The Two Essential Tools No Author Should Be Without

March 14, 2016

When all else fails, go old school

It was one of those days when everything that could go wrong did. You know the kind of days I'm talking about--when the kids are sick with the stomach flu, the fridge dies, your last pair of pantyhose rips as you're putting it on to go to an important meeting, and the power goes out all in the space of 24 hours. In my case, the Internet crapped out, my eyeglass prescription changed suddenly and dramatically (this coupled with my long-time optometrist, Dr. K, announcing that he was retiring) and I got a sty in my left eye that further affected my vision. What's a writer to do when then the combined forces of the universe and the Web conspire against her?

I went back to basics and picked up pen and notepad. The two essential tools no writer should be without.

At first I wasn't sure I still had the knack. My early writings were all done longhand. It was easier than typing on the old manual typewriter I used to own that, in the current era, places me in the Pleistocene Era in terms of how long I've been at this game. Back then, I carried a notebook with me everywhere. I did some of my best writing while cooling my heels at the dentist's or doctor's offices, or at the bus stop waiting for my kids' school busses. My handheld "device" was one that never crapped out on me. If a pen ran out of ink, I'd find a new one. No recharging required. 

By the time I moved to New York City in the 1980's, I had upgraded to a electric typewriter. Still, my pen and notebook went everywhere I did. I rode the subway a lot in those days - schlepping to and from Manhattan and Brooklyn where I lived with my two kids - and being as iPads hadn't been invented, I did a lot of my writing the old-fashioned way. That was when I was writing titles for the wildly popular Sweet Valley High series. I wrote 5 of the first 12 titles and missed more than one subway stop, I was so busy scribbling away, lost to the world. 

I wrote whole chunks of my first adult novel, GARDEN OF LIES, longhand, whenever I couldn't be at my desk, and that book went on to become a New York Times bestseller. Maybe it was partly due to pen & ink?.

But that was then and this is now. It had been decades since I wrote more than grocery lists or well wishes in greeting cards, so I wasn't sure if this particular skill set was like riding a bicycle - as in you never forget how - or like my Spanish language skills which have grown rusty with time and disuse. The former, as it turns out. It was like riding a bike. The minute I put pen to paper, the ideas started to flow. I felt a renewed energy and forgot about my fuzzy eyesight. Before I knew it, I was halfway through my book outline.

Something else I remembered along the way: It's sometimes best not to have ease of editing like you do with a computer. I tend to overthink and can spend an hour snagged on a few paragraphs or a single page, polishing & perfecting. This is a bad habit I need to break, and one shared by other authors I know from talking to them. In penning longhand, I can leave all thoughts of editing  aside and let a cross-out or note scribbled in the margin suffice. 

These days, I travel as often by plane as by subway. Next trip I go on, I'm taking a pen & notebook so I can work in-flight without having to juggle for space for my laptop in Coach or worry about my battery running out of juice before I land. It'll give me a bit more room between the armrests. Now, if only I could create more legroom, all my problems would be solved.

Newsflash: The publication date for Book 2 of my Cypress Bay mystery series, SWIMSUIT BODY, has been set for June 7th. Only a little more than 3 months away! More details and links to come. Stay tuned.         

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Doretta on Mon, March 14, 2016 at 2:56:52 said:

Can’t wait, so looking forward to it!

    eileen goudge on Mon, March 14, 2016 at 3:17:18 said:

    It’s a long time coming, but hopefully you’ll find it worth the wait. I’m pretty pleased with it, and that’s after multiple drafts, which is saying something.

Kay Murcer on Tue, March 15, 2016 at 12:47:02 said:

Eileen… I’m certain Cindy and I will both dive right into your new book as soon as it hits the shelves.  Your stories are always page-turners… so we’re pumped!  Hoping you slip in a recipe or two for added flavor… it’s your speciality!  Xoxo

    eileen goudge on Tue, March 15, 2016 at 2:10:37 said:

    Thank you, Kay. No recipes in this one. My heroine is too busy solving murders (while doing cleanup at the properties she manages). I had so much fun with SWIMSUIT BODY and BONES AND ROSES before that. Tish Ballard is me as a blonde with attitude!

