Here’s How I Write

manuscript for next novel

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Shannon A. Thompson, a fellow blogger, gave me the idea for this post. I liked learning about Shannon’s methods and choices during her writing day so I thought some of you might find my process interesting. I’m hoping others of you will write a post and answer these questions as well. I was surprised that even though Shannon and I write in different genres, we follow some similar practices.

Here’s my “How Do I Write?” interview (with myself):

How long do you spend writing each day?

It’s hard to say, and it depends. I work full-time as a writer, but spend a portion of my day marketing and reading blogs and writing comments. The days of writing all day long happen infrequently. My day is usually fragmented.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

I prefer writing first thing in the morning, particularly if I wake with an idea. Often, I’m pulled to the writing. When I’m in the process of revising/editing a piece, I usually get all the chores done first and then sit down for an afternoon with the manuscript. This process doesn’t always work so well because too often, I’m just hitting my stride when I look at the clock, and it’s time to start dinner or go to my dance class.

Do you set yourself a time limit or word limit? No limits?

I make lists at the end of my workday for what I want/need to accomplish the next day. Quite often, I can’t complete everything, but at least I start the day with goals. When I’m writing a novel, I always set a goal of three double-spaced typewritten pages (900-1,000 words). I usually stick to that and sometimes even write more.

Do you write with music on? If so, what music do you like to write to?

I love music, and I adore well-written lyrics. However, when I’m writing I can’t have music on with words. I listen to classical music while I’m writing. I particularly like Mozart. I have two CDs I listen to frequently with a variety of classical compositions.

How often do you check the Internet? Do you fall into Internet black holes? Or do you turn it off completely?

The Internet is probably one of the biggest problems in my writing day. It’s too easy to check. Often it happens when I need to research something and then I’m checking my email or Facebook. When I really need to pound out something, I leave my laptop behind and go to my legal pad and pencil.

Are you a basher or a swooper? Kurt Vonnegut characterized writers into these two camps: “Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter any more, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.”

I am definitely a swooper. I’d never get a story told if I “bashed” it out. I want to get it all down, and then I go back and smooth it out. I consider my first draft the outline of the story. No one ever really sees that version. In reality, the first draft I show to beta readers is probably the second draft of the story.

Do you eat when you’re writing? What snacks/drinks do you go to?

I take breaks for eating. I usually have nuts or crackers, but I leave the writing alone when I’m eating.

What’s your biggest procrastination tool? Or are you a freak who never procrastinates?

I can find all sorts of things to do instead of settling down with the writing. I unloaded the dryer and folded sheets in the middle of doing this interview. The Internet is a great procrastinator. I’ve been known to clean the refrigerator when I have an important scene to write.

How do the people (roommates/partners/children) who live with you fit into or around your writing schedule?

I’m fortunate to be able to keep an 8-5 schedule just like my husband. I get up with him in the morning. We drink a cup of coffee together. He goes off to the shower, and I head up to my office. I usually try to stop my work when he comes home at night. I don’t have any young children, but when I did, I usually rose an hour early in the morning and did my writing then. This month I’ve had three sets of visitors for a couple of days at a time, and I find that’s difficult, but I manage by working longer hours before their visit so all my blogs are scheduled.

Do you find yourself tied to the place you’ve grown accustomed to writing? Or can you just pick up and go?

I pick up and go. Sometimes I have to get out of the house. I find I can write in public at coffeehouses, libraries, and bookstores very well. I shut it all out. Now why I can’t listen to music with lyrics while I’m writing at home, I don’t know. About once a week, I go some place other than my office to write. I also have a couple of spots in my house where I go if I need a change of scenery. I keep a briefcase packed with my writing tools. Usually when I leave the house, I go with my legal pad and about a dozen sharpened pencils. I leave the laptop at home. My purpose in changing scenery is to concentrate and get away from distractions. I like starting my blogs and chapters and scenes in long hand. I might only write a page or two that way, but it gets me started. The rest comes easily.

So that’s how I write. I learned very early in my writing career to follow what works for me and not what works for other writers. However, sometimes by looking at others’ choices, I can find a better way to work.

How do you write? I would love to learn from you.