Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Behind-the-Scenes Writing Tag

I was tagged by Hamlette for the Behind-the-Scenes Writing Tag.

Originally, this blog started out as a writing blog (hence the name with nanowrimo in it), but it became a place I talked about movies, and I stopped talking about writing.  I have my website for that, except... that one is on wordpress, and something happened and I can't login anymore to update.  No idea how to fix it, and that site is soooo behind.  I've had books come out!  And an audio book!  But no way to post the information anymore.  Sigh.

So, anyway, here's the writing questions from this tag.

Is there a certain snack you like to eat while writing?
What am I, a Hobbit?  No.  I don’t snack.  I eat only when I’m hungry (and sometimes not even then), and that’s the only time I think about food.  No breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, lunch, etc. for me, thank you very much.  Having to deal with just dinner every day is bad enough!  I am a Ranger... don’t stop until nightfall, eat when and if there's a good time and if there is actually something to eat.

However, I’m always drinking hot tea, so I’ll usually have a fresh pot of tea brewed before I start writing.

 (my favorite tea, about the only one I ever drink)

When do you normally write? Night, afternoon, or morning?
Usually in the evenings, after work.  This is a long-ingrained habit dating back to school days, where the only free time I had to write was at night after homework was done.  It carried through college, and then with the pesky day job taking up 8-5 every day since college, nights are still the only time available.  I also like to write Saturday or Sunday morning at a local Starbucks.  Though that is more just to get out of my house than a time of day thing.

Where do you write?
At my desk.  However, since my desk is the same space I work at for my day job 8-5, I’m mightily and profoundly sick of that desk, and it now has a lot of bad vibes that prevent me from doing what I love.  Lately, I’ve been getting more writing done at Starbucks in a 2-3 hour window on the weekend than I do at home the rest of the week.  I’m burnt out of even seeing my desk at home.

How often do you write a new novel?
Well, whenever I'm done with the current one, I start a new one.  However, I suspect this question is angling for more of a how-long-does-it-take-you-to-write-a-novel answer.  The shortest time I ever took was a 110,000 word novel in 4 months.  The longest was a 140,000 word novel in ten years. Although that latter answer involved seven years in the middle of not touching the book at all, so actual writing time was considerably less.  Nevertheless, ten years from starting the first draft, to throwing it out, and rewriting/revising the entire thing from scratch.  The average is one-two years.

Do you listen to music while you write?
Yep.  Almost always orchestral soundtracks.  Ironically, once I’m writing, I usually don’t hear a note of what I put on, but it's an initial jumpstart to the right mood.  And picking the wrong score will throw me off completely.

What do you write on? Laptop or paper?
What am I, a Hobbit? LOL!

I write on a computer.  However, I will write story or notes in a notebook when I’m out for the day.  I often keep my sister company on the weekends.  She’s a music teacher, so while she’s at someone’s house teaching, I’m sitting in the car for an hour.  I will use that time to either read or write story on paper.  But I’m not fond of handwriting anymore, as I can type so much more quickly, so it’s far easier to get thoughts down with a keyboard than a pen.  My writing, which used to be so neat twenty years ago, is now scrawly if I write fast.  Time's too precious.  I'll go with the fastest way to get story down.

Although, if I get an idea, particularly in the middle of the night, I run for paper.  Then I look like this, madly scribbling down my thoughts before they evaporate.

Is there a special ritual you have before or after you write?
I suppose making sure there is hot tea and picking the right music might count. I rarely start writing without those.  Afterwards?  Depends on how good the writing session was.  It's not a ritual, but I tend to get quite goofy after a good writing day. My family can always tell if I come over in the evening and I've been writing, vs. coming over after a day at work.

What do you do to get into the mood to write?
At home, put on the right music.  Sometimes read a bit of the scene before the one I’m working on, or read the relevant parts of my notes file.  Mostly, I just start writing in the notes file first, and when notes turn into story sentences, I switch to the main doc.  However, when I’m at Starbucks, there’s usually no music, just the ambient noise, conversations, and whatever lame music they have on their speakers.  On those days, I simply start writing.  Mood is kind of irrelevant, really.  The act of typing words puts me in the right mood.  I find it's much smoother these days to write at Starbucks, honestly, because it's far easier to focus there.  At home, there're too many distractions (cats! internet!) and it's too comfortable.  At Starbucks, I have to focus to shut out the environment.  I'm very good at shutting out the world, so the people wandering by at Starbucks are not distractions, but motivators to keep focused on my computer, if that makes any sense. Makes me work harder.

