My writing habits seem to change about every two years. I’ll find something that fits with what I’m working on perfectly, and I’ll stick with it until it doesn’t work anymore. Sometimes I’ll retain it for far much longer than I probably should, but I’ll eventually change it up.
I came to the conclusion a few weeks ago that this new change is going to be rather significant. The whiteboard that I’ve been using for the last few years has suddenly been cleared off, with only the blog post schedules showing. I’m even putting off continuing the daily 750 Words for the time being (though I may be continuing the ‘secret project’ I’ve been using those words for, using a different format). In fact, I’m pretty much backing away from the internet for a while, because it’s been a distraction.
It came to me when I first started writing the new Mendaihu Universe project longhand. I’ve mentioned this over at my LiveJournal, but I’ll mention it here: I felt a need to return to my old writing habits. And more importantly, I felt a very strong need to back away from the internet, maybe even backing away from writing directly to PC for a while. I’ll keep the computer on by having some music playing in the background, and I’ll keep it handy for when I need it for research or to check on an older manuscript or something…but I felt the need to create more organically.
I came to this conclusion via many different ways, really. I think part of it came to me last year when I started writing a personal journal entry almost every day, It also surfaced in October when I’d bought art pens and took part in the Inktober meme. Interestingly, my ‘secret project’ also had a hand in it, even though I was typing it as part of my daily 750 Words. The point being: I was writing swiftly and fluidly, forcing myself not to self-edit, and this included the personal journal. There’s a few entries here and there in that moleskine where I’ll stop midsentence and write “No, let me reiterate that” instead of crossing it out.
And that’s the key. In the years working on the Bridgetown Trilogy rewrite/revision, the Walk in Silence project and the aborted Two Thousand, I realized that I’d been stuck in the mode of internal revision as I was writing, and working solely on PC has that effect on me. That is because it’s always been like that. I wrote about ninety percent of The Phoenix Effect longhand in two spiral notebooks — no revision, just pantsing it as I go — and transcribing and revising it on the PC in the Belfry in the evenings. I consider the Bridgetown Trilogy a major revision/rewrite of that same book, even though it contains mostly new passages that were never in TPE. Pretty much every other project I’ve worked on since then was straight to Word.
I wanted to change that with this new MU story. I realized that most of those post-trilogy projects were tough slogs because I’d never turned my Internal Editor off. Plus, now that we’re in the Space Age and can jump online any second of the day if we so choose, that gave me all the reasons to procrastinate. At first I thought a strict whiteboard schedule would help…and indeed, it has, to some extent. Because of that schedule I got rid of the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality. I’m back to the point where I want and need to write something every day, even weekends. But I felt it wasn’t enough.
That’s why I chose to start this new project completely offline, like I did with TPE. I wanted to see if I could recapture my old writing habits, without all the distractions and the internal editing. Just pick up the notebook and the pen and start writing. No worries if I mess up or make a continuity error; this is not the place to fix it right now. This is the time to write the story purely as it comes to me. No focusing on word count or anything else…just let it ramble for however long it would take during that session. I’ve even taken this “new” old habit to an extreme; instead of writing at my desk, I put some music on my PC and sit across the room on the love seat instead. It’s a little better for my back (I think?), and I’m able to stretch out a little more. I can also take it elsewhere: I can write in the living room while A watches a movie. Or as I did last weekend, I can write at our hotel (both in bed and in one of the chairs) in the middle of New York City, as well as during the flights to and from said city.
Suffice it to say, I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed just how amazingly well this recaptured habit was working out for me over the course of a month. The story is still evolving and I’m sure I’ll be completely rewriting the beginning at some point (as I always do), but it’s moving at just the speed I like for first drafts. My average over the last few days has been about two pages in a half hour, which is about right; I used to hit five pages in the hour I used to spend writing TPE back in the late 90s. Once I become more involved in this new MU story, I’m sure the time spent writing and the page count itself will extend itself. I haven’t even planned on when I’ll start the transcription, and I’m choosing to leave that wide open. I’ll start it when I feel I’m ready for it.
Is this for everyone? Who knows? Each writer has their own best habits and rituals. It took me a while to realize it, but I seem to have rediscovered mine.