Please help me welcome talented author Stephanie Bond. I remember when Stephanie announced her first sale. I also remember seeing one of her books in a bookstore in England. Boy, was I impressed.

The Year of Writing Dangerously

Last year I disappeared. Fell off the face of the earth. My friends didn’t see me. My family didn’t see me. The members of my local writing chapter didn’t see me. I didn’t answer the phone. I put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door of my condo so my neighbors wouldn’t come knocking. You see, in the months prior, I had committed to a LOT of writing projects—it just sort of happened that way. I write for Harlequin Blaze and I also write a humorous mystery series for Mira called Body Movers. I had pitched an idea for a back-to-back trilogy for Blaze called Sex for Beginners, and my editor took it. THEN my editor for Mira, responding to reader complaints that the Body Movers books were spread too far apart, asked me to write a back-to-back trilogy to boost momentum for the series. I was thrilled for the opportunity and agreed, but in the back of my mind, I knew it was going to be a tough schedule. Especially since I had also committed to writing two novellas! (I still vividly remember the days when rejection letters filled my mailbox, so it’s difficult to turn down projects.)

At the end of 2007, I took a deep breath and, looking forward, decided to dub 2008 as my Year of Writing Dangerously. I put myself on a daily page quota, cleared my social calendar, put my friends and family on notice, put my head down…and wrote!
I wrote every day from about 9:00 a.m. all the way to 2:00 a.m. I took a break each day to work out, and again when my husband came home so we could have dinner together, but afterward, I went back to my computer. And I kept my weekly appointment with my critique partner to exchange work and refill the creative well. In short, I got into a routine and stuck with it.

The worst part was not being able to attend social activities. When people asked me to do things, the regret was twofold—that I couldn’t accept their invitation and that I had to work while everyone else was having fun! When people said, “Oh, come on—you need to take a break!” I had to resist giving in because I knew later I’d feel even more stressed over having to make up those hours. Because, as everyone knows, a lunch date turns into a huge chunk being cut out of the work day, and 30 minutes on the phone with this person and that person, and suddenly, your afternoon has evaporated. Out of necessity, I became anti-social.

Over the year, I wrote 3 Blaze novels, 3 single titles for my Body Movers series, and 2 novellas. That’s over 2500 manuscript pages in Courier, 12 pt. How did I do it? By setting daily goals and taking one day at a time. By reminding myself that I’d made a commitment to my editors. And by telling myself how good I would feel when it was all over and I had all those books in the pipeline!

It was a rough year, worse than I even imagined. I would not recommend it to other writers. It was a dangerous year, all right—dangerous to my social life, my mental well-being, and my waistline! But now that it’s over, I feel like I could do just about anything my editors asked of me or anything I ask of myself. And it made me realize I need to find ways to make writing fun again, so this year I’m tackling some unorthodox projects, like writing a screenplay. I’m back to attending monthly meetings of my local writing group, Georgia Romance Writers. And I’m taking time to reconnect with friends I haven’t seen in a while. For 2009 I have a new mantra: Fewer books, more wine!
__________
Atlanta author Stephanie Bond has written over 40 romance and mystery novels. She currently writes romantic comedies for Harlequin Blaze and a humorous mystery series for Mira called Body Movers. Look for books 4, 5, and 6 in the Body Movers series to be released back to back in April, May, and June 2009.

Stephanie’s website and her blog offer a chance for her readers to get to know her and for writers to pick her brain about the craft of writing.
www.stephaniebond.com

Take time to comment or ask a question for a chance to win Body Movers, Book 4, due for release March 31.

Ask questions so I won't need to spill secrets.

24 comments

  1. Judy // March 17, 2009 at 9:52 AM  

    Stephanie! So much fun to catch up with you! Since moving to FL I try to keep in touch with GRW and I love hearing every little thing about the group! What a year! I really commend you! Good luck with everything! B&N sends me a notice when your books come out, which is really neat. Take care and enjoy a nice Pinot Noir! LOL

  2. Arkansas Cyndi // March 17, 2009 at 11:00 AM  

    I am going to be out of pocket all day, but I had to stop by and tell Stephanie what a fangirl I am!

    I love her body mover books and am really looking forward to #4.

    What a year! Very impressive self-restraint when it came to keeping your head down and fingers on the keys.

    Thanks for coming by PFSW. Hope you come back often.

  3. stephaniebond // March 17, 2009 at 11:00 AM  

    Hi, Judy! Hope your writing is going well.

