Friday, November 30, 2012

Writing: How Much Time...

In my "writing" post last week, I answered the question about how much time I spent writing. The answer, in case you don't want to go back to that post and check, is "it depends." I thought it might be interesting to see how other writers approach this.

My friend and mentor, James Scott Bell, is one of those writers who writes to a quota. Here's how Jim handles it:

"Sometimes I get my quota done in the morning. Then I cruise the rest
of the day, writing more if I feel like it, or doing other things,
like editing, running my self-publishing business, or research and so

"Other days, it's like playing tennis in the La Brea tar pits. It can
take me a lot longer to get the quota in. But I fight through to get
it done.

"On rare occasions I just go, Forget it! Not worth it today! And then I
make up the words the next day.

"If I were to estimate an average, I'd say it takes me 2-3 hours to do my quota."

Thanks, Jim. Incidentally (and this is unsolicited), Jim's books, both fiction and those on writing are excellent. I especially recommend Plot and Structure, wherein he details his LOCK system.

Any questions on writing you'd like addressed here? If I don't know the answer, I suspect I know people who do, and I'm not afraid to ask.

(photo via

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Shopping and "Black Friday"

According to Wikipedia, the name, "Black Friday," originated in Philadelphia, where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. Use of the term started before 1961 and began to see broader use outside Philadelphia around 1975. Later an alternative explanation began to be offered: that "Black Friday" indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or are "in the black".

I've always thought Black Friday was a peculiar phenomenon. When our local news channel showed people lining up outside Best Buy five days before the event, the anchor said, "I like a flat screen TV as well as the next person, but..." He didn't have to finish the sentence, at least, not for me.

So, did you participate in the Black Friday shopping? Do you have your Christmas shopping done? Have you even started?

(photo via

Friday, November 23, 2012

Writing: How Much Time...?

Kim has asked the question, "On average, how much time do you spend on your book writing? Is it a daily job?" I guess the most accurate answer is, "It depends." Let me explain.

I'm retired, so I don't have a "day job." However, as any retired person can attest, I'm busier now than I ever was when practicing medicine (which was my full-time profession for over 36 years). That means that there are times I'd like to write, but life intervenes.

That having been said, my usual routine is to go to my office (which is twelve steps from our bedroom) after breakfast and fire up the computer. After checking email and reading about a dozen blogs that I follow, I open the book I'm currently writing and read through the previous scene. This gets me into the flow of things, as well as letting me do a bit of editing. Then I try to write.

How long do I write at a time? Do I have a daily word quota? I write until I'm tired of writing--sometimes as little as 30 minutes, sometimes for a couple of hours. There are breaks, but I try to stay with it until I reach the end of a scene (and I write fairly short scenes and chapters). Then I save my work and walk away. I come back in the afternoon if I can, but sometimes there's no time or opportunity.

This is in contrast with writers who set a word count goal for every day or week. I find that it doesn't work for me. And the closer I am to deadline, the more I tend to write.

Kim, thanks for the question. Unfortunately, there's no "one size fits all" answer. I suggest you find what works for you (usually over time, by trial and error), and forget what others may do.

Do any of you have questions about writing? I'd love to tackle them.

(photo via

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving means different things to different people. To some people, it means turkey, dressing, and Mom's sweet potato casserole. For others it's a day spent in front of the TV set watching football. To many, it's a day to be with family.

Unfortunately, for some it's another day of wondering where they'll sleep, what they'll eat, how they'll stay warm and dry. We have been blessed individually and as a nation. Give thanks, but also plan to do something for someone less fortunate. Pay it forward. You'll be glad you did.

Blatant commercial note: Borrowing a page from my colleague and friend, author Michael Palmer (whose medical thrillers are excellent), if you'd like to give one of my novels of medical suspense as a Christmas gift, please contact me with the desired message and your mailing address, and I'll mail one or more autographed bookplates. You can email me at Dr R L Mabry at yahoo dot com, with "bookplate" in the subject line.
And for signed ebooks, go to authorgraph

Friday, November 16, 2012

Writing: Galley Proofs

Books don't spring from the mind of an author full-blown and ready for publication. Far from it. There are drafts, revisions, the macro or substantive edit, the line edit, and finally, when the book is ready to be printed, the author and one or more proofreaders read through the material, now called a "galley proof," to pick up errors and do final fine-tuning.

