Blog

Favorite Books of 2022

Here are my new (not reread) four and five star reads for 2022.

Nonfiction

Surrounded by Idiots, by Thomas Erikson (personality/behavior)
Strengths Finder 2.0: A New and Upgraded Edition of the Online Test from Gallup’s Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Tom Rath
Expanding Your Strengths, by Curt Liesveld (personality/behavior)
The Resiliency Advantage: Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure, and Bounce Back from Setbacks, by Al Siebert (behavior)
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari (history)
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, by Mary Roach (science)
Depression, Anxiety, and Other Things We Don’t Want to Talk About, by Ryan Casey Waller (mental health)
The Astronaut’s Wife: How Launching My Husband into Outer Space Changed the Way I Live on Earth, by Stacey Morgan (biography/memoir)
The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World, by Dorie Clark (philosophy?)
Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, by Carol Tavris, Elliot Aronson (philosophy, behavior)
The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over, by Jack Schafer (behavior)
The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness, by Kelli Harding (health, behavior)

Writing Books

Understanding Conflict (And What It Really Means), by Janice Hardy
Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (And Really Getting It), by Janice Hardy
Writing Unforgettable Characters: How to Create Story People Who Jump Off the Page (Bell on Writing Book 12), by James Scott Bell 
Dialogue: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Effective Dialogue, by Gloria Kempton
The Heroine’s Journey, by Gail Carriger

Fiction

Earl on the Run, by Jane Ashford (Regency romance. Book 1 was okay, but not as good)
Lily of the Valley, by Sarah M. Eden (Georgian romance)
An Unfamiliar Duke, by Sian Ann Bessey (Georgian romance)
Spirits of Hastings: Terrifying Tales from Hastings, East Sussex, United Kingdom, by The Untruth Seekers (very mild horror)
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster, by Jonathan Auxier (middle grade historical magical realism)
Dreams of Gold, by Traci Hunter Abramson (contemporary sports romance)
Chances Are, by Traci Hunter Abramson (contemporary romance)
Farilane, by Michael J. Sullivan (epic fantasy)

© 2023 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.


How Do I Choose Character Names?

Someone recently asked me how I choose character names, and I had to admit that it varies by series.

Unexpected Heroes

For Unexpected Heroes, my epic fantasy series, I started with baby name sites that had a “meaning” search. I’d type in a meaning that was significant to the culture, then I’d search for names I liked that fit the pertinent alphabet or could be altered to fit. (Yes, for that series, the letters mattered.)

After a while, I got tired of doing a search every time I needed a name, and I made a list of possible choices for easy selection, sorted by applicable culture. That made it quite a bit easier to hunt whenever a new character appeared.

To be fair, only two of four cultures cared about the meanings of their names. One cared very, very much, and one just had a pool of traditional names that they used. The third culture cared about as much as modern American culture, which is to say that some people did and some people didn’t, and choosing by sound was way more important. The fourth culture chose almost entirely by sound, stringing together lots of syllables just for the fun of it.

What can I say? They’re different…

Anyway, since *I* cared about the meanings and it helped me choose, I kept a list of the meanings. It’s on this website, if that sort of thing interests you.

Return of the Fae (in progress)

For my new series, which is contemporary fantasy with a sprinkle of science fiction and large dollop of mythology, I would have originally told you that I chose the human names by origin and random selection and the fae names by ancient-history origin. Which is true…

But when I was answering the question for the person who asked, I realized that quite a few of the names are also inside jokes. Ahem.

Some of them will be explained in the story. Though not immediately.

Some of them won’t. I’m cruel like that. I’ll just enjoy the jokes myself.

No, I won’t be listing the meanings of the names for this series on my website, because they aren’t culturally meaningful. I might list some of the origins, because that would be. But we shall see. The first book hasn’t even been published yet, so I’ve got time to ponder how much I want to tell you and how much I want to leave to amuse myself privately.

I know, I’m mean. Think of it this way—it gives you something else to think about after you finish the story. 😉

Relatively Haunted series (yet to come)

My pen name is working on an adult cozy paranormal mystery series, but I don’t expect publication for a while. But just for the sake of covering all my bases, here’s how I picked those names.

