Pitch Your Book Like it’s a Movie (The One Sentence Synopsis)

I recently attended a screenplay writing seminar with Publishers and Writers of San Diego. It was taught by writing coach Marni Freedman and focused on taking an existing book and developing it into a screenplay.  Screenplays are extremely concise – they average around one hundred pages. Being concise means really having to know the infrastructure and outline of a story. There are several aspects of screenwriting that are helpful in book writing, and one of those aspects is the creation of a logline.

A logline is a one sentence synopsis of your story. It is like the cover of a book. A good one makes you want to open it immediately to see what is inside. Before you can create a logline, you will need to understand where your book is going. When you try and select a movie on cable, you see loglines all the time. They are very brief descriptions of the show’s content.

For example, let’s look at a logline for The Godfather by Mario Puzo: A 1940’s New York mafia family struggles to protect their empire from rival families as the leadership switches from the father to his youngest son. Although The Godfather is an epic, the plot can still be boiled down into a one-sentence pitch. Audiences have short attention spans and you only get one chance to make a first impression. Effective loglines are compelling: they draw people in and make them want to know more.

Ready to create your own logline? It can be comprised more easily if you are able to supply the following story formula that Marni will be publishing in an upcoming book – 7 Steps to a First Draft:

Story idea: Who – Unique Problem – Goal – Ending (Marni Freedman 2010)

  • Who do you want to write about? Why are they interesting? Why should we care about them and want to follow them?
  • What unique problem does this person face?
  • What is this person’s goal? How will the person solve it? Who or what will try to stop them?
  • How does their journey end?

Writing coach Marni Freedman (www.thewriterinyou.com) encouraged our group to create loglines, as they are not just for the authors to be able to quickly explain the heart of their story, but also serve as a pitch that can be used when interacting with agents, entering contests, meeting with producers, or anyone with whom you want to engage. If you would like to practice this exercise, think about one of your favorite stories (which can be the form of a book or movie) and create a one sentence synopsis of the plot and action.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe: Four children travel to the magical land of Narnia where they must battle an evil queen with the direction of the Lion, Aslan.

Citizen Kane: Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance.

Toy Story: A cowboy doll is profoundly threatened and jealous when a new spaceman figure supplants him as top toy in a boy’s room. 
Clapper Board
The creation of a logline takes time and effort. It’s hard to boil down your story to a one sentence synopsis. It may take you several attempts, so don’t beat yourself up if you find it a harder process than you originally anticipated. You will know that you have stumbled on your perfect logline because it is fun to pitch and rolls off your tongue. Try it out on your friends and watch their reactions. If their eyes light up and they say, “yeah!” then you know you are on the right track. Just start giving it a shot, and you may find that you understand your story with surprising clarity.

Can you see how creating a logline might add value to your writing?

Half Baked: A Publishing Recipe

Is most of your writing only half-baked? It’s easy to get distracted with all the wonderful topics to write about, and many of us have manuscripts that are still rising on shelves in the garage. That being said, it’s sometimes nice to go through the steps of what happens when a book does in fact make it all the way to publication. Here is a basic recipe detailing the steps that are required in creating a fully baked book:

For a first time author, a book usually starts with a completed, edited manuscript for fiction, or a proposal and sample content for non-fiction. Published authors can sometimes sell novels on proposal, but not usually. Best practices suggest that unpublished authors should try and find a literary agent, once their manuscript is ready for submission. Few publishers accept work directly from authors sans representation, and a good agent can greatly aid a manuscript’s success rate.

After a literary agent has taken on a manuscript, they then send it to editors at different publishing houses. The literary agent targets the submissions to the publishing houses that they feel are most appropriate for the book. The editors take a look at the project, and if it’s something they are interested in they will share it with their colleagues to determine the level of interest. If the editor receives word that they can move forward with the manuscript, they will send an offer to the literary agent.

The submission process can take anywhere from weeks to months (or even years), depending on how long it takes to find an interested editor. An offer may include advances and / or royalties. Sometimes the offer may even be a contract for several books. If more than one editor is interested, there may even be a bidding war situation to determine which publisher can create the best offer. When the terms have been agreed upon and the author accepts an offer, the publisher will send a contract to the literary agent. The literary agency may have a contracts expert review the fine print and negotiation points. Once the contract has been signed, it’s time for the author to get writing (if the book was only sold on a proposal).
Little Chefs

Once the manuscript is completed (non-fiction), or after the contract is signed (fiction), the editor will usually send a letter recommending changes to the manuscript. These changes are more or less negotiable, but authors usually follow the recommendations of editors. After all of the recommended changes have been made and the manuscript is deemed ready to go, it is copy edited. Spelling and grammatical errors are corrected. The pages are laid out to show what the book will look like. The author reviews the different versions of the completed manuscripts. The publisher works on the design of the book (including cover, trim size, font, paper type, and other details).