    I'm still trying to find the PERFECT pinot noir, meaning great with steak or hamburger and reasonably priced. My favorite pinot noir is made by Chandon (the champagne people), but it's way too pricey.

    My favorite affordable reds are Casillero del Diablo Carmenere and Dynamic Red Table Wine (a blend), $10.99 and $8.99 respectively at Trader Joe's.

    Nice to hear from you!

  4. stephaniebond // March 17, 2009 at 11:20 AM  

    Thanks, Cyndi, for your support! Glad you're enjoying the Body Movers series!

    Ugh...when I look back over the year of back to back deadlines, I'm glad I didn't know how difficult it was going to be because it would have been even more overwhelming. (Like a lot of things in life, eh?) On the other side, I was really grateful to be busy. And really grateful to be able to offer more stories for my readers.

  5. Mary Marvella // March 17, 2009 at 12:03 PM  

    Stephanie, you never cease to amaze me with your determination!

  6. Mary Ricksen // March 17, 2009 at 1:13 PM  

    I sincerely thank you for posting with us today. Your incredible accomplishments are an inspiration to all.

    What do you do when you sit down to write and nothing comes?
    Have you ever had trouble focusing on your writing?

  7. Pamela Varnado // March 17, 2009 at 1:27 PM  

    Wow Stephanie,
    What an inspirational post! I can only admire your dedication and wish I could be more like you when it comes to writing. In fact, I'm planning to do just that. My short term goal is to finish the single title romantic suspense I'm working on by June 15th. I'll write five pages a day. It won't be easy, but I know I can do it.

    My question is how do you make yourself sit down at the computer when you just don't feel like writing?

  8. Debbie Kaufman // March 17, 2009 at 1:58 PM  

    Wow! I am exhausted just reading about your year! Those of us at GRW are soooo glad to have you back at meetings. Hope you have a more balanced schedule for the upcoming year.

  9. Anonymous // March 17, 2009 at 2:12 PM  

    I was so excited that you have three new body movers coming out that I almost screamed when I was told! Thank you!!!! I'm blown away by your commitment, and it will make it all the more special to have those books come out and read them back to back! You rock!

    Blogger seems to hate me today, so my name is in the comment.
    Caroline Ziebarth

  10. Liz L. // March 17, 2009 at 2:55 PM  

    First off, let me say I'm a huge fan. I love your humor. Now to my own story which I should be ashamed to tell after yours. I am a way undisciplined writer (probably why I'm not published!) Anyway, I am also a very slow writer, so when I decided to enter my latest wip in the GH, I had six weeks to finish the manuscript (about 250 pages). I worked my fanny off- insert violin music here- and ended up being burned out for several months. I have finally just gotten back into the fun of writing again. Hells bells, in six weeks you probably had three completed books! I am so impressed.

  11. stephaniebond // March 17, 2009 at 4:11 PM  

    Mary R. asked:
    What do you do when you sit down to write and nothing comes?
    Have you ever had trouble focusing on your writing?

    Mary, I start with a synopsis and story outline, so I always know what I have to write and where I'm going. A good synopsis is key! And if I know what needs to happen but a good scene doesn't come to me, I just put my hands on the keys and start typing dialogue. Works every time.

    As far as having trouble focusing on my writing--not really. Again, it's all about planning. If you start with a well-planned story, your focus will wander less.


    Pam V. asked:
    My question is how do you make yourself sit down at the computer when you just don't feel like writing?

    Writing is my job, so I treat it that way. What did I do years ago when I woke up and didn't want to go to my corporate computer programming job? I went anyway. I honored my commitment to myself and to my employer. It's the same thing now that I'm writing full-time--I have to honor the commitment to myself, to my readers, and to my editor.

    I often talk about how important it is for unpublished authors to develop good habits that will carry your through once you have contracts and deadlines. Writing under difficult circumstances is one of the things writers have to learn how to do. Actually, I think learning how to write ESPECIALLY when you don't want to might serve you better than any other skill you can develop before you're published. As a working writer, I have to write when I'm happy, when I'm sad, when life and other obligations intrude, when the fire alarms are being tested in my building, when I'm sick, when my family members are sick, etc. (Writers don't get sick days!) My mantra to push through has always served me well. (Oh, and if I need an extra push, I set my kitchen timer to 30 minutes and race against the clock.)



    Caroline, thanks for the nice words about the BODY MOVERS books! I was frustrated fielding emails from readers who complained that the books were spread too far apart, so one thing I kept telling myself when the writing hours got LOOOOONG was how great it would be to get extra books out there for my readers! I really appreciate the support!