Mostly by random, honestly, with a bit of “origin matters.” Modern characters were almost entirely random. Sometimes I asked people for a name and used that one. Sometimes I used a random generator.

For historical names, I used a random generator set to the proper country, or occasionally did an internet search for names that fit multiple criteria, like country AND religion.

Other than that, I just made sure I hadn’t already used the name (I kept a list) and that it wouldn’t be too much like someone else in the same story. Easiest name choosing ever.

Best Tips

If you’re trying to choose names for your characters, here are some of my best tips.

  1. Decide what’s important to you. The sound of the word? The meaning? The origin? The number of syllables? Whatever matters, write it down.
  2. Try out a few baby name sites and find one that allows you to search by the factors you identified as important.
  3. If not much matters and you just need a name, try a random name generator. You can find ones for regular human names or for fantasy or whatever. Seriously, just search the internet.
  4. Write down all the options you like every time you do a search. It might save you from a search the next time you need a name.
  5. Try not to confuse your readers with names that sound too much the same. If you can make them not start with the same letter, that’s great. If you have too many characters to make that work, at least give them different vowels or different numbers of syllables or don’t rhyme them. You know, make them sound very different.

I think that’s it, folks. There you go, a naming primer. 🙂

Happy writing,
Marty C. Lee

© 2023 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Research Books in 2022 and earlier

Instead of a “category” of book reviews this month, I thought I’d give you a list of books I’ve read for writing research. This list doesn’t include business or actual writing subjects like plot & character, just side topics that I needed to know more about for my stories. I’ll try to remember to post a new list each year. Some of the research is for books not yet released (or written).

Please remember that 3 stars still means I was happy with the book. Also keep in mind that I was rating these on the “useful for research” scale, not on how well they were written.

Weapons

Warfare and Weapons, by Christopher Gravett (3 stars)
Weapons, by Jim Ollhoff (3 stars)
Weapons of Fantasy and Folklore, by John Hamilton (3 stars)
Archery, by Adam G. Klien (3 stars)
Archery, by the Boy Scouts of America (3 stars)
The Crooked Stick: A History of the Longbow, by Hugh D.H. Soar (2 stars)
Longbow, by Robert Hardy (2 stars)
Illustrated History of Arms and Armour, by Charles H. Ashdown (2 stars)
Weapons, by Deborah Murrell (2 stars)
Weapons of Ancient Times, by Matt Doeden (1 star)

Setting & Nature

Desert, by Amanda MacQuitty (3 stars)
Volcano and Earthquake, by Susanna van Rose and James Stevenson (3 stars)
Earthquake, by Jen Green (3 stars)
Escape from the Volcano, by Felicia Law (2 stars)
Surviving an Earthquake, by Heather Adamson (1 star)

Animals

Big Cats and Wild Dogs, by Jen Green et al. (3 stars)
Wolves, by Emma Child (3 stars)

Culture & Character

Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes, by Krista D. Ball (3 stars)
Handbook to Ancient Greece, by Adkins & Adkins (3 stars)
Between Us: How Cultures Create Emotions, by Batja Mesquita (3 stars) (for a work-in-progress)
The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over, by Jack Schafer (4 stars) (for a WIP)

Science & Miscellaneous

Packing For Mars, by Mary Roach (4 stars) (for a WIP)
What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank, by Krista D. Ball (3 stars) (Fun story: her rant against stew made me realize I had a solution for that, which I did use in Seed of War. I found it amusing and satisfactory; how about you?)
Deerskins Into Buckskins, by Matt Richards (3 stars)
Bleed, Blister, Puke, & Purge, by J.M. Younker (3 stars)
The Body: A Guide for Occupants, by Bill Bryson (3 stars) (for a WIP)

I think that’s all for now. You can probably expect to see a lot more space and mythology books next year, if I can’t get enough information on line.

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

© 2022 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Writing Update: New Series

Well, to tell the truth, I’ve actually been working on TWO new series. One is adult paranormal cozy mystery (still clean, because I don’t write steamy), and itwill eventually come out under a name variant. No worries; I’ll announce it. The second series wasn’t supposed to be started until after I finished the mystery trilogy, even though it’s under my usual name. I didn’t even know *what I was writing next for young adult, so it made sense to work on the other one first.

