Creating a Writing Regimen

exercise panda

Now that I have a new project to work on, I’ve been thinking seriously about revisiting and revising my writing habits.  I’ve already talked about my writing regimen during the Belfry years, which was probably the most solid and consistent I’d ever had.  [The Arkham West years, not so much.  I spent most of those years just trying to adjust to married life and living on the opposite coast.]  The Spare Oom years have been stable and evolving at a stable rate.

But I just feel that I’m not doing enough.

This is my current weekday schedule:
Eat breakfast, catch up on webcomics
Focus on Day Job stuff during Day Job hours (sneaking in a blog post or Daily Words if time permits during slow time)
Longhand personal journal entry during first break
Catching up on social media or writing magazines during lunch
Breather during second break
Dinner and maybe an episode of whatever A. happens to be streaming that night
An hour or so working in Spare Oom at the end of the night
Getting into bed and reading until lights-out

Weekends include e-mail catch-up, chatting with family on the phone, shopping and errands, outside activities, blog writing, and so on.  End the day continuing work on whatever project I’m focusing on.

Mundane stuff, yeah, but I can’t help but think that I’m really not doing my best at time management here.

BUT!  Since I no longer have a Giant Book Project weighing me down, I realize it’s time for me to give that all a rethink.  It’s too scattered, too disjointed.  I find myself wasting time when I shouldn’t be.  Sure, maybe I’m already using these few hours whenever I can, and just like every other writer, I feel it isn’t enough.  The question becomes: how to get the maximum work out of a limited time frame?

Or perhaps that’s the wrong question.  Besides, that way lies madness.  I’ll never have enough time, even if I decide to drop every other minor exercise to make it happen.

No, the better question is:  how do I organize my time better?

Well, the problem is that I’m dithering.  I’m in the very early stages of Meet the Lidwells! and I’m chomping at the bit to get writin’.  I’m trying a new approach this time: preplanning by way of index cards and an outline instead of making it up as I go along.  [Noted: the reason I’m doing this is that the trilogy project took so damn long and needed so much clean-up afterwards that I figured being more organized might save me a hell of a lot of time.]  All this precision is driving me batty, because I’m so used to being a pantser writer.  I still have this excess energy with nowhere to put it, so it ends up getting wasted on skimming social media or futzing around with my music collection.

And to be honest, I had the same problem in the Belfry years.  I’ve talked about my time wasted playing multiple rounds of FreeCell (or worse, wasting twenty minutes pondering over my cd collection trying to decide what I was going to listen to that night).  And I definitely had the same problem during the Arkham West years.

So what do I do?

Well, the best thing for me to do is to expand on that daily assignment regimen.

One of the steps I take is following my whiteboard schedule.  As you may have noticed, I’ve been reasonably consistent with my blog schedule here and at Walk in Silence.  I’ve also been good at writing the personal journal five days a week during Day Job hours.  I can expand on that, then.  I’ve already given myself a deadline of getting the indexing and outlining done for MtL! by the end of April, and to get the major writing started by the first of May.  I can certainly add more assignments with other projects if need be.

Mind you, I’m not trying to Write All the Things.  I’m just trying to be more productive.  It’s also a long and evolving process, so I can’t expect a complete change right off.  It takes time and practice.  And dedication.

It’ll take time, but I’d like to think it’s worth it.

Fresh Perspectives

guitar

One of the first things I chose to do the day after The Balance of Light was released was to set one of my guitars to an alternate tuning.

No, really.  All my guitars have been in the usual standard EADGBE tuning for years, and over the last few years, I’ve noticed that I’ve been playing the same damn chord progressions and melodies for far too long.  I love writing new songs, but I haven’t been inspired enough to come up with that many new riffs that I haven’t already used elsewhere.  I figured it was high time to change it up.

My six-string Taylor acoustic is now in the DADGAD alternate tuning.  This is for two reasons:  one, so I’ll finally force myself to learn how to play it that way, and two, so I’ll pick up that guitar more often.  My sister’s a big proponent of this tuning as she loves the versatility it provides.  I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, and now that I have the time, I made the move to get started on it.

