June 4 – 10: “How do you plan your summer writing schedule?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5Summer’s almost here and inquiring minds want to know: How do you plan your summer writing schedule? Does it change through the seasons? Join ITW Members Rich Wickliffe, Paul Gitsham, Ammar Habib, Lisa Von Biela and David Simms as they discuss how their writing ritual changes throughout the seasons. Scroll down to the “comments” section to follow along!


This is Richard Wickliffe’s fourth novel, inspired by actual crimes. He’s a winner of Best Popular Fiction at the Florida Book Awards for his last thriller, which was optioned by a major film studio. Rich enjoys speaking, including at the FBI’s InfraGard Counterterrorism conferences. His writing typically borrows from the unique (scandalous, criminal or satirical) environments of South Florida where he resides with his family.


Paul Gitsham started his career as a biologist before retraining as a secondary school science teacher, in order to pass on his sloppy lab skills to a new generation. Along the way, he spent stints as a hugely over-qualified receptionist in a sports centre and working for a major UK bank ensuring international terrorists and other shady characters didn’t own an illegal bank account. Paul lives with his girlfriend in the East of England, in a house with more books than shelf space.


Ammar Habib is a bestselling and award winning author who was born in Lake Jackson, Texas in 1993. Ammar enjoys crafting stories that are not only entertaining, but will also stay with the reader for a long time. Ammar presently resides in his hometown with his family, all of whom are his biggest fans.


Lisa Von Biela began writing dark fiction just after the turn of the century. Her very first short story appeared in Greg F. Gifune’s small press ‘zine The Edge in 2002. After working in Information Technology for 25 years, Lisa dropped out of everything–including writing–to attend the University of Minnesota Law School. She graduated magna cum laude in 2009, and now practices law and writes in the Seattle area. She’s made up for lost writing time since law school and is now the author of the thriller novels THE GENESIS CODE, THE JANUS LEGACY, BLOCKBUSTER, BROKEN CHAIN, DOWN THE BRINK, and INCIDENTAL FINDINGS, as well as the horror novellas ASH AND BONE, SKINSHIFT, and MOON OVER RUIN. She is currently hard at work completing a cheery new novel about a mega-drought and a young family’s disastrous attempted escape through the Nevada desert.


David Simms lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with his wife, son, and animals. He works as a teacher, counselor, music therapist, ghost tour guide, book reviewer, and founding guitarist in the Killer Thriller Band/Slushpile band. Fear The Reaper is his second novel.




  1. Hi everybody,
    glad to be taking part!

    As a teacher, my summer writing schedule is very different to the rest of the year, when I usually write in the evening or during holidays. In recent years I have started marking biology exams during June and mid-July, so that puts the kibosh on serious writing then. However, I have used my spare moments to start researching and planning the next books. I spent an enjoyable hour in a cafe on Sunday writing the biographies of two new characters. 🙂

    Once the marking is finished though, it’s Harrogate Crime festival, and then I’m free for at least a month! With everything in place, planning-wise, I can start writing in earnest. My partner will be working over the summer, so in the spirit of solidarity, I shall treat the writing as a 9-5 job*. Down at the desk, write until lunch, then write all afternoon until it’s time for tea!
    (*that might be a bit ambitious in the age of on-demand box sets).

    An advantage of this approach is that I am absolutely itching to write by this point, so I find that writer’s block is rarely a problem. But if the blank page is too intimidating, or the scene I’m writing isn’t behaving itself I simply write a different section. This is one of the advantages of writing in a non-linear fashion.

  2. Regarding summer writing –if we’re talking about vacations– can be inspiring. I get up before anyone else with my laptop and coffee. Maybe in a resort café or under a palm tree (I even keep a folder of images, “places I write,” to look at during boring times.) The people-watching alone in a new environment can inspire all sorts of characters and scenes. And do it again late afternoon when your companions/kids are resting. A cocktail and a laptop can be an interesting mix. You may get less word-count, but the new environment and rest may help create something entirely fresh.

  3. Hello all and thanks for having me back!

    Ah, my seasonal writing ritual…unlike Paul, I work full-time all year round, and so summer looks pretty much the same for me, writing-schedule-wise. I do find myself writing around vacations, though. I’ve been at my job long enough to accrue a nice amount of vacation, and so we typically take a week in the fall, a week in the spring, and two weeks in the summer. And I typically have a novel in the works at all times, at one stage or another. I really, really, really prefer to wrap up a draft or revision cycle before leaving on a trip. Makes for a much cleaner breakpoint to return to when I get settled back in. But this isn’t always possible. Fortunately, I outline extensively–no pantsing for me–and that helps me pick up where I left off.

    We like to avoid traveling with everyone else during holidays, so those are special opportunities to get more concentrated writing done. I also like to take several days off between Christmas and New Year (work is quieter then) to just hang around at home, and that gives me a chance to make significant focused progress on my WIP.