I did have a few ideas I was kicking around, but they were very different ideas, and nothing was producing plot or characters in my brain. So I kept thinking while I wrote the mysteries. I had plenty of time, right?

Then my daughter read me something off… Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere on the internet that she reads things. It was a “what if mythology is wrong” kind of thing, but I’m afraid don’t remember exactly what it said. I laughed, as one does, and quipped back about how it could be right if such-and-such.

Then I stared at her. I could write such-and-such. It would unite MOST of the ideas I’d been kicking around, which was even better than picking one or two of them. There was enough available material with lots of variety. I could have a TON of fun subverting expectations. I could mash together real-life science and history with very unreal other stuff and have a whole new (fake) history that would (incorrectly) explain so much.

So I decided to go ahead and write it.

The series is contemporary fantasy with a dash of science fiction and a great big splash of mythology, so it’s different from my first epic fantasy series but still feels close enough to be “mine.” (One of the reasons the mysteries are coming out under a pen name is because they are so different. The other is that they’re aimed at adults rather than teens.)

Anyway, that was back in early April. I did some quick concept ramblings and character picking, then I started doing research. Due to the very different sources that I’m mashing together, I had to do a lot of research. Plus, even when it probably doesn’t matter, I like being accurate. I’m nerdy like that.

Good news, though. The way I’m setting it up allows for a very long series, if I want to keep writing it and readers want to keep reading it. 😉

Then I had to do some character studies. Sure, I could just learn about my characters as I went along, like I did with my first series, but that’s a lot slower. It took me eight years to finish my first series, and four of those were just finishing the first book. I don’t want this one to take that long to get started, so I’m working more deliberately. Experience has to be good for something, after all.

Then I started plotting the major beats. That created the need for more research. Sigh.

Finally got through that (for now?), and started working on the more detailed outline. That turned up some major problems. I hate when that happens. So I worked on motivations for the past couple of weeks before returning to the outline.

As of now, I have all of book 1 outlined on my max outlining level, and one chapter for book 2, as well as over half of book 2 on the one-sentence-per-chapter level. (Book 2 volunteered…) I also got the entire prequel novella drafted, so progress is being made.

My tentative plan is to write the new series and submit it to my critique group, leaving the already-outlined mystery stories for when I’m blocked or need a break. Eventually, I’ll get them both finished.

Will it work?

I don’t know. I guess we’ll see. 🙂

Marty C. Lee

© 2022 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Fantasy Books Guest Post

I thought it would be fun to have some guest writers on my blog, so I asked a couple of other authors to write me some “favorite books” posts. This one, unsurprisingly, is fantasy. Liz McCraine writes romantic fantasy AND suspense novels.

***

My First Fantasy Love

By Liz McCraine

When Marty C. Lee asked me which fantasy books were my favorite, I wanted to reply, “Why, yours, of course!” But I suspect most people reading this post are already familiar with Lee’s phenomenal world building and character development, so I went in a different direction. Instead of telling you about my favorite fantasy books, I will tell you about the fantasy author who inspired me to write my Kingdom of Aggadorn series: Robin McKinley.

I was first introduced to McKinley’s work when I was in my early twenties. I was headed on a long bus ride, and because I had forgotten to visit the library beforehand, my roommate kindly handed me her copy of The Blue Sword. Initially, I was hesitant to read the book. You see, one of my deepest, darkest secrets is that I prefer reading suspense to fantasy. (I hear some gasps… stay with me.) This is because as a youth, I couldn’t find YA fantasy books that met my two requirements: romance and a satisfying ending. At least with suspense, you are guaranteed conflict resolution.

The YA fantasy genre has come a long way since I was a teenager, and now there are several exciting books on the market that, had they been published twenty—erm, I mean, “a few”—years ago, they would have met my criteria. But it’s too late, the damage is done. Had someone handed me a Robin McKinley book back when I was a starry-eyed youth craving magic and true love, I’d have different preferences.

McKinley entwines adventure, danger, romance, and magic into fascinating plots with strong main characters who are both smart and brave. Addittonally, McKinley demands engagement through emotion-evoking conflict and descriptive details that leave readers dreaming of her worlds. While The Blue Sword (Newbery Honor Award winner) and its sequel, The Hero and the Crown (Newbery Medal winner), are my favorites, all of McKinley’s YA books are fantastic. She even has a few fairytale rewrites that enchant readers with their unique twists (Beauty is popular).