The editor manages the process of having marketing experts write copy for the publisher’s catalog, come up with the cover details, create buzz, and launch marketing plans. Several months before the book’s publication, sales specialists will coordinate with their bookstore partners and take book orders. This part of the process helps determine how many copies of the book will be printed. The agent might oversee this process to verify everything is on track. It usually takes a year or more for the publication process to go from finished manuscript to book for purchase. It can be fast tracked if it is an especially hot project, but the process usually requires quite a bit of lead time. When the publication date arrives, the book goes on sale. The book is now available to customers, and the customers often take it from there. Positive feedback, great reviews, and word of mouth are still some of the best forms of marketing. After that, the author is launched into instant literary stardom (or not). The author then writes a second book and the process repeats.

Hopefully this recipe for completing a half-baked book has been helpful – and now, I’d better get back in the kitchen.

Sticks and Stones: The Highly Sensitive Writer Toughens Up

I recently attended a writing seminar about creating compelling titles for books. A burgeoning writer volunteered her book title for the rest of the group to critique. The consensus of the group was that her title wasn’t catchy enough and needed to be reworked. Several people in the group offered sage advice that would probably have helped her a great deal, had she been open to suggestions – but she wasn’t. The novice writer became incredibly defensive (and borderline angry) about the feedback. She was not ready to be objective about her work. The facilitator had to smooth things over and hastily get a more willing participant for the exercise.

Throughout history, even the most successful writers have to deal with criticism, so there’s no reason why we should consider ourselves immune to feedback. Check out these excerpts from actual famous author rejections from http://www.writersrelief.com:

  1. Sylvia Plath: “There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.”
  2. Rudyard Kipling: “I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”
  3. J. G. Ballard: “The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help.”
  4. Emily Dickinson: “[Your poems] are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and are generally devoid of true poetical qualities.”
  5. Ernest Hemingway (regarding The Torrents of Spring): “It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.”

Ouch! So, how does one not get touchy about his / her work? Writers are still artists, after all. Artists are famous for being highly sensitive. Artists who have to self-promote themselves may find it incredibly awkward to listen to face-to-face or written criticism. Once I gave a book I wrote to a professor friend to review. He said. “Well, perhaps you should focus on writing things you know about, as opposed to rock stars.” It was a fair point well made, and my creative writing has become much more real as a result of sticking to what I know.

Boxer Flexing Her Muscles

Aside from writing, I also like to paint. One time, it took 3 months to finish a large 12×12 foot piece and I needed to get a moving company to deliver it to my showing – longdistancemovingcompanies.co is my favorite long distance moving company for that. At one of my showings, I overheard a man telling his friend that my art might be best displayed at a fast food restaurant. “It’s convenience store art,” he said as I looked on, trying not to have any sort of facial expression. The critic didn’t know I was the artist or that I was in earshot. It stung, but feedback is still feedback and should be regarded as just that. It proved to be a valuable lesson – you can’t win them all. If you will accept nothing less than 100% acceptance, you will be plagued by disappointment. But here is the silver lining: You don’t need to win them all. You just need a percentage, and as long as you keep putting your work out there, the correct audience that appreciates you will find your work. It’s all about maintaining perspective.

Why does one need to develop a thick enough skin to withstand criticism? Because unless you have someone else to promote your writing on your behalf, it’s all going to be done by you. You will be the one going into the front lines to promote and defend and champion your own work. Confidence helps, so if you don’t feel you have any, then act as if you do. Pump yourself up until you start to believe it. If one reader doesn’t appreciate your writing, that’s okay – there will be others who will. Instead of harboring hurt feelings, why not just say, “There are other audience members in the literary sea. Next!”

How do YOU maintain perspective about your writing?

Building the Perfect Brand

I recently attended a branding seminar for authors and wanted to share best practices with the WordServe Community. Here are 4 Sizzling Secrets to Branding You and Your Book from speaker Liz Goodgold, Branding Expert for www.RedFireBranding.com:

1. WIIFM: What’s in if for me?

Your audience wants to know what they are going to get out of buying and reading your book. Sell a benefit or a result – think in terms of a call to action. Will your reader learn a skill, come away with increased knowledge, or be entertained? Knowing your endgame is a huge part of selling the benefits and the results.