What is always near the place you write?
Well, my work desk at home has all my day job stuff on it, with all the normal desk stuff (pens, pair of scissors, tape, etc) that one expects to find at a desk.  There is also always a box of Kleenex, a bottle of lotion, Carmex, an emery board, a coaster for tea, a dictionary, and the remote control for my stereo within reach.  Those are the necessities of my daily life.  And to be fun, my Tonto Lego keychain, and my Thorin key, and my little bronze Fili figure are all sitting around my work computer monitor.

Do you have a reward system for your word count?
Absolutely not.  I don’t even know how this would work for me.  What would I possibly reward myself with?  Why would I care?  Writing is about good habits, not about bribes.  I also don’t pay attention to word count (unless I’m doing nano!).  I aim to write a full scene each writing session, but sometimes I only get a half scene.  Sometimes only a paragraph.  Sometimes only one sentence.  I've been doing this long enough that I no longer stress out over that.  Besides, I've learned that if I can't work easily on a scene, it's because I'm still missing something key about it, so rather than write words I'm just going to throw out, I'd rather spend that time thinking it through instead.  Then the next day I can buzz through the scene.

(this is often me, staring into the middle distance at my desk, thinking)

Is there anything about your writing process that others might not know about?
First thing I do before starting the day’s writing on any story/novel is to do a “save as” on the previous day’s document and create a new document with today’s date in the file name.  Learned that from writer Holly Lisle, and it’s been a lifesaver.

There isn't a single novel I've written (or started) where the originating concept wasn't sparked by an actor or actors.  Back from the first novels I wrote in high school to the one I'm working on right now, it's the one common, consistent denominator between them all.  This is different from having fun casting my stories as if they were movies (which I also do).  I mean the fundamental idea for the novel is always an actor paired with some confluence of events or ideas.  Like the first real novel I worked on, waaaaay back in the day, came from talking about James Darren with my mom while sitting in the sun, watching vultures circling over our house.  He's not even a favorite actor of mine, just happened to come up that day, and those three things -- James Darren, sun/heat through glass, and vultures -- sparked a whole novel.  Not just a novel... six novels, all set on the same world.

The most recent novel idea (and the next one I will write when I finish the current novel) came from Oliver Reed, childhood friends, and tropical islands.  It's almost always three things that start a novel.  I keep note files on every book, and they're all the same: An actor or actors, and two things. 

(These guys have all sparked a novel. In some cases, more than one.)

There is also usually a fictional pain-in-the-rumpus who keeps me on track by insidiously derailing scenes I'm stuck on with his cheerful and subtly malicious presence.  That probably makes zero sense, but it's true and all part of how writing works in my world.  For me, right now, that would be this guy:

(hullo, Agent Garrett, no, we're not alone so I'm not going to call you John)

I think most people have been tagged, but Olivia, if you haven't, I'd love to hear your answers on these writing questions!


  1. YOU GOT ME! I got to the Tiki Hat and snorted milk-and-Oreos up my nose.

    Love the Hamlet picture of Simon K. I should grab shots of all my Hamlets doing that bit!

    Oh my, doesn't Garrett look particularly pain-in-my-everything right there? Smirky so-and-so. (Garrett brings out the hyphens in me, it seems.)

    1. hahahahhah! Excellent! You know I put that in there just for you, cuz it's been ages and I figured you might have forgotten about it. However, it is an accurate representation of my post-writing silliness as well.

      That's Simon, of course, but not as Hamlet. That's from Eugene Onegin. Which I'd love to show you some day. More than just that one tiny section, anyway! :-D I'm not sure he writes anything in that version of Hamlet? Oh the hardship... might have to watch it again and find out.

      ROFL for the hyphen comment!!

    2. Forget about the Tiki Hat? Never! I'm still on the lookout for them any time I'm at a thrift store or antique shop.

      Oops, right opera diver, wrong opera. I thought it looked like his clothes in Hamlt and assumed it was from the "let me set it down that one may smile and smile and be a villain" part. But maybe that part isn't in the opera? I don't recall.

    3. Mutter mutter durned autocorrect mutter mutter. Supposed to be opera *singer* not *diver*. Tho an opera diver could be interesting...

    4. Okay, kind of want to write a story about opera divers now. Yeah, I also still keep my eye out for Tiki Hats!

  2. What a fun post to read! I can so relate to the giddiness you feel after a good writing session. There is nothing quite like it. :)