After reading McKinley’s stories, I finally learned that YA fantasies could have both romance and a happy ending. With this in mind, I began spinning the threads of adventure, magic, and happy-ever-after’s into the type of stories I wish I had discovered years earlier. In short, Robin McKinley’s work changed my life, and it could change yours too, if you let it. I recommend finding one of her stories ASAP and discovering for yourself what you’ve been missing.

***

I didn’t ask her to say that about me… She asked if I like Robin McKinley, and I said, “Duh, what kind of bad taste do you think I have?” Like her, I’ve been a long-time fan of McKinley (probably longer, since I’m older and was lucky enough to find her in my youth).

I totally agree that McKinley’s work affected Liz’s books. Like her, Liz writes good characters with a bit of romance, a lot of adventure, and a happy ending. I always squeal when a new one comes out. (Her suspense is good, too.) If you want to check out her work, let me know how you like it.

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

Hardcovers Available!

Okay, yes, I realize this isn’t really a writing post. But it is about things I wrote…

In case you hadn’t heard, my books are now available in hardcover from Amazon. Case laminate, which means no dust jacket to get damaged.

Books 1-5 of the Unexpected Heroes series have actually been available in hardcover for a couple of months. Book 6 is newly out.

That means you can get the entire series in regular paperback, large print paperback, or hardcover! Or ebook, of course. Or you can ask your library to order it for you so you can read it for free. 🙂

Four kinds of formats. Yay!

Hey, they’re my books. I can be excited if I want to… It’s okay if you’re excited, too. 🙂

And if you’re looking for signed books, those are also available here.

If that’s not enough goodies, remember that my direct store also has sheet music AND ringtones for the songs from the series. In a few months, it will also have some bonus goodies. 😉

And for your entertainment, if you haven’t checked out my book trailers yet, you might see what you think. 🙂 The whole series is up there already.

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

© 2022 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Historical Mysteries Guest Post

I thought it would be fun to have some guest writers on my blog, so I asked a couple of other authors to write me some “favorite books” posts. I know I write fantasy, but I READ a lot of different things, and my first guest is a mystery writer.

Carol Malone writes historical mysteries, frequently with a sports tie-in and a romantic subplot. And here she is to tell us how she got started. 🙂

***

Why I love historical mysteries.

By Carol Malone

I found a copy of Agatha Christie’s “Black Coffee,” written in 1929, at a used bookstore. I was a mystery fan and a wannabe mystery writer and wanted to study the way a master mystery writer tells a story. So, for a buck, I delved into the fascinating world of the little Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, the curious man with the egg-shaped head and the passion— no, more like obsession—with order. Can you say Obsessive Compulsive?

He liked to mention that he used his “little grey cells” to solve mysteries so complex the reader just scratches his/her head and stares wide-eyed as the intrepid little man solves the crime with aplomb.

The story of “Black Coffee,” is a tale about a scientist in the 30s England who has discovered the formula for a massive weapon to kill hundreds of thousands of people. He contacted Detective Poirot with the suspicion that someone in his family wanted to steal his formula. He needed Poirot to hand-carry it to the English version of the Defense Department. But before Poirot arrived with his trusty detecting sidekick, Hastings, the scientist was dispatched.

Little clues were dropped, and the reader is led to believe he/she knows “who-done-it” while being entertained along the way.

The reader follows the little detective with surprise and delight as he charges through his lines of questioning, and the positioning of the suspects, making the reader believe they have solved the crime before Poirot does.

I will not give away anymore of the plot or the list of suspects, but will say this is a short novel, easy to read and understand, but one that will keep the reader on his/her toes until the very end. There were so many false leads and red herrings to keep anyone entertained and fulling involved in the story. Agatha Christie can make anyone fall in love with the genre and cement the reading of mysteries a part of their browsing obsession.

Solving the crime and understanding the intricacies of the mystery is why I love this genre. Even in differing eras of time, Mrs. Christie offers the ability to the reader to act as a silent partner in the world of detecting. She puts you into the character of Poirot to feed some need in a reader’s life.