2. Consistency is Key

Brands have to be consistent. In-N-Out Burgers always taste the same, and they have since the forties. That is consistency at its finest.  Your audience is looking for that kind of consistency. Once you have established your brand it’s important to stay with it. Think in terms of household names like Chicken Soup for the Soul, or the ‘Dummies’ do-it-yourself guides or perhaps the Mars and Venus books. For writers who tackle random subjects without a real sense of continuum, Liz recommended that the books should still appear consistent with regards to style, size, type, and font. Branding by color is a popular way to go.

3. Book Title – Easy Recall

A well-branded book title is catchy and simple to recall; it also carries over easily from one book to the next. In hindsight, my book, Gumbeaux, was probably not the perfect title as it can be considered difficult to pronounce. However, I have the opportunity, based upon Liz’s learnings, to title my next book: “Rancheaux” or something with a similar suffix. The suffix could work as well for me as “itos” does for Doritos, Cheetos, Tostitos, etc.

4.You Are the Brand

You are not building a book, but an empire. Don’t create a website that is only useful to promote a single book unless you are positive you’ll never write another one. It should be fluid enough to support your blog, sales channels, books to come, a potential series, etc. Check out the websites of your favorite authors and notice how they position themselves not just as writers, but as brands. Use jargon that resonates with your writing platform. You are the brand – not your book – so think big.

How are you building your brand?

Ever-Increasing Returns

Publishing a book is an adventure. Part of that adventure is engaging with the people you meet along the journey. Some of those people will serve in a capacity of enlightenment and support. They provide assistance for you at different turns. It could be marketing assistance, subject matter expertise, best practices, or networking to find the sensei you seek. Lest we forget, the best adventures usually require planning behind the scenes. The book writing adventure entails hours of constant editing and agonizing over the right words.  There is nothing glamorous about this part of the journey – it’s the grunt work that makes everything else possible.

Adventures are often taken solely for adventure’s sake.  Sometimes you return with treasure, but not always. Upon attending my first literary workshop, I found it a bit daunting to learn that only 5% of writers actually make a living from their writing. Anyone who has ever penned a book knows how challenging it can be. If there is no monetary value in the experiment of publishing a book, why should the author continue up the mountain? The author goes on because it’s a labor of love. There are other ways to get compensated from writing a book. The total compensation package is comprised of much more than money. Opportunities to help others appear continuously and if you find such experiences rewarding, your pockets will be continuously lined with gold.

One of my favorite movies is Rex Pickett’s Sideways. Through Twitter marketing I stumbled upon Rex’s profile and discovered Sideways has been adapted for the stage. I saw Sideways the Play in Santa Monica and was able to meet Rex, who has been an inspiration ever since. Tweeting has been valuable in other ways, too. By building relationships with authors, readers and bloggers, writers gain a greater scope of influence and increased credibility. Nothing is more valuable than that.

There are countless ways to spread the wealth of knowledge acquired on the writing journey. By researching the process of formatting a novel into an audiobook, I became acquainted with www.acx.com. This fluid website is a hub for authors to connect with actors that do voice-over work. Authors can connect with actors in a number of ways. One is to upload some material so that any interested actor can audition for the ‘role’ of narrating the content. One actress auditioned to be my book narrator within twenty-four hours of uploading sample pages. Hearing her try out for the voice of my protagonist was an incredible experience. Authors can also take the more active approach of searching for a specific kind of voice. If there is a need for a young woman with a French accent, you can search your ideal parameters to find actors and make them offers. You have options of payment, one being a 50/50 royalty share. Going through this exercise made me think of a friend who is always looking for voice-over work. I was able to inform him of ACX, and he is probably getting his account set up with them as we speak. Some of the actors are listed to make $200.00-$400.00 per completed hour of work. For those with golden pipes, it appears to be a very good opportunity. My friend’s enthusiasm and delight over engaging with ACX was better than selling fifty books. My ability to help him was a direct result of being on the journey.

Many opportunities in the form of people will appear on the path during your publishing adventure. The lifetime value of these helpers, guardians, luminaries, and assistants will not always be evident at first. Some may help you indirectly with constructive feedback you don’t want to hear but know you need. In turn, you will be able to help others as well. You will encourage them to believe that they can do what you have done. Some will even thank you for your contribution to the written word. For those who are able to take a creative mindset in terms of total compensation, there will always be a deep blue ocean of  ever- increasing rewards.

