morning, I thought of my long ago interview with bestselling romance novelist Parris Afton Bonds for my book, MAVERICK WRITERS. Parris emphasized the need to write every day. The mother of five lively sons, she wrote between diaper changes as well as on the job, which cost her several secretarial positions before she decided to write full time.

“I write when I’m sick,” she said, “and even as I shove that turkey into the oven on Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are no legal holidays for [professional] writers.”

A steady writing schedule is one of the most important aspects of publishing one’s work. Whether you rise two hours early to
write before leaving for your day job, or at night before you go to bed, it needs to be done at least five days a week. Women with small children can schedule their writing time when the young ones are down for a nap, if only for an hour, but the same hour each day until it becomes a habit. But if you only have a few minutes now and then, use that time to jot down notes or bits of dialogue as late Don Coldsmith did on the backs of prescription pads during his daily medical practice.

Marlys Millhiser echoed Parris Bond’s work ethic. She begins writing at 10:00 a.m. and continues until 4:00 in the afternoons. Both writers stressed the fact that you must stay at the computer (or note pad) no matter how difficult the writing is going that day.

“My first draft is pretty bad,” Marlys said. “But no matter how difficult it is, I hang in there. Sometimes you have to backtrack and begin again, but don’t stop to polish a chapter until the first draft is finished. When I’m on a run and the plot floats along, the characters take over and it’s wonderful. But most of the time, I’m just sitting there and sweating it out. And I’ve found, I’m sorry to say, that the stuff I sweated out and got three pages by working my pants off, was about the same quality as when the story just flowed along and I’ve gotten ten pages.”

Brian Garfield, author of “Death Wish” and countless other novels and screenplays, said, “I took up writing partly because some of the stuff that was published seemed so awful and so easy to do, and of course it isn’t easy to do, as you find out when you sit down to try to do it. And it took a long time—a lot of apprenticeship practice before I could write anything that was worth publishing. But you don’t know that until you try. At the time of the interview, he wrote five hours a day, from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. He could write no longer because of back problems.

I’ve found that if you set your pace, it becomes a habit and before long you’ll feel that you must write during those hours. It becomes as important to those who want to succeed as breathing.

I'm at my computer by eight in the morning, with few exceptions, and write until three or later in the afternoon. A half hour treadmill break gives me a chance to loosen up and recharge my brain cells.

When do you write and how often?

Jean, thanks so much for guest blogging today. You make an excellent point that a steady writing schedule is important. It does help to keep one focused on the task at hand.

Now for a little background on Jean. She is a mystery/suspense and historical western writers. She’s also an award-winning photojournalist and former news reporter and editor. Her 14th book is MURDER ON THE INTERSTATE, the third novel in her Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series. Jean also writes a mystery
series for middle grade children. MYSTERY OF SPIDER MOUNTAIN was recently released.

You can visit Jean at her website: and her blog sites: Mysterious Writers:
Writers of the West:
Murderous Musings:
Make Mine Mystery:
She also has four Facebook pages and is on Twitter.

Now share your writing schedule with us.


  1. I write daily, although I'm very flexible about when and where (it's sometimes in the car while I'm in a carpool line waiting for school to open its doors.) :) Interesting post...I always enjoy hearing other people's process!

  2. I don't have a schedule and THAT is what's wrong with my writing schedule, I don't have one.

    Thanks, I needed this.


  3. Mason - Thanks for hosting Jean.

    Jean - You make such a good point that it's important to set aside - deliberately - time to write. Even if it's only a few minutes, that gives that writing the status it deserves. I wish you the best with Murder on the Interstate.

  4. Thanks for hosting Jean today. This is a great book. I hope your readers check it out.

    Here are the details of the contest she's running:

    The author's virtual book tour takes place from May 2-May 27. Three copies of Murder on the Interstate will be given away and one of the winners (from a drawing of blog visitors leaving comments) will be a character in her next book. The tour schedule is posted at:

  5. Mason - thanks for bringing us another interesting author.

    I think a schedule is very important. Because I have work as a therapist and make my own time - I can find time to write. It isn't always consistent. I have to get going and remind myself with deadlines and intentions. I find saying it on my blog helps! I always write Tuesdays with my writing friend and usually when I'm in a good spin - for a couple of hours daily.
    I use in order to do 25 minute a treat.

  6. I work full time, but I manage to squeeze in some time during the day, and at night I write for about an hour.

  7. Jan,

    Making time on a regular basis is what's important, whether it's daily or several times a week. Sounds like you're off to a good start.

  8. Good for you, Alex. Persistence is more important than talent in the publishing industry.

  9. I think I know why my book isn't published. I write when I can. I don't put it in my life as number one.

    I'm looking forward to reading your book.

  10. Marilynne, I didn't stick to a writing schedule until four years ago. Now, I have five publishers. It takes dedication to your craft and concentrated reading of other writers' work to see how they achieve their winning effects.

  11. I wish I could write daily, but I suppose there is a reason why I got the diagnosis ´chronic fatigue´ - if only I could remember what it was???? ;)

    So my best period is the long summer holiday when my teaching job does not steal the best hours of every day. And my point is not to whine about my illness, but that we must all figure out what works for us and not think we can just ´borrow´ someone else´s schedule.

  12. Thanks, Mason, for hosting Jean.

    Funny thing about schedules. When I was working full time (that other job), it seemed much easier to schedule my writing. Now that I'm retired, I'm having a terrible time developing a good routine.

  13. Dorte,

    Many well known writers such Elmore Leonard would rise at 5 a.m. to write for two hours before going to his advertising job. He also wrote on the job by placing a pad of paper in his deak drawer and writing with his hand hidden behind his desk.

    Those who truly want to write make time for it, if it's only 15 minutes a day, or while riding the train to work.

  14. You're not alone, Linda. It's hard to reschedule your life when you no longer have to live by the clock. Try sitting down every day at your computer at the same time for twenty minutes and then lenghten the time each day by a few minutes. Before long you'll feel the need to be there and actually look forwatd to it.

    I sit down at my computer in my p.j.s with a bowl of cereal in the morning. That's when my creative juices are at their highest ebb. Yours may be in the afternoon or evening. Try different times until you feel most comfortable and creative.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.