Our lives are a mystery to be discovered with systematic thoroughness as we live each day not knowing when the next “surprise” will hit us, and we’ll be left figuring out the way to proceed. We all hope we’ll be the detective and not the murderer in our own little adaptation of “Black Coffee.”

Of course, there is the revelation of what makes some people resort to murder and the slap-in-the-face discovery of the sordidness of some human nature as the major stimulant. Christie offers the reader a puzzle of the mind and at the end, the reader can’t help but feel gratified when the plot twists engages and surprise us and eventually, the mystery of the puzzle is solved. I can’t help but feel like I’ve discovered something marvelous at the end of such a book, like I’ve solved a stimulating secret. It’s a heady experience.

All of these are the things that make up historical mysteries are why I adore them so much. I can only hope to do half as well with the mysteries that I produce. I do love me a good whodunit mystery.

***

And that, folks, is Carol Malone, lover of Agatha Christie and other good historical mysteries, and writer in the same genre. But Christie didn’t write much romance, sad to say, and Carol likes to include some in most of her books. Don’t worry—she won’t embarrass you. All her romance is safe-for-work.

If you want to read one of her historical stories, she has a free one available for joining her newsletter. No pressure, honestly.
https://mybookcave.com/direct/ae4a0751/
Or if you want one of her mysteries, they’re available where ebooks are sold.

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

My Writing Method, Per Brain

I’ve actually been learning a lot about my own writing over the past three years. I know I’ve told you about developing my outlining system and about some of my experiences with specific books (see the Writing Process tag for posts), but I don’t think I’ve told you what I’ve learned about my own brain.

I’ve been fascinated by personality tests for decades, so when I heard about Clifton Strengths, I was very intrigued. A “personality” system that talks about your strengths in dealing with the world, rather than introversion or sensing or openness? Tell me more! So I took the test and started learning.

Turns out there are good reasons why I love personality theory and learning about everything. I have Individualization (enjoying differences) in my top ten, and Input (collecting stuff–in my case, information) and Learner (obvious…) both in my top TWO. And Intellection (thinking about stuff) in my top five. In fact, my top ten Strengths include FOUR thinking Strengths (and four get-it-done Strengths).

Yes, I spend a lot of time sticking stuff into my brain and then thinking about it and then thinking about how to use it. And then thinking about it just for fun. And then thinking about it some more because I don’t know how to stop. Ahem.

Anyway, when I was trying to learn how to use my brain better to write better AND faster, I concentrated a lot on the lower four of my Top Five, because Input was only useful as a background power for absorbing story and giving me energy pennies. Achiever and Responsibility are get-it-done Strengths, so they seemed obviously useful to, you know, get it done. And Intellection is my steering wheel for life. No, really. It’s not the invisible engine (Achiever and Responsibility–go, go, go!) or the frame (Input and Learner, making the shape), but it’s what I semi-consciously use to drive everything, all the time. First I think, then I do. Learner, of course, is my research superpower.

And indeed, improving my usage of those four did improve my writing speed, along with my improved plotting method. But something still seemed to be missing. If my outline process was pretty much working now, and my research process was pretty much working, and my goals were pretty achievable, what was wrong?

It was only a little while ago that I learned I had underestimated Input. Yep, #1 Input, that I thought was only good for background stuff and energy pennies is actually doing a LOT behind the scenes. I finally realized that Input is the one handing me all the puzzle pieces of the story.

Ideas? Why, thank you, Input.

Characters? Yes, Input has it.

Plot? Hi, Input!

Conflict? Input to the rescue!

I just didn’t realize how much Input was running things. Input, darling girl that she is, keeps shoving new puzzle pieces at me. Most of them don’t fit, so she takes them back again, only to hand me a new selection. It’s the “take back again” that threw me off my understanding. So many false starts, so Input isn’t really helping, right? Surely it’s Intellection’s pondering that’s finding my ideas.

Not really. Eventually, something will click, and Intellection will grab a piece and smoosh it down into the outline. There it goes! And Learner will run off to research how to make everything fit together, and Achiever will update the outline with the new plot points and characters. And then Input will nod and shuffle through her puzzle pieces to see what else might spark ideas (no matter how little they might resemble each other on the surface). Yep, it was Input’s idea in the first place, and she’s ready to go find the next one.

