Wednesday, November 09, 2011

On the Road

Just a heads up: I'm starting a road trip tomorrow, so any comments you care to leave will probably sit for a while in the approval queue. I'll try to get to them whenever we stop and my kid finds somewhere with free wi-fi (I don't think it will be a problem anywhere but in the mountains.)

I'll be working while I'm out of town, too, and I thought some of you might like to see what I take with me and how I go about being a mobile PBW. A story can be as portable as you want it to be, as long as you think ahead and plan what you'll need for your writing sessions away from home.

The first thing that goes into the writing tote is my novel notebook, which has my synopsis, chapter outlines, character profiles, research data, visuals and so forth for me to reference. This is another reason for making one; it's convenient to take along on trips.

In a pencil case (one hole-punched to fit in the novel notebook) I stock lots of pens and pencils, of course; I never depend on hotel freebie pens.

A blank notebook also comes along for any new notes, writing to-do lists, or other draft material I may need to jot down (a spiral-bound, one-subject student notebook or composition book have prepunched holes in them, so they should fit nicely into the back of your novel notebook binder.)

A laptop, netbook, smart keyboard or other writing tech to use for writing sessions is a given; for me it's usually the laptop, but if my hands are in pretty good shape I also take an AlphaSmart Neo smart keyboard. The Neo is sturdy, doesn't require special hookups, power supplies (mine runs on batteries) or complicated wiring, can be used practically anywhere but in the shower and doesn't offer the distraction of the internet.

A few blank CDs to backup the work I accomplish while away from home also go into the bag. If your writing tech doesn't burn CDs for you, an alternative is to e-mail whatever writing you do each day to yourself, although if you've had any problems downloading e-mailed files I'd use a secondary form of backup as a safety measure -- maybe send a copy via e-mail to a writer friend to hold for you.

I always write up a daily task schedule to make the best use of my time. On the road I might have two or three hours a day to work, so I try to give myself short, manageable writing assignments. On some trips when I have to fly for more than eight hours or drive for more than four hours every day I will pack a print copy of a recently-finished manuscript with me and do a read-through edit each night (you may want to do an electronic version if your airline has weight restrictions or extra baggage charges.)

If I'm going to be staying at the home of a family member or friend, I also bring a lap desk. In the event there is no desk or table in a quiet area for me to use, I can take a chair to a secluded corner and work off the lap desk.

Finally, I take one book to read for pleasure. I take only one because I usually end up visiting book stores wherever I travel and buying at least five or six more.

What do you take with you on your road trips to help with getting some writing done? Do you have any tips on how to be productive while traveling? Let us know in comments.


  1. Have a safe trip. I'm still working through what I should take in the move from Alaska to San Antonio. I think you may have hit all the necessities. :D

  2. I *adore* road trips. One of the most important things I take with me for writing when I travel is my camera. I find that snapping photo references of everything from the view looking down into the valley from a mountain side to that quaint fishing shack comes in handy later when I'm looking for the perfect image to write about. I try to jot down the sensory details of anything I plan to use as a writing reference later - the rustle of leaves in the wind, the chill in the air, my breath steaming in front of my face. It's all fodder for the writing soul.

    Other than that, my netbook, my Kindle, a composition notebook and a few of my favorite pens, my iPod (I've written pretty extensively on the Touch) and most important of all - headphones.

    The first time I took a "writing" vacation with my family, we spent 4 days crawling through The Smithsonian and 2 days lounging on a quiet, national park beach. I spent most of the 12 hour drive to and from intermittently slumped in my seat, eyes closed, head nodding while listening to music on the headphones and suddenly sitting up to type furiously. My husband and son swore I was asleep during the relaxation portions of this, but I was plotting (the snoring is irrelevant!). I got more work done in those 24 hours of riding in the car than I had in the previous 24 days.

  3. Enjoy your writing vacation and road trip. Please be safe.

    And, I have really enjoyed your blog.


  4. I never leave the house without a small notebook and a pen. They allow me to use "dead time" such as waiting for the tram for writing.

    When I'm traveling I take along my netbook (for flights and trains) or laptop (for trips by car), so I can write on the go. I load up the netbook/laptop with all necessary background and reference materials, so I have them at hand. I also take an USB-drive for saving my work.

    My camera is also important, because it allows me to take photos of interesting locations I may want to use as inspiration. The photos are also potentially useful as e-book cover art.