Monday, September 24, 2012

My Writing Ritual (Which Kind of Sucks)

A lot of people ask me how I write, or even how does one start writing. Unfortunately the answer to that last question is incredibly simple and horribly difficult at the same time.

You just sit your ass down and do it.

Beyond that, I know a lot of writers have different rituals that they go through before they dive in for the day. Some like to have music playing. Some must have a cup of tea or a particular kind of snack before they begin. Others light the same kind of scented candle, or write in the same room at the same time of every day.

But the pain in the butt thing about writing is that no one trick works for everyone. It's not like your baseball swing where someone can say to you, "Look, you've got your feet set wrong," or, "Your not turning your hips." Writing doesn't work that way. Every one of us has to find our own set of rules or rituals that can turn us into successful authors.

Too often I hear aspiring authors asking those with agents or deals how they do it. And that particular person's trick probably isn't going to work for you... because it's theirs. For example. I'm going to share with you my tips and tricks for writing success, and you'll probably see right off the bat that my ritual is not for you. Or probably really anybody besides myself.

1) Nap often. Once you get sleepy there's no point trying to write anymore. I don't care if it's 1 PM or 1 AM. You need your sleep. Take a break.

2) When you reach a critical scene, make a random phone call or check your email because you're absolutely certain that you can't deliver this time.

3) Write in your bed, right before bed. Ignore the clock. It's 3 AM and you have to work tomorrow - screw it. You had a nap earlier.

4) Don't name your characters right up until the moment you have to type their names for the first time. Then just sit back and say, "Hi, what's your name?" They'll tell you.

5) Let your cat sleep right on top of your chest while you're writing, so that you have to peer over his fuzzy ass to see the laptop screen. It keeps you warm and builds harmony. Also, it will sharpen your typing skills.

6) Pretend other people don't exist for long periods of time. They actually don't, because you're in fantasy land now. You can text them later. This won't build friendships or strengthen family ties, but it will make your ms longer.

7) Resist getting up to pee right up until the moment when you damn well better. Some people don't like the distraction of a full bladder. I call it inspiration.

8) Make sure you drink a lot of water before you lie down to write, so that you won't make the excuse of having to get up later because you're thirsty. Sure, it leads to the bladder problem mentioned in number 7, but the bathroom is closer than the kitchen. Think time management.

9) Randomly check your Twitter feed every now and then. If you hit a dead spot, or aren't sure how to bridge to the next scene, pop in on your Twitter buds. If you follow a lot of fellow writers, chances are someone else is having the same problem, or else has become convinced that they suck. Return to your ms knowing that you're not alone in this. We all suck sometimes. It's OK.

10) Read back over the last 3 or 4 pages that you wrote the night before to place yourself, but don't edit as you go. This is your first draft, your "word vomit," as I call it. Get all that out of your stomach -- apply your brain to it later.

That's it, friends. That's how I write. It's a collection of anti-social, UTI-inspiring, sleepy logic, but somehow... it seems to work for me!

4 comments:

Laura Barnes said...

I'm totally on board with the nap often. I can't even do a blog post if I'm sleepy. Actually, all 10 of your ritual techniques are similar to mine. Except the edit thing. I have word vomit days and I have edit days. When I can't come up with new, I often find that editing a previous scene can keep me connected. I think that's totally taboo to edit on your first draft, so totally pretend I didn't say that.

Tara Dairman said...

Fun to get a little insight into your process, Mindy! I'm impressed that you can pull off #10--I go back a page or too to review, too, but somehow I just can't read over crappy first-drafty writing without trying improve it. One of the many inefficiencies of my own process... =)

Megan said...

Your process is similar to mine. Yet I won't stay up to the wee hours of the morning and unfortunately am not a cat guardian. But I do get up early, make coffee, drink a cup of the said liquid while booting up & opening my latest creation. Thanks for sharing! :)

Scott Seldon said...

As always a good laugh. Several of my habit are the exact opposite. I drink a lot and get up often, but like you, at the last possible moment. I most certainly check my social media if I hit a dry spot, often churning out a couple hundred words there instead of my in story.