Danielle Steel, I am Not

I read an article a couple years ago that said Danielle Steele sometimes writes for 22 hours a day, not even taking a bathroom break or stopping for snacks. I don’t remember if anything was said about a bedpan under the desk. This method would never work for me. I love snacks too much and often use them as a reward for completing the smallest of goals. When I taught high school English, my coworkers would say how they spent eight hours at a Starbucks and graded all these essays. Again, not me. I would set a goal to grade two or three in a sitting and then find some snack to reward myself for my hard work.

I wrote Man Up in increments of 400-700 words. Seven hundred words was a pretty good day. Eventually, those hundreds of words over the course of months and months added up to a whole book. The War on All Fronts was written in a similar fashion, but maybe it was about 500-800 words at a time. Apparently my stamina was growing. A couple times I broke the 1k mark.

A member of my writing community introduced me to the Pomodoro Method in which you focus on a specific task for about 20-30 minutes. Several times during the revision of The War on All Fronts I used this method. I found that I could sometimes write 600 words in 25 minutes. If that was the case why wasn’t this book finished a long time ago? I have no idea. But it was the same result as the first book. Those hundreds of words. Those half hour blocks. They eventually added up to a whole book.

Use the bathroom. Eat the pretzels. Scoop the ice cream. And write more words!

YouTube: Beyond Cat Videos

I would love to ask a historical fiction writer what researching was like before the internet. For my latest book, The War on All Fronts, I made many a trip to the library, conducted interviews, and became good friends with the people at the University of Wisconsin Madison Archives. But Google was my go to when it came to figuring out what day of the week Christmas was on in 1967 or finding out when the Slurpee was invented. YouTube became my best pal when it came to primary sources.

When reading about personal accounts about enduring boot camp in the 1960’s didn’t give me the details I needed, YouTube came to my rescue with a video made during that time that was over a half hour of drills and life on base. When I found out the Walter Cronkite gave a report about the Tet Offensive in January, 1968 that changed many a perspective about the war, YouTube had footage of the broadcast. It also had clips from a PBS special in which Vietnam veterans discussed PTSD, protesters in Grant Park at the 1968 Democratic National Convention recounted their experience, and of course, songs of the sixties.

It’s still a great place to go for music videos, movie clips, and cat videos but YouTube can be a goldmine of information for the historical fiction writer too. Those poor people who conducted research so long ago had no videos of people tripping to distract them, though. I bet they got a ton of work done.