In what non-monetary ways have you found the writing journey rewarding?

Judging a Book By Its Cover

We’ve all heard the saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but that’s not completely realistic. Buying habits have shifted heavily and more people are buying books online than ever before. The digital images we use on our book covers and websites need to be decent looking. Poor images are distracting and only serve as comedy relief for all those book snobs out there. You worked too hard on that book to just slap any old photo on the cover. No one wants to be represented by a grainy image that screams, “I don’t care enough about my work to take this part of the process seriously.”

Hesitant to use digital images you haven’t taken personally? That’s understandable. People can get in a lot of trouble for using a photo without proper permissions. Just because a photo is accessible via Google Images doesn’t mean it’s okay to upload to a website or use on a book cover. I highly recommend going to a stock photography vendor and purchasing the high-resolution digital files of your heart’s desire. Stock photos are ready-made, categorized images for promotional materials. Just like when you go to insert clip art into a Microscoft Word document, you can search for images by subject. If you want a photo of a horse, just type in the word ‘horse’ and see what comes up.

My favorite vendor for stock photography is istockphoto.com. Since 2000, they have been a trusted source for media, design elements and royalty-free stock images. Royalty-free means that you only have to pay one time to use an image or file multiple times. They also offer a legal guarantee that content used within the terms of their licensing agreements will not violate any copyright laws. There is so much stock photography out there to chose from that the possibilities are as endless as your imagination.

Need a crash course in digital imaging? A pixel or “picture element” is the smallest part of a digital image. Greater numbers of pixels in a digital image usually mean a larger image and/or greater detail within said image. A digital file‘s resolution is determined by pixels per inch (ppi). Generally speaking, higher resolutions result in greater detail. The address of a pixel corresponds to its physical coordinates. Digital images vary in file sizes, which impact the pixels per inch. For example, one photo I reviewed was a picture of London Bridge. In order to purchase this photo, there was an option of an XSmall version (347 x 346 pixels) for $8.00. The same image had scalable options ranging all the way up to XLarge (3456 x 3456 pixels) for $34.00. With so many options available, there is sure to be one for your price point.

Maybe people don’t judge a book strictly by its cover, but it is still a representation of the author. Having a quality book cover and cover image never hurts, but having a substandard one sure does. You only get once chance to make a first impression. Why not exceed the expectations of your readers right out of the gate?

What are your thoughts on book covers and digital images?

Radio Days

When I completed my first book, my boss was incredibly supportive and offered to get a marketing package for me of my own choosing. Having very little understanding of book marketing, I was soon swimming in a flood of possible opportunities of all different shapes, sizes, and price tags. I finally settled on the Readers Favorite’s Book Promotion Packagewhich I found to be reasonably priced and reputable. One of their strategic partners, The Authors Show, welcomed me as a preferred guest as part of said package.

I had never been on the radio before and was rather anxious about sounding like a moron.  I didn’t worry for long, though, because it was clear that The Authors Show staff had the interview process down to a science. They sent me an author interview form to complete. It asked for pertinent information about the book. They allowed me to create 8-10 suggested questions that would relate to its content and would connect with an audience. There was a place to create a synopsis, a call to action to encourage buying behavior, and a list of preparatory questions so I would have an idea of what to expect.  Some of the questions were very thought provoking and have helped me during other marketing initiatives as well. For example: What benefits will the buyer get from reading the book?

After I completed the interview form and submitted it, I didn’t wait long until the interview was scheduled. It was conducted over the phone by Don McCauley, who was very kind. Before we got started, he encouraged me to relax and be as natural as possible. He assured me that they would edit the interview and remove any pauses or filler words.

When the time for the interview came, I was sure to secure a remote location without any distractions or background noises. I used a headset which seemed to help the audio quality. My gracious host made me feel very much at ease throughout the call which only lasted about thirty minutes.

Once the interview was edited, it came out to be fifteen minutes long. The interview was featured on The Authors Show for an entire month. During this time, I leveraged all the social media tools in my arsenal to get the word out: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, my website, et cetera. After my time on The Authors Show website was up, they sent me an MP3 file of the interview. It’s still available on YouTube and accessible through my website. People have marveled, “You sound so knowledgeable!”  That’s nice to hear, but it’s because the marketing company set me up for success.

