Getting Down to It

Now that we’ve gotten the research out of the way, I promised a word—or maybe a few hundred—on my writing process.

I began working on Ripped at the Writer’s Room of Boston and at the Athenaeum Library, both havens for writers who require a quiet atmosphere to concentrate on their work. If you can’t write there, you can’t write anywhere: No talking allowed!

When I’m outlining a book, I sit up on the top floor of my house, away from the bustle down below. I outline in longhand. Once I begin writing, though, the process and I move to my computer. I’m not one to, as Jo March called it, “scribble” on paper. Not for me the handwritten novel that must be entered into a word-processing file. Writing it once is enough!

I write in the morning. In an ideal world, I’d get up, get the kids off, and write for a couple of hours. I begin by reading a page or two of what I wrote the day before to get into the voice and the story. I ignore the phone and can tolerate no distractions once I begin to write. The afternoon doesn’t work for me. Once lunchtime hits, my writing brain shuts down for the day. I can read and/or do research in the afternoon, but I can’t write a word.

When I was writing Ripped and would get stuck on a London scene, I’d go out for a walk around my neighborhood. With its stone walkways and gas lamps, it helps me get into a London frame of mind. The neighborhood also provides inspiration by being home to literary greats. From my office I can see Robin Cook’s studio, and Louisa May Alcott lived across the street. They’re members of my imaginary writers’ group. I depend on their presence.

—Shelly

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