  4. In response to Rich’s comment, I rarely write on my actual vacation. We tend to road trip, and so I don’t get a lot of sitting time–and what time I do get to “write,” I spend journaling the trip. We also do a lot of photography and so time back in the motel is spent processing pictures, etc. I use vacation time to come back to my WIP with fresh eyes…

  5. I plan my summer writing as an escape from the Dante-esque inspired circus of teaching. Just kidding, kinda. I love my job. Yet suddenly, finding time to write between the minutes, when the 5 year is sleeping or preoccupied with dinosaurs, disappears for a couple of months.
    I can change the game.
    Summertime, after the last school bell rings, means that my porch becomes my writing desk, looking out over the mountains and valleys with only the sound of nature, yipping dogs, and voices reminding me to do the chores I avoided during the school year. It means that writing at the crack of dawn is possible without having to stop or beginning a new chapter at sunset and continuing until I’m composing with my eyes closed and the sentences resemble something from Carl Jung’s nightmares.
    Summer means the reins fully come off but with that freedom, a greater discipline is necessary. Forcing myself to get in a set word count, a full scene, or round of edits without heeding the call of a nap, day trip, or noodling on the guitar can be more difficult without a defined schedule. I need to put my butt down in the chair and order it to stay there until the day’s goal is acheived. Sometimes, time melts away. Other times, I feel like Sisyphus on rollerskates.
    During the other three seasons, writing is akin to finding Waldo. In the real world, most authors have jobs, sometimes two (or more). Add kids to the mix and finding time to settle into a character or scene is rough. I can’t function before coffee and 7am so writing happens during a break at school, after the kids leave, or once all jobs are done and the boy zonks out.
    Nobody ever said this was easy, but when the story burns inside, it finds a way to come to life.

  6. And then there’s Thrillerfest, which is the most incredible conference for writers in the world. Sure, it throws off the schedule for the summer, but what can beat hanging with your friends and favorite authors?
    Networking is working, even if there’s a drink in your hand.

  7. Hello Everyone!
    I’m glad to be a part of this week’s round table discussion. As far as my summer schedule goes, I do work part-time at the local college, but other than that, my summer is pretty relaxed. Therefore, I try to maximize my writing in this season (it’s also too hot in Texas to go out anywhere, so might as well write!). I am normally working on multiple projects that are at different stages of development. Some writers do find working on multiple projects to be intimidating. However, I have personally found that utilizing a daily planner and carving out time to focus on writing helps out tremendously. During the summer, I usually carve out some hours in the morning for writing whatever first draft I’m writing. I also carve out some hours in the afternoon/evening to work on editing whatever project I’m currently editing. And, if need be, I also carve out some time to outline whatever project I’m outlining. Using a daily planner helps me stay focused and also stay on schedule with all my various projects!

  8. I’m coming along to my first ThrillFest in July, making the lengthy trek from Australia. It’s a daunting prospect but I hope to meet some of you there.

    My husband and I want to travel as much as possible before we’re too decrepit so we head off overseas in June/July. Last year Berlin, bits of Germany, Prague and Vienna, this year the US.

    Like Lisa, I don’t write while travelling. I do make notes though and sometimes a new idea will pop up and there are always interesting characters along the way.

    Our summers here are hot, dry and lengthy. Christmas is early in the long summer break so with a house full of family, (one sleeping in my writing room) I can’t do much. for a week or so. After they leave it’s back to what passes as my routine.

  9. Elisabeth is right…some of the work still happens on vacation, even if we’re not actively writing. If an idea comes to mind on vacation (or anytime), you’d better believe I make a note of it for later before it flits right out of my head! Never, ever waste a good idea. And I do get some good character ideas on trips, like the ranchers I saw eating at Cattleman’s Club Steakhouse in South Dakota. They were perfect for my WIP at that time (Broken Chain).

    Things can flip the other way, too–life imitating fiction. I have a little girl character in Broken Chain who comes to, shall we say, a bad end. I had her very clearly pictured in my head. And then we went out to eat while on a trip–and I saw a little girl who looked just like her at the table next to us. Freaked me out.

  10. I agree with Lisa – holidays are a great time to spot new characters!

    I rarely take a whole person as a character, but I love to incorporate little phrases or observations. A small rose tattoo on a woman serving at a checkout when I was on holiday some years ago really stuck in my mind. I have absolutely no idea why; she was entirely unremarkable in any other way (and the tattoo wasn’t especially unusual). But I remembered her when describing a character in my first book, The Last Straw and the tattoo served a useful purpose.

    Of course holidays can be the instigator or whole plots. In A Case Gone Cold a couple are burgled when they are away on holiday. This rekindles a seemingly unrelated old case.

    The inspiration for this came from my own parents, who were called back off holiday when their house was burgled a few years ago. A chance remark to my father by one of the attending CSIs triggered an idea and I’d pretty much planned the whole story by the time I hung up on him!

  11. I really love what everyone is saying so far! Going off what Paul mentioned, I agree that incorporating minor characteristics can be a great resource for character building! During the summer, going to summer festivals is a great place to meet interesting people!

  12. This is a great roundtable so far! Love how everyone works and thinks differently. I think it’s important that new writers realize that this is such a weird field and that no two authors do things the same.
    Vacations and trips are so much fun for gathering ideas and allowing them to percolate.
    People watching – that could be be a WHOLE new topic!

    Hope to see some of you at Thrillerfest! Such a GREAT experience! Elisabeth, you’ll have a ball!

    1. Thanks David. I’m really looking forward to it. The romance conferences are always great fun. I’ll try to remember some names from this group and say hello 🙂

  13. Or snatching a random remark for later use. Years ago, we stopped for gas on a road trip. Pretty mundane, huh? Well, the bill came to $6.66. The guy at the register said, “That’s a bad number, mister” to my boyfriend. Naturally, I made use of that line in a later short story!

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