How We Write Wednesdays: Candace Havens Motivates!

Jenni and I have created an encouraging HoWW writing home to share craft and writing journey experiences, both our blogs and our #weWRITE Twitter hashtag. Candace Havens is a writing coach, among many other things, too. We’re thrilled to have her with us this week, talking about how she does all that she does and how you can create the same momentum in your life.

Candace Harlequincover

So settle in for a great HoWW guest blog, then come back next week, when Joanne Rock (author of over 50 novels) teaches us about voice!


I’m busy. I’m a full-time television critic (3 columns a week) and film critic (radio). I write three books a year for Harlequin and short stories/essays for various publishers. I’m the president of the Television Critics Association and I’m finishing graduate school this fall. I’m also married with children. There are days when I’m so tired the idea of writing one more word makes me want to cry.

But I do it.

People ask me all the time how I do all that I do. My standard answer is that I do it better some days than others, and I take it day-by-day. That’s true. Every day brings new challenges for me, and I often have to wear many hats in an hour. That’s why I have to make the most of my minutes.

There are days when I’m so busy that I have to really take advantage of the minutes I do have. While I’m at my desk waiting to interview some celebrity, I’ll take 20 minutes to see how much I can write on a chapter. (Most celebrities call late. It’s a power thing, so I can usually get 30 mins in.) When I’m at the doctor’s office, I always take a notebook so I can write. Even though we are press, if you don’t get to a movie preview early you get crappy seats. I go early and take that notebook with me to write. If I can’t sleep (I’m an insomniac), I make myself get up and write.

What you see in the above paragraph are choices. I choose to write. If you want to be successful and productive, that is what you must do. You must choose to write. That means turning the television off, getting away from those awful Farmville, Mafia and Jewel games and generally keeping yourself free from all the time sucks of the world.

The first thing you need to do is make a list of priorities. What do you have to absolutely get done in the real world? How long is that going to take? Do you have 30 minutes to spare in a day? You would be amazed what you can do in 20 to 30 minutes a day if you are focused and prepared.

People say all the time that they just don’t have time to write. They have long commutes for the day job. They’re full-time moms (hardest job in the world) and the kids won’t let them write. Someone in the family is sick, and they must take care of that person. And I say to them, and to you, those are excuses. If you want it bad enough, you will make time to write. Kids work well with incentives and bribes. You can use a voice recorder if you are driving home from a long commute. And while sick people may need your care, there’s a lot of sitting around and waiting for the time when they need you.

I teach this in my Fast Draft classes. The only real excuses that should keep you from writing are coma and death.

So you’ve made the choice to write no matter what. The next step is to prepare. You have your list of priorities. You know when you might be able to squeeze in some writing time.  The trick is to be prepared and ready to focus. That means jotting a few notes after you finish each writing sprint that tells you where you just were and where you were planning to go.I’m a pantser, but my editor needs a brief synopsis before she buys a book. I’ve found that synopsis helpful through the years. If I get stuck, I have some idea of where I need to go.

You should also always move forward if you are working on a first draft. Don’t go back and edit the previous days work. You use different sides of your brain to edit and write. You don’t need the critical you/internal editor telling you how dumb you are when you are writing a first draft. That does you no good. So use those notes you make after each sprint to help you move forward.

If sitting at the computer staring at a blank page is freaking me out, I pull out a notebook. I might write what I know about a character, the next scene that I do know or the end of the book. The latter is one of my favorite tools for getting things done. For some reason, when I know what the end is going to be, it makes it much easier to get there.

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to make yourself accountable to someone else.This is one of the reasons my Fast Draft class has worked for so many people. The idea behind accountability is you don’t want to let that other person down. It also makes it more difficult to make excuses as to why you don’t have time to write. That other person is just as busy as you. I’m accountable to some really great authors. We all have very different lives and priorities. We all have success in the book world. If we want to continue on that path, we have to write. We have to be accountable to one another and get the work done. I won’t go to bed no matter how tired I am until I’ve written my words to reach my goal. I won’t disappoint my friends.

Once you reach your daily, weekly, monthly goals. It is a good idea to reward yourself.Incentives/bribes work for children and writers. I’m an iTunes freak. I love music and buy a lot of it for rewards. I also buy books for my iPad. And when I reach my daily goals I get to play Words w/Friends and Hangin’ w/Friends. But I don’t get to do those things until I meet my goals.