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So what does this have to do with writing, anyway?  Why am I posting this here and not at Walk in Silence?  Well, mainly because I’m doing the same exact thing with my writing, now that I have the time to dedicate.  After years of focusing on the Mendaihu Universe and everything that goes along with it, I suddenly find my brain with a lot of extra processing power again.

So this means that I’ve decided to take some steps that I’ve been wanting to take for quite some time now.  The pre-writing work for Meet the Lidwells! has included a full outline — something I’ve nearly always avoided in the past.  I’m also playing around with the post-production work early on, since I already have a good idea of how it’ll look and where I think it might sell.

I’ve been reading a lot of different authors and genres lately.  I’ve been picking up on the varying styles and moods.  I’ve been figuring out how to write a much smaller standalone book with a much smaller cast.  I’ve been paying attention to how different races and genders are written.  Part of this is so when it comes time for me to write something similar, I’ll do it correctly.  Part of it is also because of my fascination in how stories are told from different cultural perspectives; I’m so overly familiar with how Americans tell stories that my own start to sound a bit…bland, so I’d like to try writing my stories from a slightly different perspective.

[Noted, I’m sure someone somewhere will complain that I’m falling into SJW territory, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I won’t write my novels purely for political reasons, because I already know I’ll fail miserably and they’ll read like crap.  The only reason I want to write from different perspectives is because I want to.  End of story.]

What else do I plan on doing to freshen up my outlook?  That’s a good question.  The Day Job does kind of keep me from playing around with my writing schedule, though there’s still room for shaking it up a bit.  I wake up early on the weekends whether I like to or not, so perhaps instead of draining my phone battery trawling the internet or watching several repeat cycles of the local news, perhaps I could use that time for creative endeavors.

I’ve also been extremely lax on my artwork, especially over the last year or so!  I’ve got some fresh pencils and pens that I’d love to start using again.  The art process has always been an enjoyable and calming one for me and I don’t utilize it nearly as much as I’d like.  I’d also like to be a better artist than I currently am, to be honest.  I’m okay, but I could be a hell of a lot better at it.  Same with my photography.

Will any of this end up in my future novels?  Sure, why not?  My reading a crapton of music biographies inspired the interview format for Lidwells.  My immersion in music inspired a fresh outlook on my writing.  My photography is sneaking into my side project of creating book covers.  And my knowledge of art has definitely helped me visualize scenes when writing.

Now that I have more time, I’m really looking forward these new perspectives.

Things and Stuff

sweeping

I seem to be in one of those moods again.  You know the ones: where suddenly feel the need to change everything up, try something new (or bring back something old after I’ve freshened it up a bit).  I think it’s because I’m on the back end of the Colossally Long and Really This Shouldn’t Have Taken This Damn Long project of releasing the Bridgetown trilogy.  I’m definitely seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks quite sunny out there.

Which reminds me — the layout of this blog is rather dark, isn’t it?  I mean, I like the look of it myself, but I feel the color scheme is starting to outgrow its usefulness.  Book 3 is starting to kick up dust on the horizon on its way towards release (still looks like it’s going to be either very late this year, or possibly early next year, by the way things are going), and it’s got a much brighter outlook.

I’m thinking that in the next few weeks, I may change up the site here, make it a bit more warm and inviting.  I’ve got the next few weekends wide open, so maybe some Sunday I’ll pop in and open up the shades!

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scully

I read a lot of webcomics first thing in the morning while having my breakfast and booting up the Day Job laptop, and I’ve noticed a very weird trend.  In particular, it’s a trend dealing with the balance between the creator’s vision versus reader expectation.  I first noticed this during my weekly reading of the Naruto manga series as it was being uploaded to various comic sites, in which a certain subset of fans were getting increasingly upset that the creator, Masashi Kishimoto, was driving the plot where they didn’t want it to go.  A few fans ragequitting the series towards the end (which was nearing 700 chapters by that time!) in protest.  Others going on lengthy Tumblr diatribes as to why Kishimoto was flat-out WRONG for writing his story the way he did.*

Fast-forward to the other day, when two webcomic artists, Mildred Louis (Agents of the Realm, a wonderful take on the magical girl trope) and Pascalle Lepas (Wilde Life, an incredibly inventive supernatural/horror story) both started tweeting about readers who have recently contacted them, either through DM, site comment or email, letting them know how much they like their work…except that if you fixed X, Y and Z, and did A, B and C instead, it would be so much better.**

Dude.  Really?