Kathleen Irene Paterka on Tue, March 15, 2016 at 8:03:52 said:

Eileen, sorry to hear that the forces of the universe conspired against you (hope your eyes are doing better!)... but sounds like you found a ‘silver lining’ to an unfortunate situation…. which led to the discovery of a long-lost friend. Computers, tablets, etc. certainly have their place, but there’s definitely something about paper and pen that gets a writer back to basics. PS - a new Eileen Goudge novel soon to release? Best news I’ve heard in a long time!

    eileen goudge on Tue, March 15, 2016 at 2:12:55 said:

    Thanks for the well wishes, Kathleen! I’m doing much better now, thanks to a new eyeglass prescription. I’m still working longhand, though, at least until I finish my outline. It’s going so well, why mess with success? I like mixing it up now and then. Do you ever do that with your writing?

Rita Wagner on Wed, March 16, 2016 at 2:48:11 said:

Know just what you mean.  But I guess by going through these trials, we appreciate the good days.

    eileen goudge on Wed, March 16, 2016 at 4:47:54 said:

    Every day that I wake up and can get out of bed and do some writing, by whatever method, is a good day.

Website on Fri, April 22, 2016 at 2:27:16 said:

It is nice to read your post and you give wonderful information. Please keep posting such kind of informative stuff. Interesting article share and this blog is impresses more people to reading that blog.

mary margiotta on Sun, May 01, 2016 at 2:03:00 said:

I just love reading Eileen!Can’t always get the books but I keep looking!I’m 80 and will read her till I die!

    eileen goudge on Thu, May 05, 2016 at 7:26:58 said:

    Where would I be without my Dear Readers? Creating bad art on canvas? Playing piano poorly? Glad I stuck with what I can do well.

Shane Kharene on Wed, May 04, 2016 at 11:37:23 said:

I am starting to read your book - ” The Diary “. smile

    eileen goudge on Thu, May 05, 2016 at 7:27:34 said:

    Hope you enjoy it! The Diary was inspired by my parents’ love story.

cam on Tue, May 16, 2017 at 12:14:28 said:

I love this entry. To think that one of my all-time favorite books (Garden of Lies) was written partially in long-hand, in a spiral notebook just makes me feel even more connected with you. I grew up in the 70s & 80s and spent my high school years filling up spiral notebooks with cheesy but heartfelt stories. Every free moment in class would be spent hunched over a notebook, writing feverishly. At home, once homework was done, I would sit at my mammoth electric typewriter and write late into the night.

I never read the Sweet Valley High books (I was more a Silhouette romance kind of girl as a teen. haha), but my best friend was a big fan of them. I married right out of high school and moved from Florida to Alaska with my soldier husband, and during the two turbulent years I spent with him there before leaving him, I worked as a teller. I hated the job immensely, but I lived for my lunch break each day, when I could hide in the breakroom and read—my escape. There was a big box of books there, a small lending library between coworkers. It was in that box that I found Garden of Lies, and sat down to read what would become my favorite novel for years to come. That was 1993/94. Then I read it again some 11 years later, after having my first child (with my new husband. This one has been a keeper. haha), and it was even better than the first time! I also read the sequel at that time, while pregnant with my second child. But Garden of Lies remains a book that is very dear to my heart.

I still write, but have never submitted anything to be published. I laughed at your description of how you overthink at your keyboard, trying to edit and re-edit things as you put them down. I do the same thing! I can never just sit and write at my laptop with that same flow I used to have with my notebooks in high school. I never thought about why that is the case, but I think you’ve nailed it.

Best wishes always.

    Eileen Goudge on Tue, May 16, 2017 at 9:31:06 said:

    Thank you, Cam. Yours is the sort of comment we writers live to get. To know I touched your life in some way through my stories, well, it doesn’t get better that that in terms of validation. I don’t still write longhand for the most part, but I believe now as I did when I wrote Garden of Lies, that the best novels are the ones we’d want to read if someone else wrote them. If you want to stay in touch, visit me on Facebook, at my author page, or on Bloom, the FB page where readers of Tall Poppy Writers (of which I am one) hang out and discuss books, participate in giveaways, and generally have a good time. We’d love to have you as a member! And thanks again for your heartfelt words. It means a lot smile

    cam on Sat, November 18, 2017 at 8:26:48 said:

    Thank you for your response, and for the invite to check out that group on facebook. What a cool era we live in that I can chat with one of my favorite authors. smile