23 May 2023

In Search of the New Normal

Stacy Woodson, Michael, and David Dean
at the Ellery Queen’s Readers Award
presentation. (Photo by Ché Ryback)

During the past seventeen-plus years, I developed a less-than-optimal schedule for writing and editing.

Each morning Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; all-day Tuesday and Thursday; and occasional evenings and weekends on concert days, I drove downtown to my part-time job as marketing director of a symphony orchestra. I spent afternoons Monday, Wednesday, and Friday editing a bi-monthly gardening magazine and a weekly gardening newsletter. Editing anthologies, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Black Cat Weekly, as well as writing short fiction, SleuthSayers posts, and the like was shoehorned into evenings, weekends, and moments stolen from my other commitments.

Until recently, working sixty-plus hours each week was the only way to accomplish all of these things and was “normal.” After leaving the symphony, I need to establish a new normal.

Terry Shames affixing Michael’s name badge
before the Edgar Awards banquet.
(Photo by Aslam Chalom)

I spent my first week in New York and Bethesda, attending the Edgar Awards and Malice Domestic. These were highly invigorating, but not part of a “normal” week, and I returned home pumped and ready to dive into my new schedule, whatever it might be.

My commitment to the gardening magazine and the gardening newsletter remains, so I’m still devoting Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons to them. Because I’m already spending these half-days editing, I decided to devote the entirety of M-W-F to editing, and have spent my first few weeks reading submissions to Black Cat Weekly and Mickey Finn: 21st Century Noir, vol. 5, reviewing the publisher’s copyedits to Prohibition Peepers, and developing a rough schedule to ensure I meet my editing commitments.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are devoted to writing. So far, I’ve finished and submitted one story, think I’ve resolved a problem with another story that’s been vexing me for years, have been fussing with a story a co-writer and I have kicked back and forth a few times, and have written this post.

Moderator Deborah Lacy, Michael, Carla Coupe,
Linda Landrigan, and Josh Pachter
on Short Stories: Magazines & Anthologies
panel at Malice Domestic.
(Photo by Neil Plakcy)

Though I’m still doing some writing and editing during evenings and weekends, I’m able to spend more time with Temple, and we’ve been doing a few things we’ve not had time for prior to now, such as making a last-minute decision to attend a Marc Cohn concert and planning an upcoming trip on the Texas State Railroad.

So far, this schedule is working.


Do you have any idea how many time-consuming errands and how many household tasks one can self-generate to prevent sitting at the computer?

So, how about sharing some tips with me: How do you schedule your writing time? How do you avoid procrastination? And, how do you ensure quality time with your significant other?

I recently appeared on the Central Texas Life with Ann Harder podcast, discussing, among other things, four stories that were nominated for awards last year. It’s available on YouTube and wherever podcasts are available.

I’ll be presenting two sessions at the Between the Pages Writers Conference June 9-11 in Springfield, Missouri: “Editorial Sausage,” a behind-the-scenes look at how short story anthologies and fiction magazines are put together, and “Plot Stories Using a Decision Tree,” how using well-developed decision trees can generate multiple stories. Learn more about the conference and the other speakers here.


  1. Sounds like a good schedule to me. Now, stop looking for new replied to this post and go write!

  2. I have no idea. Back when Sandi was fighting cancer, I did all the cooking, cleaning, taking care of her with doc deals and all that, getting Scott to UTD, and still read/reviewed, and wrote my own stuff. Some of which was actually published.

    A few months after she passed, a well meaning friend observed that my life had opened up significantly, and I should have plenty of time to write. No doubt I do. But, I also no longer have the ideas or the will to write or anyone caring about what I do.

    It has been five and half years and I hate my new normal. I wish you well with yours.

  3. Michael, I've found there's nothing like a deadline to keep me butt in chair! Usually, I use the mornings to do chores, promotion and answer emails pertaining to writing, and the afternoons to write. But there are days when I have to drag myself to the computer...like today. it's 1:06 in the afternoon. And I'm on here with you instead of starting the WIP, which only has 10,000 words to go!! Kick me off here. Please!

  4. Elizabeth Dearborn23 May, 2023 13:57

    I wouldn't ask for advice on scheduling from me, since I'm sure I've published less than anyone else here. But if you want to know, I try to write and/or edit when I can, working around the husband's & my medical appointments & other things that require my attention. I've been twiddling with one story off & on for a few years & have it _almost_ ready to submit. We have tickets to the Nighthawks in July & Diana Krall in August.

  5. I'm with Elizabeth. I have to write around my husband's medical appointments, care, etc., which is only a disadvantage if you don't look at the alternative: no appointments, no care, no husband, and I don't want that. (All my sympathy, Kevin, all my sympathy and prayers.) I manage to crank some stuff out, not as much as back when we were all healthy and stealthy and wise, but I'm still in the game.

  6. Michael, your productivity amazes me. My friends Haboob and Sharon sent me a couple of articles yesterday:

    3000 words/day romance writers

    97 books in 9 months… sort of


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