I don’t mind saying I’ve been a little nervous about this post since we here at Murderati decided to do a workspace theme (two) week(s). See the answer to what’s your workplace like, is not exactly a straight forward one for me. Let’s start with where, first. The simple answer to that is this is where:
(I’m talking about the world, not the wall where my map is hanging. And, yes, I also keep all my lanyards.) Okay, perhaps that’s a little over stating, and I’m certainly not trying to be flippant or snobby. But the truth is, I tend to work away from home more than I work at home. And if I’m traveling I might work in my hotel room, at the coffee shop on the corner, on the train, at a bar…wherever. Also I’m doing a lot of research while I’m traveling…taking notes, pictures, movies…getting impressions of where I’m at, etc.
But let’s stick to the actual writing process. If I’m being completely honest I do most of it when I’m not traveling. Still, there is the question of where. To answer that I need to break down my process into four parts: plotting/synopsizing, writing the book, rewriting 1 (editor’s notes, light passes), rewriting 2 (copy edits, read through, heavy rewrites).
These four parts are basically done in one of two different places: home or away from home. Plotting/synopsizing and rewriting 2 (the heavy stuff) are almost always done at home. I do a lot of talking to myself in these phases, and also some pacing and the like, so the privacy works out for me. At home, I work at my small dining room table.
Trust me, it’s usually not that clean. As you can see, I face a nice view of a green courtyard. Very soothing.
As I said, I do a lot of plotting here. So I thought I’d show you some of the tools I use:
Let’s start on that back wall…my famous giant post-its are a big help. Each page tears off and I can stick them to other walls around my place. Then there’s the dry erase board. What I do there is once I’ve filled it, I’ll take a digital photo of it then erase it and start again. On the table left to right, back row first: dry erase pens and cleaner, my MacBook, my iPad with keyboard dock (used for research, and typing when traveling), my iPhone in front of that which allows me to work away from home but not be out of touch, and one of my two digital cameras – the one shown is water proof. (I also have an HD video camera, but I tend to use the video on my digital cameras more often.) Front row from left: pad of grid paper for making building layouts and maps, set of color pencils, regular ruler and drafting ruler, my work tracking booklet where I keep track of what I do daily (word counts, what project I’m on, any significant events), digital card adaptors for iPad and computer to transfer photos, my docking cord for phone and iPad, stack of note books each for a separate project that I take with me as needed, colored index cards, and, finally, colored sharpies.
As an example of how my process is continually changing, the index cards are a recent addition, used with the new book I’ve just started writing.
Okay, so that’s my home workspace, and tools. What about those other two parts of my process – writing and rewriting 1? Those I do for the most part away from home. Why? Because for some reason when I’m creating new material the distractions at my house (TV, books, bed for napping) tear my attention away. So I go to coffee shops or cafes. For the past year and a half, I’ve found one specific place I go to most of the time. It’s the Novel Café in Santa Monica.
There are actually several Novel Cafes. Our own Mr. Schwartz turned me onto them. Only the one he exposed me to is now known as 212 Pier. I stopped going there when they shut it down for renovations when the new owners took over, and ended up going to the Novel that’s only about four blocks away. It’s newer and not quite as quirky, but I like it, and so I’ve stayed. It’s about a 20 minute drive from my place, and makes me feel like I’m going to an office…in a good way. It gets my brain focused in the right direction. Plus the cafe is set up for people to work there all day. Free wi-fi, plenty of tables and plugs, and a full kitchen. You can stay from opening to closing and they won’t kick you out. In fact, there are a lot of regulars who, like me, use it as their office, too. Web designers, screenwriters, other media professionals, and even a few other novelist (which is good since that’s the name of the shop.) I often run into my friend and mega-talented author Tim Hallinan there. We’ll end up spending a few hours writing at adjacent tables…well, writing, talking, writing…talking.
Here’s a shot of my favorite table looking out at the rest of the café:
It’s tucked into a little nook for those who want a little more privacy. This table is at the edge of that area, so I get some privacy, but also can watch what’s going on everywhere else. And as a good thriller writer, I can see the front door, so I know who’s entering in case I need to make a quick getaway out the back. (Hasn’t happened yet.)
And a reverse angle of the table:
Yeah, you’re not seeing things. Those are surfboards. A surf school operates out of a room in the back of the café. Oh, and that area just behind my table, with the open, black curtain? That’s home to a clairvoyant who keeps really odd hours and I hardly ever see her. But I’m hoping some of her psychic vibes are wafting over me as I write.
Anywho…those are my workspaces. At least for now. My process is always in a state of transformation.