I could never quite understand why some fans would do that, especially to creators who are releasing their work on their own and not through any publisher or production company. Would you contact your favorite band’s lead singer on Twitter or Facebook to say you loved the new album but Track 6 sucks ass because it’s a bit too long and someone hit a bum note?

Why would you cross the line from appreciative fan to self-appointed Subject Matter Expert on someone else’s creation?  Why would you want to?  There’s obsession (like my discography completism, for instance) and then there’s obsession (NO NO! You can’t write *my* babies into a corner like that!!), and the second kind is really kind of creepy.

I’ve seen writers get this a lot too.  I’ve gotten it a few times.  Well-meant criticism, but really…it’s our creation, not yours.  We’re trying to tell you a story we think you’d enjoy.  You’re like Vern from Stand By Me, continually interrupting Gordie’s story about Lard-Ass Hogan and just pissing everyone else off.

Constructive criticism isn’t always about saying ‘you did X, Y and Z wrong; here’s how to do it better.’  It’s definitely not about saying ‘this wasn’t written the way I wanted it to be written, therefore it’s wrong.’  And despite your apparent knowledge about what makes a good story, you’re forgetting the most important part: you’re speaking from opinion, not experience.  Your criticism isn’t helpful; it’s coming across as pedantic and selfish.

If you’re a professional editor at one of the major publishing houses?  If you’re a pro artist who’s worked on your craft for years?  Sure, that’s different.  We all like hearing from the pros on what we can do to make our creation that much better.  But if you’re just a Fan With A Very Important Opinion, not so much.

I know, I know…touchy subject.  Just something I had to get off my chest.

* – Never mind that Naruto is, obviously, a Japanese story on numerous levels, and so the storytelling, as well as the character development, is going to be quite different from expected American storytelling norms.  This seemed to be the one major point that the most vocal of this subset would often forget or ignore in their arguments.

** – I’m well aware that this could be mansplaining.  Louis and Lepas didn’t explicitly state that’s what it was, so I’m not going down that route here, but it would not surprise me if that was part of it.  And yes, I have seen it thrown at both male and female creators.  Still, if it was mansplaining, that’s not cool either.  It’s not well-meant criticism.  You’re just being a douche.

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kermit typing

WHAT IS MY NEXT WRITING PROJECT?  I can year y’all asking me that through the intertubes (mainly because you’re about as sick as I am with me blathering on about the damn trilogy).  I’ve got it narrowed down to three projects:  another novel in the Mendaihu Universe, the time-travel idea I’ve had for some time, or the music-related novel I outlined a short time ago using my daily words.  Each of them has merit, and I’m pretty sure the latter two will have a much quicker turnaround than the first one, so it’s still up in the air.

I’ll be making a decision quite soon, so as soon as I’ve made the decision, I’ll let you know.  One of them may actually involve some reader participation of some kind, and I’m really looking forward to trying to get that to work.  We shall see!

Until then, hope everyone has a gook weekend!

Spare Oom Unplugged (again)

gravity falls
courtesy of Gravity Falls

Yes, I’d have to say it was definitely a good idea to work longhand with this edit.  The evenings where I’m focusing solely on this project is when I take the binder to the loveseat across the room and settle in.  I’m not chained to the desk, but I can still have the tunage going while I work.

Which brings me to the subject of unplugging again.  It seems every six to eight months I need to unplug from the internet and do some IRL things.  Or more to the point, needing to remind myself to unplug from the internet and do some IRL things.

What this usually means is that, even though I kvetch about it from time to time here at WtBt, I don’t always follow through.  Sometimes I’ll just have a long day at work and want to goof off online and watch cat-drifting gifs all night.  Or I’ll consistently distract myself with the Twitter feed.  Sure, I’ll catch myself and shut down the browser right there and then and do something more productive with my time.