Which means that all the crazy reading I do isn’t just giving me energy pennies (still very important), it’s filling out a ton of pieces for Input to shuffle around when I’m brainstorming.

I’m sure you’ve heard writers talk about where their ideas come from—overheard conversations, random thoughts, etc. Mine come from Input handing me a strange collection of puzzle pieces and seeing if any fit together. Never mind that the colors don’t match, because if the edges are the same shape, Input can turn them into a new photomosaic. You just won’t see the whole picture until she’s finished. 😉

Yep, Input runs the show very quietly in the background, and you never quite know what she’ll come up with. But it will be amazing. You’ll never be able to tell that the puzzle pieces didn’t originally come from the same picture, because the picture will be soooo cool.

Now, back to writing for me, and for you, back to… what are you working on?
Marty C. Lee

© 2022 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Why Should You Read My Book Lists?

I’ll be honest–I think I’ve gone through every category in my Goodreads and given you my favorites. I’ll still post a “favorite books this year” every year, but what else would like from my book review posts? Or should I stop doing them (except the yearly review) and just do writing posts?

While you’re thinking about that, here’s a summary of what sort of books I tend to read, and how I tend to rate books. You know, if you want to know if I like the same things you do. 😉

As of the middle of July, 2022:

2.97 avg stars. Yes, I’m a harsh grader. I don’t actually have very many 1 stars, relatively speaking, but I do give a lot of 2 & 3 star ratings. On the other hand, I consider a 3-star book to be perfectly acceptable. I probably won’t reread it, but I don’t consider it a waste of my time. Two stars were a waste, and one stars get angry rants. Four stars means I really liked it and would reread happily, and five stars means I’m probably going to buy it.

Numbers are rounded. Some categories cross fiction/non-fic lines, but I’ve done my best to sort them by the most common occurrences.

Audience:
children ‎(500)
juv-ya ‎(4000)
adult ‎(4000)

Fiction Genres:
action-adventure ‎(400)
beast-tales ‎(400)
comedy ‎(200)
comics ‎(100)
family-child ‎(600)
fantasy ‎(3000)
fiction ‎(2000)
historical-1700s ‎(100)
historical-1800s ‎(500)
historical-1900s ‎(400)
historical-ancient ‎(100)
historical-medieval-renaissance ‎(300)
historical-pioneer-oldwest ‎(100)
historical-regency ‎(300)
historical-roman-circa ‎(100)
horror ‎(100)
mystery-puzzles ‎(800)
picture-bk ‎(300)
poetry-theatre ‎(50)
romance ‎(1000)
sci-fi ‎(1000)
short-stories ‎(500)
sports ‎(50)
steampunk-gaslamp-flintlock ‎(200)

Non-fiction Genres:
biography ‎(200)
business ‎(100)
camp-hike ‎(20)
cognition ‎(100)
comedy (200)
cooking ‎(50)
craft-sewing ‎(10)
education-homeschool ‎(50)
family-child ‎(600)
finance-economy ‎(50)
health ‎(100)
various historicals (see #s under fiction)
home-garden ‎(60)
literary-linguistic ‎(50)
parenting ‎(100)
personality-behavr ‎(200)
philosophy-psych ‎(100)
politics-law ‎(50)
preparedness ‎(20)
religious ‎(400)
science-math ‎(100)
social-relationship ‎(200)
travel ‎(20)
writing ‎(20)
writing-business ‎(100)
writing-character ‎(50)
writing-conflict ‎(10)
writing-description-prose ‎(20)
writing-dialogue ‎(10)
writing-editing ‎(10)
writing-emotion ‎(10)
writing-plot-structure ‎(50)
writing-productivity ‎(50)
writing-research ‎(10)
writing-worldbuilding ‎(10)

Yes, I read a lot of different things. Always have.

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

P.S. Remember to comment to say what you want from future posts!

© 2022 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Updated Day in the Life of a Writer

The last time I mentioned my writing routine was two years ago, and things have changed since then. So here’s the latest. Keep in mind, it’s a work in progress as I figure out what works for me and what doesn’t.