Aside from Amazon, the radio interview has been the best marketing vehicle I have found so far, and it’s by far the most impressive facet of my campaign.  It lives on the front page of my website and enjoys prime real estate. I will always be grateful to my boss, to Don, and to the good people at The Authors Show for providing me with this great facet of my marketing toolbox.

Have you ever used radio as a book marketing tool? How do you get the word out about your writing?

Direct Mail – Cool As Ever

Have you ever sent a letter to prospective customers asking them to buy one of your books? If so, you have participated in direct mail marketing — one of the most efficient and effective selling techniques. If you think it’s too old school for you, then consider this: 55% of Americans read the news, 95% have telephones, 98% have television sets. However, 100% of Americans have a mailbox. Therefore, it is your only 100% opportunity to hone in on your targeted audience.

There are four components to a successful direct mail campaign: the Creative, the List, the Offer and the Results.

1) Creative: Of course you want your direct mail piece to be eye-catching and informative. How you present your offer to your list has to be done professionally so that all of the emotional hot buttons are triggered while also maintaining interest and going for the sale. Some of the best copywriters are paid thousands of dollars to write a single sales pitch letter, simply because the creative aspect of your campaign is that important. If your budget allows it, consider using variable data printing, which personalizes each letter to its recipient using demographics such as male/female, geographic region, etc. Even just a first name is effective in grabbing attention.

2) List:  Although your current customer base is incredibly valuable, it will be necessary to continuously seek out new customers as well. Your current customers will only buy so much. Aside from that, you will lose customers every year for various reasons. A good way to replace your eroding customers is by acquiring targeted mailing lists. It’s great to have a fantastic book but unless you can get it in front of the correct audience, it’s all for naught. The best list for you may be expensive, and you can expect to pay per name. The more targeted the list of prospects, the better. If you are selling a book on, say, surfing, you want to find a list of people who surf AND who buy books on surfing. If you get a list that is cheap or free, that doesn’t mean it’s a good one. In fact, you want to be absolutely sure you have a solid list before you start sending out direct mail offers and accruing postage fees. Acxiom® and Dun & Bradstreet® are examples of companies that sell lists. You can also work with a direct mail advertising company who can walk you through the entire campaign, such as Modern Postcard.

3) Offer: What you offer in the direct mail campaign needs to be exclusive to the group, while also being priced to make a profit for you. Make an offer that will get the recipient to act quickly, such as directing them to your website to see a sample chapter, free gift or autographed copy if they respond by a certain date. The options are unlimited, so you can test lots of different ideas to see which offers produce the best outcomes.

  • Keep the offer simple: One or two QUICK benefits: “Save time and money with our services!” or “Stay warm this winter!”
  • Give a reason to continue reading: “See the other side for big savings!”
  • Make a big promise and be sure you can fulfill it: “Order now and enjoy a full head of hair in three weeks!”
  • Include an expiration date… create a sense of urgency or exclusivity. The most compelling direct mail pieces have a call to action.

4) Results: A direct mail campaign which produces more than a 2% response is considered successful. Lower than a 1% response is typical. You then need to take into account the conversion rate (the conversion of responses into sales), assuming the campaign is designed to produce responses or inquiries and not just actual sales.

Do not engage in a 100,000-piece nationwide mailing your first time out of the gate. Try 500 or so at first and see how it goes. This way you can tweak the results, eliminate certain demographics and introduce others. Think of this kind of marketing as a long play that takes some honing. Aside from sales, some additional metrics to consider are the number of orders, how many offers were redeemed, how many responses by phone / email you received and the estimated future value of your new customers. Track your responses carefully. Enter them into a CRM system like ACT!®, Goldmine®, Salesforce®, etc., put them into an Excel® spreadsheet, put them in a box or record them in a notebook. Track them and make sure they are updated regularly, if possible.  A mail house can assist you by checking your list against their national change of address software, and provide you with any move updates so you can follow your customer base.

Not all books can be sold successfully through direct mail. The topic must be of interest to the targeted audience and the price must be sufficiently low to encourage people to respond with an order. Tell them why the information in your book will be of interest to them. In closing, you might find it interesting to know that direct mail came back in a big way in 2011, increasing by $10 Billion and gaining another 5% in terms of total ad spend share. Each dollar spent on direct marketing yields, on average, a return on investment of $12.05. By comparison, each dollar spent on non-direct mail advertising yields an ROI of $5.29. (Source: DMA ‘s Power of Direct Marketing; 2011 Edition).