    Liz L. asked about burnout.
    Liz, yes, burnout can be an issue, and something I certainly experienced toward the end of my back to back deadlines...but you have to keep going. Again, it's all about pushing through. The sad truth is that being a working writer isn't always fun--in fact, it's usually NOT fun! When people rely on you, you have to produce. I think the most important lesson for me to learn was that I could still produce good work even when the writing wasn't fun. In fact, I'll bet readers can't tell the books I wrote in the throes of enthusiasm and the ones I wrote under duress!

  12. Terra57 // March 17, 2009 at 6:01 PM  

    Hi Stephanie,
    Your books look quite interesting and I'm glad I just got done teasing poor Mary Marvella as she sent me here to see what you were up to.
    My question for Stephanie is, how hard is it to go from romance mode to mystery mode when you are writing? I know they can go hand in hand nicley but it's when you have to seperate them that makes me think it could get oh so confusing.
    Mary dear, so sorry about teasing you with good food. Nice blog BTW!! Now you must come check out mine sometime.
    huggs,
    Terra
    http://yankeeromancereviewers.blogspot.com

  13. Mary Marvella // March 17, 2009 at 7:23 PM  

    Terra said she had eaten food I adore but can't eat right now. That was just plain mean! I've visited her blog, so I didn't mind guilting her.

  14. Edie // March 17, 2009 at 7:46 PM  

    Wow! Stephanie, you're an inspiration to me. Last week I recently started getting up at 6am to write for a couple hours before I do anything else. That seems to make me more productive.

  15. Scarlet Pumpernickel // March 17, 2009 at 7:59 PM  

    Stephanie,
    Thanks for taking time out to visit the Fuzzies! We're glad you're here. Now to the brain picking part! Stephanie, when you are working on several projects do you move from one to the other or write on the first until you finish then pick up the next? How do you switch gears and go from Blaze to Mira? Even using a good synopsis, how do you keep your stories, characters and such straight? Five books and two novella in a year, Stephanie that makes me exhausted just typing it! Boy, do I have new respect for your drive, fortitude, and determination.

    Scarlet

  16. Mona Risk // March 17, 2009 at 9:11 PM  

    Stephanie, I usually find your books in airport bookstores. So I am very pleased to meet you. I wish I could do the same and cut myself from the world without feeling guilty. I almost did it for two years ago but my friends and family were terribly upset. As a result I try to do it all or balance my life and end up always stressed.

  17. Barbara White Daille // March 17, 2009 at 10:16 PM  

    Stephanie,

    Thanks so much for your blog post! Wow. I'm in awe.

    Question: Did you already sleep only seven hours a night *before* you started the Year of Writing Dangerously? (grin) Seriously, I'm wondering how much you changed your sleep schedule, if any, and if you feel it made a difference.

    And Scarlet asked exactly the other questions I wanted to post, so I'll look forward to your answers on those.

    Best,

    Barbara
    http://www.barbarawhitedaille.com

  18. Mary Marvella // March 17, 2009 at 11:08 PM  

    Thank you Stephanie, the bionic woman! You gave us all food for thought. Guess we need to decide how badly we want it.

  19. Rachel Bailey // March 17, 2009 at 11:14 PM  

    Wow, Stephanie, what a really interesting routine you had. I'm trying to set a better routine for myself, so this post was timely. Thanks!

  20. stephaniebond // March 17, 2009 at 11:41 PM  

    Terra57 asked:
    My question for Stephanie is, how hard is it to go from romance mode to mystery mode when you are writing? I know they can go hand in hand nicley but it's when you have to seperate them that makes me think it could get oh so confusing.

    Terra--Actually, switching from writing my romantic comedies for Blaze to my humorous mysteries for Mira is refreshing--it keeps me on my toes...or should I say, on my fingers! Doing both allows me to keep lots of different writing muscles worked out. And I don't get bored.

    The biggest difference between the two types of stories I write is tone and pacing. To change gears for both, I use different vocabulary sets. There are words in my romantic comedies I'd probably never use in my mysteries, and vice versa. The dialogue is very different between the two types of books, and the love scenes are very different. For example, in my romantic comedies, where the focus is on the romance, if someone's having sex, it's probably an emotional experience building toward a happy ending. If someone in my mysteries are having sex, they could just be having fun...or using each other.


    Edie--getting up early to write is a wonderful habit to get into...you're fresh and you get it done first thing without those pages hanging over your head all day! I have a friend who has trained herself to write 6 pages in one hour. She gets up every morning and writes from 7:00 - 8:00...and she's done for the day!


