About mjpullen

Former therapist, marketer, waitress. Current author, mom, caffeine addict. mjpullen.com

My Writing Process = Chaos!

My awesome friend and writer Tracy’s writing process blog. Enjoy!


This post is part of a blog tour series in which writers answer a set of four questions about their writing process, then tag other writers to keep it going the following week.

Many thanks to my good friend and fellow Atlantian MJ Pullen for tagging me! MJ has published three contemporary women’s fiction novels in a series called The Marriage Pact a group of thirty-something friends from Atlanta. You can check out her blog and current projects here, including a women’s fiction novel about what happens when a marriage is on the verge of destruction, and a fun story about a reluctant sleuth who is a single mom.

I also want to thank Gus Sanchez for also tagging me for the blog train. Gus is an eclectic guy and his writing works are equally as broad: a nonfiction book “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run”, multiple short stories, and…

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My Writing Process

A little jealous of Chris’ Bulletin Board, I have to say!

Chris Negron

Thanks to Emily Carpenter, my long-time writing and critique partner, for tagging me to take my turn on this writing process blog tour. Emily is a suspense writer represented by Amy Cloughley of Kimberley Cameron & Associates (we share the same agent). I’m continually impressed and amazed by her writing. She’s currently working on a psychological suspense about the nature of toxic love. Please keep up with her by following her blog or visiting her website. You can also connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.


This post is part of a blog tour series in which writers answer a fixed set of questions about their writing and writing process, then tag other writers to take their turn the following week. Enjoy!

What am I working on?

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time on a short story set in the world of my on-submission novel…

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Starting Out as a Writer: 5 Things You Should Know

I did a guest post today called “Starting Out As A Writer – 5 Things You Should Know” on the What’s on the Bookshelf blog. I thought I would re-post part of it here for my writer followers who are starting out on their journey toward authorship.


Five things you need to know:

1. This isn’t easy. But it’s POSSIBLE. As ‘aspiring’ authors, I think we often underestimate two things about established authors: (a) how hard they work, and (b) how accessible a writing career can be. We imagine that writing for a living is a cushy job for the fortunate few, who roll out of bed and fart out a bestseller on their way to cocktails at noon. I don’t think that’s ever been true, and certainly the age of eBooks and self-publishing has opened the field for more hard-working writers than ever to earn a living with their craft. It’s as much about working your ass off as it is about getting a ‘big break.’

==> Read the other four things you need to know at What’s on the Bookshelf.

It’s Kind of Funny…

No sooner do I move this blog elsewhere than suddenly a bunch of new folks follow me here! It’s not that I don’t love you. I do! So much.

It’s just that I’m not going to be posting much here anymore. All the Front Matter posts will be here: http://mjpullen.com/blog/ So, please go there and sign up for the RSS feed. Then you can get your fix of writing and publishing there, along with the rest of my ramblings. Thanks!

Front Matter is moving to mjpullen.com!

Hello, writer friends!

Me in 1979, thinking of the topic for my very first blog...

Me in 1979, thinking of the topic for my very first blog…

Just a quick post to let you know that this blog will be moving to my new, improved and GORGEOUS website (http://mjpullen.com). Please feel free to visit there anytime and follow with wordpress, or click the link below to sign up for the RSS right here, right now.

If you’re interested in mostly the writing challenges and self-publishing experience, you’ll want to check out the “Writing and Publishing” category at the bottom of the column on the left. But there’s lots of other fun stuff, too.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

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What would you take to the basement?

tornadoTechnically, tornado season in my home state of Georgia runs from March until June. If you’ve ever lived in the Southeast, you know the reality feels more like January to October. It seems that every-other week, we’re hearing the sirens and watching the local news for indications that it’s time to hit the basement. We had exactly that experience tonight: my husband screeched into the driveway on two tires so we could bundle the kids and a fresh bag of Taco Bell down the basement, minutes ahead of the scary-dark sky.