I don’t write or do business on Sunday, and Saturday tends to be erratic, so this is for weekdays. Minus Thursday, which I will discuss below.

I wake up at 6 am. I shower, dress, eat breakfast, and read my scriptures. I throw a load of laundry into the washer, then I go for a walk (this is new). I don’t actually like exercising right after breakfast, but I’ve discovered that I get it done more often then, and more importantly, it increases the amount of writing I get done. Sigh. So I do it anyway.

In the winter, I walk on my treadmill, because the outside air is too cold to breathe. In the summer, I might go outside. While I walk, I ponder my writing project for the day. If the chapter/story is new, I’ll turn on my phone recorder and talk to myself about the plot, or ask myself questions, or very roughly sketch out scenes or dialogue. If I’m still working on the same chapter/story, I’ll ponder plot holes or where I need to add details. I’m still working up my time & distance, so this walk doesn’t take long. Even so, those few minutes of warming up my brain for writing have made a huge difference.

On Thursday, which is a non-writing day, I’ll plot AHEAD of where I’m working. The next story or chapter, or the next series, or even wishful thinking. I discovered the hard way that I can’t plot story B on a day that I’m writing story A, or else I can’t actually write story A. So I save the extra plotting for when it won’t mess up my writing for the day.

I now have my own office. Yay! It’s the smallest bedroom in my house, but it does have a door to shut out disturbances. I even got a light for the door that glows in different colors so I can color-code my availability. I have white boards and bulletin boards and four bookcases (two are hidden beyond the others) and an extra table. I even have artwork for prettiness. My kids gave me the blue flower triptych, the tree photo was taken by my grandfather, and I embroidered the two pictures by the bookcase. The big whiteboard is for plotting & writing notes, and the smaller one is for tasks & reminders. There’s nothing on them in the pictures because I had just set them up.

Ideally, by 8 am, I’ll be at my desk with a full water bottle. I turn on classical music very, very quietly and try to write new stuff until noon, though sometimes “write” means “outline” or “brainstorm” or “research” or “pick names” or “world build” or any of the other author-y tasks that sometimes have to come before actual writing. (Now that I plot-walk in the mornings and use Thursdays for these tasks, I get more actual writing done on the other days.) I also resort to side tasks when writer’s block is being stubborn or when I don’t feel well.

I’m not particularly fast, but I try to get 1500 words by lunch. With the new addition of my morning walk, I’ve gotten 2000 words moderately regularly, and once or twice as many as 3000. I’d love that to be a regular occurrence. I’m sure you’ve heard of writers who can write 10,000 words/day (good for them!), but I used to get about 5000 per MONTH, tops, so I’m still faster than I used to be. (By the way, don’t compare yourself to others. Nothing good comes of it.)

On Thursday, my critique group takes the place of my morning writing.

After lunch, I take a break and do more-brainless activities, like house cleaning, reading, errands, or social media. I try to get my laundry folded. Sometimes I give up and take a nap.

Around 1 or 1:30 pm, I get back to work. After a quick spin through my email, I spend some time editing my own work and/or beta reading/critiquing other people’s stuff. I also use this time to go over my own beta feedback. I love my beta readers. 🙂 I love finding out what’s working in my stories and what needs to be fixed. (If you’d like to be a beta reader, let me know…)

Most of the time, beta reading for others is also fun, since I tend not to accept beta reads that bore me. Reading other writers’ works-in-progress is actually a good way to learn more about your own writing, by the way. Somehow, it’s easier to see mistakes in someone else’s work, and THEN apply the lesson to yourself.

In a couple of hours, I switch to business things like marketing, budgeting, or formatting. This is not the funnest part of my day, but it needs to be done. Always keep track of the business stuff, guys, or you’ll be sorry later. As you set up your system, try to imagine how much trouble it will be doing it that way when you have a lot MORE of it. Granted, you will still probably have to redo your system at some point, but planning ahead might postpone the remodel.

I stop either when my husband gets home (on days someone else cooks) or when I need to go make supper. Occasionally I have an important task that has to be finished after supper, but I try not to do that too often.

Did I miss anything you wanted to know? Feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Happy writing,
Marty C. Lee

© 2022 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.