I've just completed going over the galleys of my next book, Stress Test, and I'm amazed there were still things I and the editors who've read the previous versions let slip through. Then again, this is why there are so many layers of editing involved in the process. My edits of the galley proof ranged from removing stray punctuation marks to cleaning up wording to--in one case--a slight change in the job description of a minor character. But it's done.

Meanwhile, I've sent my editor at Thomas Nelson Co. the manuscript for the book that follows Stress Test. Heart Failure won't be published for about a year, but I have to stay ahead. While I wait for those edits to begin, I've  started to outline Critical Condition. The fun never stops, does it?

Do you have a question about writing? I'd love to hear it, and promise to answer to the best of my ability.

(photo via

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

One Week After...

Following the election, I've listened to a number of pundits, read the pronouncements of many more, but nothing has made more sense to me than the words of a pastor (not my own) spoken during a service I attended one day after the election.

In effect, he said that just because what we wanted to happen didn't take place doesn't mean it wasn't God's will. In my own life, I know that God can use even the most catastrophic event for His own purposes. Dr. Steve Farrar, who teaches the men's Bible study at our church, continually quotes this passage: "Our God is in the Heavens, and He does as He pleases." And what He pleases isn't always what we want.

I've just finished proof-reading the galleys for my next novel, Stress Test, and came upon these words, spoken by a character falsely accused of a crime. I think they're just as applicable to the citizens of our nation today.

"God, I could pray for deliverance, but it’s either going to happen or it isn’t, and whichever way it goes, You’ve already planned it out. So what I really need is patience to get through, and wisdom to do the right thing."

What's your reaction to where we find our nation today?

(photo from

Friday, November 09, 2012

Writing: Let's Stop Fighting

I was going to write about this subject anyway, but last week I read an excellent post on the blog of the International Thriller Writers wherein Michelle Gagnon made an appeal for an end to the bickering between self-published and traditionally published authors. So, rather than repeating what Michelle said, let me just refer you to that post.

What's my take on the situation? I couldn't agree more with what she said. Some of the comments, including an excellent one from James Scott Bell, are worthy of reading, so don't stop at the end of the post.

If you like, pop back here and leave some comments of your own. Are you as tired of the war between the two camps as you were tired of the campaign ads and rhetoric just past? Feel free to sound off.

(photo via

Monday, November 05, 2012

Pray, Then Vote

 Tomorrow is election day--the most important election in my lifetime, and perhaps in the life of our great nation. Kay and I have already voted, thanks to early voting in our state. Perhaps you have, as well. If not, please, please take the time to pray about your decision, then vote.

I was touched by these words from Billy Graham. I commend them to you. I hope they touch you as well.

"The legacy we leave behind for our children, grandchildren and this great nation is crucial. As I approach my 94th birthday, I realize this election could be my last. I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God."

May God bless America.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Writing: Choosing Characters

I'm about to start writing my next novel. (Yes, I know I still have to proof the galleys for Stress Test, respond to editorial comments and get through the revisions of Heart Failure, but that's the way writing goes).

The first step for me is to populate the story. I choose the main characters and as much of the supporting cast as I can envision. Then I make up what I call a "character sheet" for each of them. Here's such a sheet for the main character in my forthcoming novel of medical suspense, Stress Test.

MATT NEWMAN—general surgeon, 5 yr in solo practice, just hired onto faculty at med school. Single; dating Jennifer Ball (below). 6’1”, swimmer’s build. Black hair with tendency to fall into eyes—later, after op, head shaved and allowed    to grow out in Jake Gyllenhaal look. Blue eyes.     
 Of course, all this can change as the novel progresses, but I need a place to start. And, in case you wonder why I chose this particular photo--look how many potential characters there are in that scene. If you're a writer, you should be taking note of the people around you. One sweatshirt I own bears this on the front: "Careful or you'll end up in my novel." If they only knew...

If you're a writer, where do you get your characters' descriptions and names? And for readers, does it help if the writer gives you a good handle on each character as they're introduced?