The Right Ritual by Joanne Guidoccio


When I decided to pursue my writing dream, I imagined one of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne visiting each morning, taking my hand, and guiding me to the computer. There, she would remain, offering words of encouragement until I produced my daily quota of words.

That was the fantasy.

The reality was very different.

I was unprepared for the tyranny of the blank page. While everything was in place—business cards, new computer, dreams of a runaway best-seller—my writing muscles refused to budge.

Hoping for inspiration, I researched the writing rituals of famous authors:

  • Alexander Dumas color coordinated his paper. He used blue paper for novels, yellow paper for poetry and rose-colored pages for nonfiction.
  • Mark Twain and Truman Capote write lying down.
  • Ernest Hemingway sharpened dozens of pencils before starting to write.
  • Willa Cather read the Bible before writing each day.
  • Before picking up his pen, John Donne liked to lie in an open coffin. (I wonder about this one!)
  • Honoré de Balzac drank vast quantities of black coffee, ensuring that he could write all day and night.
  • Maya Angelou rose at 5 a.m., gathered her legal pads, a bottle of sherry, playing cards, a Bible, and Roget’s Thesaurus and checked into a hotel room (stripped of all stimuli from the walls). She would write 12 pages before leaving in the afternoon and edit the pages in the evening.

Eventually, I came up with my own ritual. Nothing too dramatic, but it works for me.

While having a leisurely breakfast (one of my retirement perks), I don’t linger over that second cup of coffee. If I choose to have more than one cup, I do so while checking email and social media. At nine-thirty, I start writing. My goal is 1000 words a day. At first, I used the oven timer to keep me on task, but that annoying sound reminded me of incessant school bells, so I invested in a bird clock. Each hour, one of my feathered friends, among them the Downy Woodpecker, Belted Kingfisher, and Great Horned Owl, chirp and remind me to pace myself.aseasonforkillingblondes_w9101_med-2


Hours before the opening of her career counseling practice, Gilda Greco discovers the dead body of golden girl Carrie Ann Godfrey, neatly arranged in the dumpster outside her office. Gilda’s life and budding career are stalled as Detective Carlo Fantin, her former high school crush, conducts the investigation.

When three more dead blondes turn up all brutally strangled and deposited near Gilda’s favorite haunts, she is pegged as a prime suspect for the murders. Frustrated by Carlo’s chilly detective persona and the mean girl antics of Carrie Ann’s meddling relatives, Gilda decides to launch her own investigation. She discovers a gaggle of suspects, among them a yoga instructor in need of anger management training, a lecherous photographer, and fourteen ex-boyfriends.

As the puzzle pieces fall into place, shocking revelations emerge, forcing Gilda to confront the envy and deceit she has long overlooked.


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guidoccio-001In 2008, Joanne took advantage of early retirement and decided to launch a second career that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes paranormal romance, cozy mysteries, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

Where to find Joanne…




20 thoughts on “The Right Ritual by Joanne Guidoccio

  1. Good post, Joanne. I suppose we all bought into the fantasy at some time. My own routine is that I don’t have a routine. I vowed after years of living life on a 9-5 schedule that I would never do that again and I haven’t — not since I left my day job in 2003 to become a freelance writer. I try to write every day, and aim for a chapter a day (fortunately I write short chapters!) but when I do that — it varies by the day, my mood and a host of other things (in the summer, I golf 2 mornings a week). I think the most important thing is to stay connected to the story and that really does mean writing every day, doesn’t it?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Judy, I was also happy to leave the very structured environment of teaching–all those bells and deadlines! But I still need a loose structure to keep me on track. I imagine both of us are on that linear pantser continuum–I’m closer to the linear side. Thanks for dropping by. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting post, Joanne. As a long-time bird watcher, I love the “bird clock” idea.And good for you if you can pound out a thousand words per day. Unfortunately, I rarely do. I’m probably in the world’s top ten for being unorganized and undisciplined. I look back at what I’ve written and wonder, “How the heck I did that!” I love to write, and I hate to write. Go figure. 🙂 Thanks for visiting MMO, and please know the welcome mat is always out!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a hysterical list of writing rituals, very entertaining Joanne. I am in awe of your neatness. I think that will be my New Years Resolution. BE NEAT. My mother’s voice echoes in my mind as I look around feeling guilty at the piles of files “MJ has a filing system but no body understands it but her”. I liked the writers who write lying down. But not the one who did it in a coffin. LOL I love the list. Interesting book you have written about snuffed blondes. Time to hide. Best wishes for “A Season for Killing Blondes”.
    and thanks for your “neat” post! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Joanne, sorry to be late chiming in. Welcome to MMO, we are thrilled to have you. I’m trying hard to get over Donne’s coffin. Yikes! Ritual and discipline are so important. I’m good on the ritual, I admit to struggling with the discipline sometimes.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Love this post, Joanne! Like Judy, I don’t think I have any writing rituals… I’ve had them in the past, but life changes. Here in the RV, life is so by-the-moment, that having learned a long time ago to write on the fly, to steal the minutes I can, now comes in very handy!

    Every now and then I think of Tom Robbins’ writing rituals. He has four pre-writing steps he does and recommends all writers do (I’ll summarize): first, do 30 minutes of something physical; 30 minutes of reading something other than what you write (like poetry… for fiction writers); 30 min. of looking at the sky (clouds during the day, stars at night)*; and 30 min. of thinking about sex to get into a state of “great intensity.”

    *Wonder how anyone out West is supposed to manage that, with days upon days of blue skies? I suppose we can watch the airplanes and birds fly over….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, Robbins has a pretty elaborate pre-writing ritual. Having read several of his books, it’s easy to see how the fourth fuels his novels. I like the easy-peasy 3-step method: turn on the laptop, open Word, type.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I like the order established by your process. I need to impose some order on my own! All the others’ methods were enlightening and entertaining! Especially the writing while lying down.

    Liked by 1 person

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