It’s not like I haven’t eased up on the distractions over the last year.  I’m not as passive about them as I used to be.  In fact I’ve become quite tight with my latest writing schedule of practice words, blog entries and exercises, balancing them quite nicely with the Day Job and the regular writing work.

This time out, however, I’m thinking about actively unplugging for a bit.  I mean, doing some serious longhand work, for various reasons:

–Obvious:  Less chance of distraction.
–Health:  Reasons for me to start moving around and getting out of the chair more often.  Also, considering my Day Job is to look at a laptop all day, and following it up by looking at a PC later that evening, I really should give my eyes a break more often.
–Personal:  Sitting with A. instead of hiding away in the back room all day and night.
–Mental:  Focusing solely on the task at hand because, well, it would be the only thing I have at hand.  Also, I have something a little more tangible to work with, rather than having to remember where I was in the document, especially if I’m flipping back and forth.
–Physical:  Handwriting tends to be less straining on my wrists than typing, even with my new PC and its wireless keyboard and mouse.
–And let’s be honest here: when I write new projects longhand, I need to be able to write on the fly.  The habit of editing on the PC is far too ingrained right now, thanks to the Epic Trilogy Editing Seasons.  Once the trilogy project is done, I can reassess.

But yes…it’s one thing to say “I’m thinking of doing [X] to make my work better” or “I’m going to close the browsers now so I can work”, but it’s another to make good on those statements.  And unplugging does seem to be the only way to do this cleanly and efficiently.

Does that mean all my blogs are going on hiatus?  Nope, not this time around.  Those will still be around, as long as I have something to say.  I don’t have to unplug for mental reasons this time.

I just want to be a better writer is all. 🙂

On Writing Longhand

image
Featuring the Pilot Metropolitan pen that A got me for Christmas. I haven’t used a nib pen in ages!

I’ve been writing and editing via my PC for so long that it still feels weird to be writing new things longhand.  The last major project I wrote longhand was The Phoenix Effect; the trilogy was written completely on the computer, using MS Write and MS Word.  I still have the 3″ floppies containing all the early .wri files, come to think of it.  I did do a lot of the world building and the brainstorming longhand, mostly on scrap paper from work (these were the Yankee Candle years), but the new words were all generated downstairs in the Belfry, tapping away on my PC.

Even later incomplete and/or trunked projects like Love Like Blood, Can’t Find My Way Home and Two Thousand and even the earlier versions of Walk in Silence were started or at least primarily written on the computer.  I liked working that way for varying reasons: I could chart my daily word count and my production in general; I could edit while writing when it was clear it was needed; I could open multiple documents for reference use and note taking; and peripherally, I could keep myself amused and entertained with my mp3 collection playing in the background.

Writing on the PC can be a great thing, and I still enjoy it, but over the years I’ve realized its limitations as well.  I have a penchant for distraction, whether it’s multiple games of FreeCell and Solitaire, futzing around with the tags and the arrangement of my mp3 collection, or the continued refreshing of my Twitter feed.  I’ve also been hiding myself in Spare Oom far too long.  And then there’s the fact that I already work from home, so I’m spending most of the day back there already, sitting on my duff for eight hours.  Spare Oom may not be a man cave, but over the years it began to feel like I was using it as a hideaway from the world.  It’s the one room in the apartment that has the best view (see the banner picture over at Walk in Silence), but I don’t look out that window nearly as much as I should.

 

Starting up my personal journal a few years back was my way of combating all this.  Its original purpose was to divert my kvetching habits from social media to paper and curtail them somewhat, and it worked almost immediately.  I also made it a habit to write its entries away from my desk.  For the last year or so I’ve been writing in it during my midmorning break, sitting on the loveseat across the room where I can glance out the window as well.  Much to my own surprise, I’ve kept it up consistently since then, skipping only weekends and vacations.