When Good Writers Go Bad

Recently I listened to a thought provoking sermon about how to tell when good leaders have gone bad. The lesson was universally applicable because we all have leadership opportunities at some point in our lives. Whether it is leading a major corporation, mentoring a student or babysitting, we are providing guidance. As writers, we have an incredible opportunity to lead others. Here is my spin on that lesson, exploring several traits that indicate a writer may have gone to the Dark Side:

A Big Ego

Being an author means creating a platform, and selling yourself and your product. At some point, you may begin to believe your own press. The praise feels great and after a while, you get used to it. Then, when it does not come readily, we wonder why. Although some of the most acclaimed writers of all time had healthy egos (Steinbeck, anyone?), focusing on how the writing might benefit others is much more inspiring to readers. Someone asked me this week, “Do you write to feel powerful and  make the characters do whatever you want?” I told her my writing stems from a desire to entertain. She looked baffled and said she would probably become addicted to the control over the story and other readers. It’s easy to see how authors could get wrapped up in the ‘power’ aspect of writing, if they were so inclined–but that’s not what inspires people.

Isolation

Alone time is a necessity for many writers who can’t focus with others anywhere in their vicinity. However, the more time we spend alone, the more we rely on our own judgement. The feedback from trusted advisors is invaluable, but if one is operating in a silo, that may not seem necessary. Excessive isolation can be dangerous, it keeps writers from being in touch with their audience, as well as with other writers with whom they might partner. Actor Jonah Hill has commented on how much easier it is to write with other comedians. Woody Allen has expressed that people are willing to help a writer in the creative process, as long as the author has put in the time to get a project close to being fully baked. Although there is nothing wrong with self-reliance, no person is an island. If you have it available to you, why not seek wise counsel?

Us/Them Mentality

When fellow authors enjoy success, we can either be happy for them or turn pea green with envy. We may console ourselves with the sentiments that so-and-so is only popular because they write scandalous material, or because they are friends with ‘the guy behind the guy’ at Google. Writing is a tough business to break into, and it’s understandable to feel jealous of our successful colleagues–but why not leverage them instead, and even adopt their principles for success? Author communities (i.e. WordServe Water Cooler) are committed to the prosperity of all. In this and similar organizations, writers help each other with social media support, comments on postings and general assistance in spreading the word around. It’s a huge relief when others help take up our causes. Disinterest in helping others only results in hurting oneself.

If you see yourself in any of these traits, don’t despair.  We’ve all been there at one point or another to some extent. The idea is to identify our symptoms and course correct to ensure we are keeping ourselves honest. As writers, we need to lead our followers somewhere worthwhile.

Have you ever experienced any of the above? How do you think the writing journey might change an author over time?

The Invisible Writer

Great fiction writers create new worlds.  Going to another world requires a cultural assimilation program, at the very least. To live in another world, even temporarily, requires isolation from the here and the now.

Having a personal creative space is a dream come true for most writers. On days when everyone else is attending a baseball game or what have you, the solitude of being an author sets in. It sometimes entails turning down a few invitations, because creating a new world takes focus, time and energy.

Writers’ needs and preferences run the gamut. Conrad Aiken wrote in his dining room. D.H. Lawrence liked to write outdoors, under the trees. Some authors like to write in hotel rooms, as Toni Morrison did when her children were young. A hotel affords privacy and the opportunity to limit interruptions for days at a time.

Some writers don’t seem to need privacy. They can retreat into the recesses of their own minds and vanish in plain sight. A legendary Parisian café, Les Deux Magots, has hosted great writers such as Jean-Paul Satre and Albert Camus. They generated content right in the restaurant.  French author Nathalie Sarraute once said that a café “is a neutral place, and no one disturbs me – there is no telephone.” A café allows a writer to feel less isolated. They can be alone while in a crowd, blending into the background. They are physically present, but their minds are busily creating all the while.

Writers also may tell you that they can’t disappear into their writing without the use of props. Only a specific pen, type of music and particular shirt will do. Therefore, the idea of a writing place is psychological in nature. That equates to whatever the writer needs to feel comfortable.  In his 1951 essay “Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena,” British psychologist D. W. Winnicott wrote, “It is in the space between inner and outer worlds, which is also the space between people—the transitional space—that intimate relationships and creativity occur.” With that in mind, perhaps the best answer about finding a writing haven is from a quote by Ernest Hemingway: “The best place to write is in your head.”

Where do you go when you disappear? Do you have a writing haven or can you write in plain sight?

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