I would rather be beached out on my couch watching television, reading a book or on a beach staring at waves, than almost anything else in the world. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve said, “Come one, just write two pages and you can go to bed.” Or, “If you write five pages you get to go have dinner with friends.” Or, “Dr. Who is on tonight. Write five pages and you get to watch.” I have to bribe myself all the time.

But I still make the CHOICE to write. That’s how you write even when you don’t want to. You choose to sit your butt down and put those fingers on the keyboard. I choose to not feel guilty about writing. For me, I’d rather just spend an hour or two and get it done than feel guilty for hours/days/months/years for not doing it.

If you need help in the motivation/kickingbutt/accountability department, I run a free online writer’s workshop where you can post your daily goals and we’ll keep you accountable. You can get to it through my website. The important thing to remember is you are not alone. I hear people complaining all the time about not having time to write. The truth is if they used that complaining time to write, they would be way ahead of the game.

Share with us some of the tricks you use to motivate yourself to write.


Bestselling author Candace Havens has written six novels for Berkley including, Charmed & Dangerous, Charmed & Ready, Charmed & Deadly, Like A Charm, The Demon King and I and Dragons Prefer Blondes. Her new venture is writing for the Blaze line of Harlequin. Those books include Take Me If You Dare, and the upcoming releases She Who Dares, Wins, Triple Dare Ranch and The Model Marine. Her books have received nominations for the RITA’s, Holt Medallion and Write Touch Reader Awards.

She is the author of the biography Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy and a contributor to several anthologies. She is also one of the nation’s leading entertainment journalists and has interviewed countless celebrities including Tom Hanks, Nicolas Cage, Tom Cruise, George Clooney and many more. Her entertainment columns through FYI Television can be read in more than 600 newspapers across the country. Candace also runs a free online writing workshop for more than 1600 writers, and teaches comprehensive writing class. She does film reviews with the Dorsey Gang on The Big 96.3, and is the President of the Television Critics Association.

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11 Responses to “How We Write Wednesdays: Candace Havens Motivates!”

  1. Elaine says:

    Great post!!!! I think my fave part is “The only real excuses that should keep you from writing are coma and death.” Great and to the point!


  2. Candance, your devotion to writing is amazing. I’ve followed your writing workshop for years and you always have great information and terrific guest authors. I allow my family to interfere with my writing time and need to develop a stronger shut-the-door-in-their-face attitude.

    Thanks for the motivational talk!

  3. Jen Talty says:

    I used to use things like my chapters Book In A Week or the Happy 100’s, which are both supportive and about putting daily goals out there and then posting progress. I need to go back to that. It does help.

    I’m so busy right now with the business end of publishing that reminding myself that the business doesn’t happen without the writing has become my mantra. It’s hard for me to put the writing first, at the start of the day, because my WDWPUB business list is so long right now, but I’ve been able to carve out time every evening to write. I’m also looking forward to hockey season. I can’t do the work I do for WDWPUB in the rink, but I can write in the rink and since I’m there at least 4 times a week for 3 hours, that is bare min writing time. Better than nothing.

    Thanks for posting Candace!

  4. susanmeier says:

    I use a routine. I have found that if I set a routine, no matter what it is, I will stick to it.

    Some of us just work better with a set schedule. I used to write first thing every morning. When my husband retired and wanted to golf (with me) first thing in the morning, I simply set my schedule to work between 11:00 and 3:00…instead of 6:00 to ten. And it has to be something drastic like coma or death to get me off the schedule.

    I find that when my “work time” hits, my body turns in the direction of the office door! LOL

    susan meier

  5. Sometimes I think it helps just to know someone is in the same boat as you. :)

  6. As a survivor of Candace’s workshop all I have to say is it was FANTASTIC! It was the kick in the pants I needed. Candace is aces in my book!

    I learned that I do have time to write. And I don’t make anymore excuses. Two hours a day minimum. Sometimes its just freewriting but, I get more done on my wip than I thought possible.

    Thanks Candace and thank you Anna for having her here!

    And for those thinking of taking the class – don’t think DO IT. :)

  7. Phyllis Middleton says:

    Hi Candace –

    I pretend I have a publishing deadline. I am great under deadlines. So I make up a date and “convince” myself I have to get to the “publishers” by then and that works as long as I set a date….

    Still working out the bugs in the butt in chair – fingers on keys thing.


  8. M.E. Anders says:

    Candace – you retorted my entire stash of excuse slips not to write. I have no other options left except to plant butt in chair and start typing. Thanks for the kick into gear.

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