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Fun Friday–It’s Work, I Promise

Friday, June 18, 2010

I’ve spent quite some time discussing all the hard work it takes to be a writer recently. But there are a lot of perks too. There are a lot of things that I do that are “working” or “work related” that most people would consider to be frivolous or wasting time.

For example, last night, I went to a writing acquaintance’s book signing at Davis Kidd. I wanted to go to support her, but it was also important for me to go because there are always people at book signings with whom it’s beneficial for me to network—other writers that I might not otherwise meet, store personnel, publicists, etc. It’s also important for me to go out for supper afterward with a few of the authors I just met. Not only is it stimulating to spend time with other writers, it’s building professional relationships.

Well, even though I’m supposed to be working on Ransome’s Quest right now, yesterday, I found myself unable to think about anything other than The Art of Romance (and that was long before the boxes of Love Remains were delivered). In writing the first chapter of Art, I’d created a clear mental image of the kitchen at Caylor’s grandmother’s house (where Caylor now lives). So I sketched it out on a piece of paper and got online and started looking for something similar. The problem is that the kitchen I was picturing was an older footprint—one that you don’t see in modern floor plans as everything is now “open concept.”

Ooh, while I’m at it, let me tell you this trick I’ve learned in Google Maps.

Go to Google, then click on Maps. Once there, go to the location of your setting (or where you live). Then type in whatever you might happen to need at the moment. Since I was looking for houses, I typed real estate in the search box. And, bam, little red dots showing all of the houses for sale in the geographic area I was looking at. Need a restaurant in Brentwood, TN? Ask Google Maps to find Brentwood, TN, for you; then, once it does, type in restaurants and see what pops up. (I used this method quite a bit for research when I was writing Love Remains.

Okay, anyway, I couldn’t find one particular house that fit the mental image I had of the house where Sassy and Caylor live. It needed to be in the Forrest Hills area of Nashville, built sometime between 1930 and 1950, and, most importantly, not overly updated inside. Good luck finding that in a house for sale in that area of town!

So I started grabbing images that did fit my mental image of the house:

But it still wasn’t coming together for me. I couldn’t mentally walk through the house. So I decided to bite the bullet and download the trial version of some drafting software I’ve heard/read about, SmartDraw. Of course, I probably should have waited until this morning to do it instead of almost 10 p.m. last night—because once I got started, there was no way I was going to stop until I was finished.

And here’s the final floor plan:

I’m no architect, so it’s not the greatest layout in the world, but it works for my story. Now I just have to stop myself from spending twelve or fourteen hours furnishing and decorating it!

What’s something you do that’s part of your job (whether as a writer or in another profession) that’s actually more like playing than working?

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  1. Friday, June 18, 2010 6:18 am

    That is so neat!!!! Love the loft area ~ and again, so fun to see what you picture in your head when you are writing. It really helps bring characters to life in a new dimension. I love it when there are maps and guidelines in the front of books to help you picture things.


    • Friday, June 18, 2010 4:10 pm

      I wish I knew someone who could do a rendering of Bonneterre inexpensively, because I’d love to include that in my, um, well, if I ever write another Bonneterre series (like possibly immediately after I finish the Matchmakers series).


  2. Friday, June 18, 2010 6:58 am

    That’s neat! What a gorgeous setting, too. I guess I’m branding myself as a supernerd if I say I love research. Before being a stay-at-home mom I worked in a library and I seem to bring that to bear. Sometimes I get obsessed with knowing every detail of the time period or group of people I am writing about. Since even if my books are never published they’re for me, it works for me though.


    • Friday, June 18, 2010 4:11 pm

      Most research we writers do turns out to be only for us, as at least 75% of it doesn’t end up on the pages of the story. (Unless you’re Tom Clancy.)


  3. Patty Hall permalink
    Friday, June 18, 2010 7:05 am

    I love studying houses on the market–been doing that for years. Must have something to do with my family owning a construction business.

    One thing I do that is considered work that most wouldn’t is visiting towns that are the background of my stories. Just this week, I visited Dahlonaga in preparation of a series of stories set in the Georgia goldrush so I panned for gold, visited the gold museum, talking to local historians. For the last book, I rode simulators, visited air museums and air shows and even crawled in the cockpit of a B-17!


    • Friday, June 18, 2010 4:13 pm

      I’m having fun getting out and doing stuff around Nashville I’ve never done before and calling it research for the Matchmakers series. Author Liz Johnson moved to town in May and it’s given me a really good excuse to suggest going to some of the more touristy spots that I haven’t been to or haven’t been to since first moving here fourteen years ago.


  4. Friday, June 18, 2010 9:48 am

    The book signing event sounds like fun!