    Scarlet asked:
    Stephanie, when you are working on several projects do you move from one to the other or write on the first until you finish then pick up the next? How do you switch gears and go from Blaze to Mira? Even using a good synopsis, how do you keep your stories, characters and such straight?

    Scarlet, I do often juggle several projects at once. And I rely HEAVILY on a detailed synopsis to be able to pick up where I left off. Also, part of my pre-planning phase is to take about an hour and create a VERY SIMPLE collage for that story inside a manila folder, pictures of characters, the setting, props, etc. When I'm trying to get back into a story, I open the folder with the collage for that story and I literally open a window into my story. That always helps!

    As far as keeping them separate in my mind, especially when I might be working on both types of stories at once, I look at it as having two wildly different sets of friends. I might have one set of friends over for lunch, and the other set over for dinner. Just like with friends, I wouldn't have trouble telling the the groups apart, and I probably would never mix the two groups together for a meal!

    (And for my Body Movers series with so many characters and story lines, I maintain a cumulative "bible." It's just necessary.)


    Mona...sigh, I know what you mean by feeling as if you're neglecting others by writing...and you do! Writing and reading are very selfish activities--you can't do either and pay attention to other people. But you have to learn to be protective of your time or, as you know, everyone will spend it for you. I have a lot of friends who have office jobs, yet I'm their one friend who is "home" so I get LOTS of phone calls. There are some days when I simply have to turn off the ringer. And some days I change my message to say, "Leave a message and I'll try to call you back after my workday ends...if you think you'll still be awake at midnight." But even that doesn't always stop people from intruding on your time. I wish I had all the answers, but frankly I've found that NOT answering the phone and NOT answering the door is best because no one really cares what your excuse is--even if you're under a brutal deadline, it's just not as important to everyone else. You just have to grow a selfish bone and remind yourself that it's to protect something that's vital to you. Learn to say, "No, not this time." You can try to train other people not to intrude, but when it comes down to it, it's up to you to make sure they don't. You don't owe 100% of yourself to everyone else--you deserve to keep a little for yourself. Take baby steps toward what I call "tucking in."


    Barbara asked:
    Did you already sleep only seven hours a night *before* you started the Year of Writing Dangerously? (grin) Seriously, I'm wondering how much you changed your sleep schedule, if any, and if you feel it made a difference.

    When I worked in the corporate world, I thrived on 6.5 hours of sleep a night, but now that I'm older and I don't have a commute, I have to say that I really enjoy my 8 hours in bed! Beleive it or not, in the beginning of my Year of Writing Dangerously, I tried to go to bed at midnight, my regular time. But I found I couldn't turn off my mind--I would lie there and watch the clock turn over to one o'clock, thinking about my story. Finally I decided I would stay up and write until I started to nod off, or forgot my main characters' names, whichever came first! That turned out to be about 2 in the morning. Then I went to bed and passed out. And slept well. So it was a LITTLE less sleep that I normally got, just on a slightly shifted schedule. Staying up until 2 am worked well for me because I can get SO much more done at night after my husband is asleep, and my phone and email are quiet. If you're not happy with your production, you might experiment with either getting up early, like Edie, or staying up late, like me!

    Thanks, ladies, for all your great questions! And thanks to Mary for inviting me to be here with you!

  21. Joanne // March 18, 2009 at 8:46 AM  

    Stephanie,
    Chiming in late here to say what a wonderful writer you are. Your success and discipline have paid off, and you are a true inspiration. Thanks for joining us at the Pink Fuzzies.

  22. Nightingale // March 18, 2009 at 9:59 AM  

    This post came at the right time for me. I've been stressing over getting my WIP ready but I keep letting life and social activities intrude. Stephanie, congratulations of the focus and energy it took to pull this off.

  23. Scarlet Pumpernickel // March 18, 2009 at 3:27 PM  

    Stephanie! What a wonderful idea you've given me! I have attended numerous classes/workshops on storyboarding, but never quite got it. That was because I felt the "board" part would be putting too much out-there for others to see before I was finished with the project! But to organize it in a folder and just open it and review before I dive back into the story, wonderful idea. I certainly will try it.

    thanks again for visiting with the Fuzzies! Hope to see you this Saturday at the GRW meeting.

    Scarlet

  24. Mary Marvella // March 28, 2009 at 2:02 PM  

    Debbie Kaufman, you just won Stephanie's book!