Inside the Writer’s Studio: Writing Habits
One of my favorite things to do is scroll other writer’s blogs and read about their writing habits. It’s a gamble because a lot of times you’re seeing how the sausage is made which can be horrifying (like the time I learned one of my favorite characters was based on Ben Affleck…WHY???) but, for the most part, I find the process fascinating.
Hopefully, this is fascinating for you, Constant Reader. You know, I didn’t really think about the possibility that you could be horrified by it until just now…
This post deteriorated quickly.
1. I plot for months
Just getting to know Kelsey and Alex? They’ve been piddling around in my head for almost two years now, a full year before I even started writing Lumen Cove. I can transcribe a novel in a weekend (I don’t because when I did that to win #Nano I nearly blinded myself) but it takes months and months of planning create the story. I have approximately 8 full length works rolling around in my brain cavity right now. Alex and Kelsey are stepping to the side now that The Physics of Leaving is about to release and it’s time for the next couple to start their dance. Stay tuned.
2. I run dialogue in the car
If you follow me on social media you might have heard the saga of The Little Blue Wonder, my Ford Focus, who I affectionately call Christine because she is trying to kill me. Christine has a lot of problems, mainly that her transmission is garbage and she’s an accident magnet, but she has very darkly tinted windows. Perfect for emotional breakdowns, ugly singing Demi Lovato at the top of your lungs aaaaaaand workshopping dialogue!
There’s a pretty volatile scene in The Physics of Leaving between Alex and Sully. I worked this out over the course of a week (Thank you Atlanta traffic!) and I gotta tell you, pretending to be two angry men while stuck on I285 for over an hour is pretty cathartic.
3. I spend 12+ Hours at Starbucks
This also might be something you gleaned from following me on social media. Like damn, this bitch is always at Starbucks. Yes. I am. I wrote the majority of The Physics of Leaving at the Little Five Points location. They know me there and there are no distractions. No cats taking their bi-hourly race through the apartment, no laundry, no TV. Just me and this hard ass chair and a looming deadline. Also, there’s coffee there. Speaking of coffee…
4. This Novel brought to you by Caffeine
Caffeine is like my Adderall. My go-to power-ups of choice?
Iced Caramel Macchiato w/ Coconut Milk
Caramel Latte No Foam w/ Coconut Milk
White Mocha No Foam, Yes Whip w/ Coconut Milk
Liquid Ice Energy Drink (Blue Can)
Coffee in the morning + Energy Drink in the Afternoon = Author Superpowers
5. I Write on My Lunch Hour
I wish I was the kind of author that could write on my phone every spare second I had, but I hate being forced to stop a good flow to tune back into everyday life. I DO however use my large chunks of time wisely. Most of my coworkers know about my double-life and are pretty encouraging, which is extremely helpful.
6. I have a spot
Everywhere I go that I write I have My SpotTM. At work, it’s the first booth in the breakroom. At Starbucks it’s any table with a movable chair (not a booth or cushy chair) near an outlet. At home, it changes per project. I wrote the majority of Lumen Cove at my desk. The Physics of Leaving was mostly written at Starbucks but I did edits from my couch. When I was on my cruise I haunted The Crows Nest bar for their big leather chairs and footstools, which was heaven btw.
7. I Don’t Reread…Now.
In my fanfic days, I would always read that last little bit that I wrote to get in the zone for the writing session. I didn’t realize it then but this was the equivalent of shooting myself in the foot before a sprint. I would get caught up in fine-tuning what I wrote and rewrite parts I didn’t like that by the time I got to the end of what I’d already written I was creatively drained and didn’t want to write anymore.
Now I have a very strict Only Forward, Never Back approach where I don’t read any of it until it’s done. I break to occasionally by going back to check something I’d stated in a previous chapter and I end up reading the chapter (oops) but for the most part, I don’t re-read until it’s time to edit. This is difficult especially when you feel like everything you’re writing is the equivalent of canine feces. But I try to remind myself you can’t fine-tune what isn’t there, so write dammit!
8. I have a goal
I’m a quality over quantity person so I try not to concern myself too much with word count (Until the book is over and then I agonize over it being too long) but I feel like it’s a good way to monitor progress. I typically write between 1400 and 1600 words a day. I’ve written as much as 28k in a single day (Hai #Nano) which I do not recommend and as little as 300 words. And then, of course, there are the days I don’t write at all…
9. I take breaks
I try to give myself breaks. One or two nights during the week where I veg in front of the idiot box or spend time with friends. If I take a prolonged break it usually because I’ve completed a project and am working on starting a new one. I use holidays and vacation time to get ahead on writing. IT RELAXES ME.
10. I don’t get Writer’s Block but I do Write in Circles
One valuable thing I learned from art school is that if you continually bash your head against the wall you’ll eventually get through to the other side.
I might have Chapter12-Alternate, Chapter12-Alternate1, Chapter12-Alternate2, Chapter12-Alternate3, Chapter12-Alternate4, Chapter12-Alternate5 lined up in my Unused folder in Scrivener but I’ve never really found myself in a position where I didn’t know what to write. I attribute this to knowing the story inside out before I even start working on it so I always know where I’m going. But I often don’t know the method to get there. This is the main reason why a project of mine will get backed up. I cannot write non-linearly #OCDProblems so I will often spin my wheels in a single chapter for up to two weeks.
Fellow writers, what are some of your writing habits? Constant Readers, do you have any reading habits? Respond in the comments below or @dianneinwriting on twitter!