    And I love the house stuff. I started drawing houseplans when I was about 10 years old, at one time wanted to be an architect (until I discovered my dislike for math!), and then thought about interior design (but then decided I needed to be “practical” *rolling eyes now*). Every time we’ve even considered moving, my favorite past-time becomes scouring the online real estate ads – which drives my husband batty.

    What do I do that’s “work,” or necessary (or at least helpful) to writing, and also FUN? Well, last summer we took a trip to SC. We had a great vacation, but I concentrated on getting a feel for what things looked like at different times of day, smelled like (the beach, the marsh), and the distinct differences in the landscape on the coast and inland just a tiny bit. It’s like night and day.

    Does keeping up with umpteen blogs count? 🙂


    • Friday, June 18, 2010 4:16 pm

      That’s funny—I would swipe graph paper from my parents’ office or from my sister (when she started Geometry) and use that to draw house plans—huge, elaborate, never in reality house plans. I also was addicted to the house plans magazines. I’m so glad all of that kind of stuff is available online so I don’t feel at all tempted to buy the magazines anymore.


      • Friday, June 18, 2010 8:29 pm

        I won’t even talk about how many house plan magazines I have squirreled away and won’t let my husband throw away….


  5. Traci Myers permalink
    Friday, June 18, 2010 10:33 am

    Very Cool home layout, I would like to live there. I love that you added a piano and fireplaces. That program looks fun, I might have to try it, I have used others and they are fun, but so time consuming. We get to fantasize about where we would like to live, too much fun! Have a great friday, can’t wait to go see Toy Story 3 this weekend. Saw Prince of Persia, loved it, did you see it?


    • Friday, June 18, 2010 4:18 pm

      I saw PoP the weekend it released. Thought it was pretty cute, but I felt like there was no jeopardy in the story because I knew they’d be able to go back in time and make everything right. (I was also quite disappointed in the princess—that she’s supposed to be this guardian of a massively powerful supernatural item and she can’t even hold a sword properly to defend herself or it.) But it was still a fun kickoff to the summer.


  6. Kav permalink
    Friday, June 18, 2010 11:09 am

    I’m addicted to HGTV and love watching the real estate shows set in different cities. I live in a humble wee home that I rent, so I’m always amazed at how demanding the future home owners are. Nothing’s ever big enough, marble enough, dual sink enough! LOL.

    I’m fascinated by how much effort you put into creating the settings for your books. Are all authors like that or is this just something you do to get in the groove? I would never have thought to research a kitchen, or house and furnishings.

    The part of my job that is more play then work is buying books! I work in a school board library and we buy books to support the curriculum in both French and English, including fiction for novel studies, literature circles etc. The area I am responsible for is the Fiction, the kindergarten curriculum and the arts. Talk about having a blast!!!!!!!!!!!


    • Friday, June 18, 2010 4:22 pm

      Kav, I live in one of those wee little rental houses (with closets so small my clothes have to hang diagonally because the closets aren’t deep enough front to back to accommodate modern day coat hangers), and I get annoyed, especially with first-time homebuyers, who are so critical and demanding because they want their dreamhouse on a first-time homebuyer’s budget.


  7. Friday, June 18, 2010 12:49 pm

    Amazing, all the research you do for your books! I love looking at houses–I’m an HGTV nut too!–and find older houses fascinating. I think the way you make writing fun for you, beyond all the hard work, is great.


    • Friday, June 18, 2010 4:22 pm

      It’s a great way to say I’m working without actually doing the writing. 😉


  8. Audry permalink
    Friday, June 18, 2010 3:20 pm

    Where does the person who sleeps in the second bedroom downstairs (off to the bottom right) take a shower?

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist, since I am an architect. I think it’s great that you put that much effort into your settings. Nothing worse than reading physical descriptions that get you completely confused because they don’t work! (ok, there are worse things, but ya know)

    One of the things I get to do at work that often (not always) seems more like play than work is to build 3D computer models 😀


    • Friday, June 18, 2010 4:24 pm

      You know, I woke up this morning (afternoon, technically) thinking about how the house didn’t have a laundry room. I’d decided last night that when the loft was added, the bathroom that now opens into Sassy’s room would have been the main bathroom for the house. After all, houses built in that era typically only had one bathroom. But this morning, I realized that if that were the case, it would have had a tub, not a stand-up shower stall. So, I added a laundry room and another bathroom (one with a tub, not a tub-shower combo) and windows across the back of the house and re-loaded the image above.


  9. Friday, June 18, 2010 6:31 pm

    I love this! One of the things I enjoy most in my spare (?) time is to draw house designs. So when I write a story I always ensure that I know where my characters live and drawing out floor plans is part of it. I love you pics and plans. How much fun!



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