We have talked a lot on this blog about the thought processes behind writing. From inspiration to publishing we have discussed how different people work. Today I want to talk about a different kind of process, the actual, physical, process of sitting down to write.
Just like the mental processes this can look different for everyone. We write with different materials, in different places, wearing different clothes. Some people have specific routines they follow, others wing it. But all of this can influence our work.
I’ll start with the basic, writing materials. There are tons of different computer programs to use for writing. Among the most popular are Word, Pages, GoogleDocs, and Scrivner. But these are just a few, and just on the computer. I know people who use others tools, such as pen and paper, typewriters, and a device called a Neo. I personally like to use Microsoft Word. I know that this is kind of an old program, and for my professional life I have mostly switched to google. But for my stories I prefer to use the program that I have used for ages. There is something comfortable about it.
Places to write can be important too. They can provide inspiration or distraction. For me the best place to write is at Denny’s! That may sound strange, but the camaraderie of this group of writers has helped produce some of my best work. It also helps me focus. When I am at home I have a hard time writing because of all the distractions. I am always finding something else that I need to do. When I go to a place specifically to write it helps me cool down that part of my mind.
Clothes, food, music, and other forms of atmosphere can also influence writing. I like to be comfortable when I write and it isn’t a Sunday at Denny’s without Root Beer and Mozzarella sticks! I even know a writer who eats eggs whenever she writes a sex scene! As for music, that’s easy for me. Since there is a musical in the background of each of my novels, the soundtracks give me inspiration.
So there you have it, my process. While I certainly occasionally write in other places and ways, this is what works best for me. What is your favorite way to write?
Recently I have had some, thankfully minor, health scares. Luckily for me they are all easily fixable and will lead to my leading a much healthier and happier life. Now, what, you might think, does this have to do with writing? Well that's easy.
One of the problems I have been having was related to sleep. While I won’t get in to all of the details, one of the doctor’s solutions was to not look at screens for two hours before sleeping. Crazy right! In this day and age how could I possibly not look at a TV, phone, or tablet for two hours? What would I do?
Turns out the answer was simple. I read! Though a lot of this has sucked I have loved getting back to the days of reading before bed. And I’m reading real books too. Holding them in my hand. None of this e-book or audio stuff.
At first I reread some of my favorite cozy series. They helped remind me why I love the genre and inspire my next novel. Then I got to go to the bookstore! Since that’s basically my favorite place in the world it was a great day. I picked up a bunch of great new stuff, much of it in new genres. And since its doctor’s orders my husband can’t tell me I spent too much money!
But in all seriousness, while the circumstances that led to this weren’t the best, I relish the chance to get back to my roots as a writer, to read again.
Here are the top seven writing habits repeatedly mentioned by big time writers including Bryce Courtney, Stephen King, Maya Angelou, Neil Gaiman, and Agatha Christie.
- Be consistent. Some authors write at a given time, some only on given days, but all of them make writing important and consistent.
- Never justify. If you want purple grass and seven moons, go for it. If your characters are exceptionally goody-goody, or sociopathic, then that is what makes the story yours.
- Let it go. At some point, put the story, poem, song, play, out into the world. Give it wings. If it crashes and burns, follow point four below.
- Never stop writing. If the first one flops, write the second, and the third and the seven thousandth. You actually never know when someone (see final point below) will read something you’ve written and it really does make it big.
- Balance your weakness. If you can’t make a deadline, write well. If you are submitting crap, turn it in on time. Write drunk, edit sober. Once you have figured out your personal crazy, make sure it isn’t so dysfunctional that you become your own worst enemy.
- Be flexible. If you can’t find a publisher, find another way. If you are getting a backache writing at your desk, write somewhere, anywhere, else. If you hate computers, figure out voice recognition. Work arounds keep life interesting, and productive.
- It’s who you know. Meet people, be friendly. You never know who will make the call that you’ve been waiting for.