Early last year, when it was clear that I’d be wrapping up the trilogy project by year’s end, I started writing the new Mendaihu Universe story.  This was the first new story I’d be starting completely longhand, in a yellow-covered 3-subject spiral notebook I picked up at Target.  This too was kept up consistently until late last year when I put it aside to self-release the trilogy.  Once that project is finally wrapped, I’ll be able to pick it up again.  In the meantime, though, I’ve been starting new projects longhand, such as this latest version of Walk in Silence.  My return to artwork and renewed dedication to weekly poetry have finally torn me away from the PC as well.  In addition to that, I’ve been trying to make a concerted effort to work more often on my laptop out in the living room (where I am currently typing this) if I need to use MS Word.  And yesterday afternoon during the two football playoff games I sat at the dining table, writing a few WiS pages.

I’d commented elsewhere that I don’t plan on turning myself into a Luddite writer; I just feel the need to change up the habits to keep everything fresh.  I can view using the PC as a positive work process rather than a distraction or a slog.  I’m not chained to it, and shouldn’t be.  When I was working on the trilogy back in the early ’00s, working on the PC was something I looked forward to as an evening process, maybe even as ‘going to the office’ for my writing career, and I kept that separate from the rest of my life.  Returning to longhand after so long is sort of a return to that.

I’m curious to see where it takes me next.

Visiting Schenectady

People ask me where I get my ideas. I always tell them, “Schenectady.” They look at me with confusion and I say, “Yeah, there’s this ‘idea service’ in Schenectady and every week like clockwork they send me a fresh six-pack of ideas for 25 bucks.” Every time I say that at a college lecture there’s always some schmuck who comes up to me and wants the address of the service.  – Harlan Ellison

Sometimes I’m so bogged down by long-term projects (such as the Mendaihu Universe completion and self-publication) that I end up wondering if I’m going to ever come up with another original idea again.  My focus is so strong on the task at hand that I fear I’m letting a bunch of future ideas pass me by.

This is yet another silly writer fear, of course.  And I fall for it every damn time.

In reality, have I come up with any new ideas?  Well, as a matter of fact I have!  There’s the MU-related storyline that takes place in current time rather than in the future; there’s the family band storyline idea I toyed around with earlier this year for my daily 750 Words.  And I still find myself waking up in the morning, remembering snippets of odd dreams and thinking ooh, that would make a good story!  And I have a “job jar” here in Spare Oom where I’ve dropped scraps of paper for passing snippets of ideas in case I’m hungry for something to write.  So it’s not as if the idea well is dry.  I’m just not paying attention to it at that moment.

Speaking of 750 Words, I recently chose to return to that site for daily practice words, as I’m finding myself with a bit of extra time to do so again.  As mentioned before, I’ve used that site as my mental playground for new ideas.  Some last for a couple hundred words, while others are ongoing.  Some are detailed ideas, while others are just wordplay (such as my exercise of writing a story only using dialogue and no tags or prose).  I have no idea what I’m going to write until I log in and start typing away, and for the next 750 words or so I just let myself riff on an idea.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but that doesn’t matter.

The fact that I’m writing, even if it’s just for mental exercise, is good enough for me.  The ideas are still there…they’re just tucked away, waiting for me to bring them front and center.

On Writing: Mental Playgrounds

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been utilizing the daily word website 750 Words off and on over the last few years, and using it as a sort of ‘mental playground’ where I can have fun playing with ideas that happen to pop into my head.  In short, it’s a simple site where you log on and crank out at least 750 words for the day.  It doesn’t matter what it is…poetry, prose, automatic writing, it doesn’t judge as long as you hit the goal.  It’s a perfect place if you have trouble getting yourself started, but it’s also a great place for training yourself to write something without Editor Brain (or Revision Brain, for that matter) getting in the way.  I’ve used it for both, and it’s definitely helped get the writing juices flowing.

Now?  I use it as a testing ground for new ideas.  I’ve come up with at least three solid novel ideas this way, which will become future projects a little further down the road.  A half hour’s riffing on an idea really can go a long way, and with a few weeks’ worth of consistent work, one can have the makings of a complete outline, or at least a very rough draft.

