(Article originally written for Fangtastic Books)
Novels are hard. If you’ve ever tried to write one, you don’t need me to tell you that. If you’ve never tried to write one, just imagine falling out of an airplane at night and somewhere between the plane and the ground is a parachute. Oh, and there’s about a thousand backpacks along the way with nothing in them. That’s page one.
The trick is to figure out a writing process that makes this as painless as possible. The trap is that there’s as many processes as there are writers. And every single one of them is right.
Without a process, what happens is you spend all day thinking about writing – thinking while you read, thinking while you watch just one more episode of Alf, thinking while you eat more ice cream than any human should consume in a week. Then the day’s over and the night of self-flagellation begins.
Oh, and once you find the process that works for you on this project, there’s no guaranty it will work at all on the next project. Did I mention that?
In any case, here’s the process, more or less, that I currently use:
The first thing I do is go to bed the night before at a decent time. This is so when my alarm goes off at 6AM I won’t say silly things like “Blergh con muh-shuff” and an arm won’t come swinging from the other side of the bed with deadly accuracy.
I dodge the cats and all the furniture they’ve moved around in the night and stumble to my coffee maker. I have a Keurig, because it means I’ll only have to wait a maximum of 30 seconds for my elixir of life. Then I stumble down to my desk in the basement.
I’ll spend a few minutes checking emails, facebook, twitter and checking the rankings of my books on a couple sites. After some swearing and headshaking, I’ll open whatever I’m working on in Word and read over what I wrote the day before. This isn’t for editing, but to remind me what the hell I’m currently writing.
I should note that the program I open might not be Word. I have a habit of trying other programs ( Scrivener, distraction-free editors, etc.) at the beginning of projects, but eventually I give in and just transfer everything over to Word. I don’t really have an explanation, it’s just what I do.
In any case, I’m usually doing some actual work by about 7AM. I wear headphones and find some playlist on Spotify to listen to since that’s when other people start bumbling around over my head. This isn’t a really productive time for me, but it’s necessary so when I get to the next session all the air bubbles have been squeezed out of my brake lines.
Somewhere in the next hour or so I’ll stop and either get some breakfast (usually a fruit/spinach smoothie) or just get some more coffee.
Then it’s back to my desk. I’ll write until I hit my day’s quota, at least. My normal quota is 2,000 words. If I’m feeling the mojo, I’ll keep going for a while. Quota or not, I’ll usually stop around 11:30. If the words are flowing, it usually takes me about two and a half hours to get my 2,000 words. This is all new stuff. The grunty work or errands come in the afternoon.
When I’m done my morning, I’ll try to hit the treadmill or workout for a while. Then I’ll have some lunch and shower.
The afternoon is admin, promotion and planning. I’ll do stuff like work on my website, maybe schedule some guest blogs, podcasts, etc. I’ll do some reading, outlines, proposals and such, if I need to. This is when I do most of my non-personal social networking, emails, etc. Sometimes I track my writing and sometimes I don’t. (I need to work on that.) If I’m in a tracking cycle, I’ll make some notes about the work I got done that day. Usually in a spreadsheet or just in a notebook.
Depending on the day and when I’m done all this, I’ll start thinking about dinner or I’ll take a nap. Whether I write at night or not depends on what my fiancé’s schedule is like (she’s active in local theatre, plays guitar and paints, but works during the day as an Optician, so the night is the only time she gets to a lot of that stuff).
Weekends are mostly free-for-all’s, but there’ll usually be some writing and promotion work in there amongst going bowling or pillaging.
And somehow with that mess I get the first draft of a new book done about every four months. Sometimes I don’t even set it on fire and throw it in the neighbor’s yard.