This is far more fun in our new house, where we have a real basement with actual walls and a couch and TV. We had a picnic and the boys played while the storm passed far overhead, quickly dissipating into nothing. Our old house (where we lived until just a couple of weeks ago) had only a partial basement, which was unfinished and had windows on all sides, so our “refuge” was a tiny utility closet with a concrete floor covered in dead bugs and a couple of 200-year old plastic air fresheners on the walls. The last time we all had to go down there, we all crammed into the closet with me crouching over the baby in his car seat, trying to make his big brother as comfortable as possible in a half-unfolded camp chair while their dad and I ducked under the rough wooden shelves, listening to the weather on our phones and anxiously awaiting our release.

Whether you’re cramped in a utility closet or relaxing in subterranean luxury, however, the basic thought is the same during a potential tornado: “If we had to, we could start over. As long as we have each other, whatever gets obliterated upstairs doesn’t matter.” The danger forces you to huddle together and acknowledge, even for just a few minutes, what the most important components of your life really are. It’s not the clothes or the knick-knacks or the TV. It’s not even the books or the photos. It’s the people you love. Everything else can be replaced or at least survived.

Later, with the storm passed, I began to think tonight about how this concept can also apply to writing. I’ve been struggling with my current WIP: not knowing how to grow it from what I’ve already written, dealing with the vague sense that some things are not quite right, but hesitant to blindly butcher it…. You’ve been there.

So tonight I thought, “If I had to rescue just the bare essentials of this book, what would I keep?” Rather than trying to decide what to cut, I began to think about what to take to the proverbial basement. What about this work is so essential that I could start over with only those pieces? My plan is, in a new document, to jot down only those elements the story cannot live without, and ditch (at least temporarily) everything else. Of course it’s hard, just like starting over without the contents of my family’s home and closets would be hard.

But sometimes a fresh start can lead to great, new things – and teach you what is most valuable in the process. Sometimes forcing yourself to live without the elements you’ve accumulated over time leaves you space to write something even better, even truer to the story’s essentials. And in my experience, if you know what’s essential, anything is possible.

Only a Writer or Therapist Would Find the Junk Drawer Significant


“I knew you’d come back for me.”

Luckily for me, I’m both (or at least have been both in the recent past).

I was cleaning out our junk drawer the other day – because we’re getting ready to move, not because I was desperately looking for procrastination excuses – and near the end of my task I glanced down to find it just as it’s pictured here. It struck me as mildly poetic somehow, so I took a break and snapped a picture. Ordinary objects can be fertile ground for writing if you look with the right eye…

In our house, the junk drawer is the catch-all place, where for some reason we keep life’s everyday essentials (scissors and pens) buried alongside the crap we will never, ever use again under any circumstances (year-old soy sauce and manuals to phones I recycled years ago). It’s the one place in the house where hoarding is normal and accepted, even in the tidiest, most minimalist homes. And in my home, which is neither tidy nor minimalist, it’s a place where the crazy really shows. This picture is just the 10% that was left at the bottom.

The writer’s brain is a lot like a junk drawer. We stow things away — both purposefully and at whim — never really knowing if they will resurface, or if they do, if they’ll be useful. An idea that seems essential to our work one minute can become trite and irrelevant the next. Or we scribble something thoughtlessly, only to find it again months later with fresh eyes and find it’s exactly what we need at a crucial moment in a story. It’s a beautiful process of acquiring, storing, and finally (painfully) purging ideas until we have something inspiring or useful to share. It’s good to have a quantity of stuff to draw from, but only when we’re willing to take the time to filter through it will we have the opportunity to see things clearly.

So when was the last time you went through the clutter from your own junk drawer, literally or figuratively? What inspiration can you find at the bottom of your pile — or mine, for that matter? It could be an army guy next to a poignant Taco Bell sauce packet, a mystery key, or a bag of dice. Or maybe an idea that got shelved months ago because it wasn’t ready for the world. Inspiration for a brand new story, or simply texture for a work in progress. Either way, maybe it’s time to revisit something you’ve stashed away, so that you can either toss it aside forever or give it a new life in the light of day.

I’d love to read junk-drawer stories – please link in the comments if you write one!