Lately, I’ve been using it to try out different ideas for this new Mendaihu Universe story.  The first few chapters of any new project often end up sounding very disjointed and lacking continuity, and it’s very obvious that I’m still trying to figure out where the hell I’m going with it.  [Case in point, during my transcription from longhand to Word document yesterday, I noticed a scene starting midday, but changing to evening within a page.]  Which is fine, considering the first draft is always the roughest, but at some point before I get too far, I have to lay some ground rules.  I have to say, okay — enough floundering, time to give this story meaning and direction.

This is where the 750 can come in handy for me:  it’s what I call the outtake reel.  I’ll come up with a specific scene and riff on it, see how it fits in the context of the overall story, if it’s true to the characters, and above all, if the idea will be useful down the line.  Sometimes it’ll work, sometimes it won’t.  It won’t be the final take, but it’ll at least give me something to shoot for.  And with this week’s exercises, I found myself rewriting the same scene that I’d come up with way back in 1993 for the first Vigil outtake, only updated and with different characters.  I hadn’t planned on using the scene ever again, but it seemed to fit so naturally here that I ran with it.  It’ll most likely be somewhere in Act 2 of this current book.  In the process, it also clarified a number of plot ideas I’d had for this project, so I won’t be floundering nearly as much anymore.

 

Having a mental playground for your novel ideas is always a good thing.  You may have to train yourself (like I did) to realize that these are only rehearsals and rough outtakes and not part of the final version, but the outcome of these exercises is almost always fruitful.  By letting your characters run around freely, you end up learning a bit more about them, and in the process you’ll know how they’ll react within the scenes you place them in.   By letting yourself riff on an idea that may or may not even be a part of the current story, you might even come up with a much clearer idea of what you do need to work on.

You don’t necessarily need a site like 750 Words; it might be an ‘outtake’ document on your PC, a dedicated notebook, or a handful of scrap paper.  Whatever works for you.  Like I said, this is the rehearsal stage…it’s where you work out the idea, get rid of the stuff that doesn’t work, and work on strengthening the stuff that does.  And above all, it’s where you have fun with it, with Editor and Revision Brains off having a cocktail somewhere else.

Changes in Writing Habit

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.

 

On Writing Again: Getting Back On the Horse

I’m my own worst critic when it comes to writing, and especially when it involves failure to keep to a writing schedule.  I made a joke of it late last year by calling it “Best Laid Plans”…mainly for the reason that whenever I went online to excitedly reveal what I’m currently working on, those plans would crash and burn spectacularly.  More to the point though, I’m constantly putting guilt on myself when I’m not writing.  I get that nagging itch that feels very much like Sunday night at 8pm, when I’ve realized I’ve left three classes’ worth of major homework undone until that point.  I yell at myself for being an idiot for not doing it earlier.  I gripe and moan and do half-assed work because I’m rushing it at the last minute.  And worst of all, there’s that one tiny voice in there, almost inaudible, that says you know, if you keep this up, you ain’t gonna get shit-all published in your lifetime.  Gods how I LOATHE that one voice…because it speaks a very bitter truth.

So after I get over the guilt and the shame and the irritation, I shut myself up and get back on the horse.

I haven’t exactly been lazy this past week, when it comes to writing.  One of my coworkers was out the latter half of the week and ended up with double-duty for those three days, so I realized I probably would not be running on full power.  I decided to let myself slack on the daily words, as they weren’t time-sensitive or the main project, and skipped on a few whiteboard points as well.  This left me with just enough brainpower to kick out some new words for Walk in Silence as well as decide how I was going to integrate them into the manuscript.  All told, I averaged about 500 words daily, and I’m happy with that result.

So now that everything’s back to normal, what am I going to do now?  Get back on the horse, of course of course.  I’m already doing so now by writing this entry, and starting tomorrow I’ll be hitting the daily words again.  I’ll even be able to hit the whiteboard points again.  Yes, I know, Best Laid Plans…but I’ll take it a day at a time, get done what needs being done, and be happy that I’d made forward progress.  Sometimes that’s the only thing you can do.

Now, if only I’d been this proactive with my homework back in high school…