Tag Archives: writing process

Don’t break the chain!

This is a good visual trick for establishing a routine of any sort. In this case, it’s about writing daily.

Jerry Seinfeld once gave advice to a young comic.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

And then he repeated for emphasis: Don’t break the chain.

In looking for an image to illustrate I found a site that allows you to do this online.

For some of you, this might be great. But you know me, I’m the analog girl, and for me, that big calendar on the wall would be the answer. In fact, it’s how I used to meet my deadlines when I was writing novels.  I’d have a one-year calendar on the wall beside my desk (where my storyboards are now) and I’d write each day’s page count on it and watch that chain of days grow longer and longer.  On good days, I’d scratch through the word count, sometimes more than once, as I kept adding more and more.  Deadline+adrenalin=werdz on page!

To add to the mix, a recent lifehacker post demonstrates “Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret on Steroids.” He points out that it can be used to build any habit from exercise to reading to Jerry’s original goal, writing.

After a long career of not writing daily, of believing that forcing words every day whether they seemed ready or not did not produce my best work, I finally gave in and started the writing daily habit.  I remembered those days under deadline, and how the adrenalin built, the muse flexed, the creativity soared.  And yes, I discovered that writing daily and insisting that I produce a certain number of words could work for me. I was amazed, and on a creative high.

Real life knocked me around a bit recently and I’m not writing now.  I miss it.  I need to get back on the bandwagon. I may even get another Yearly Wall Calendar if I can find a blank place on the wall to stick it, and a fat red marker… or no, I’ll keep the word count instead or… I dunno. I’ll figure it out. If I don’t get back on the wagon I think I’m going to lose my mind, though.

Do you write daily? Do you have any daily habit? Do you track it?  How?

In the meantime, advice to remember, writers–Don’t break the chain!

4 Comments

Filed under Analog, Office gear, Organizing, Storyboard, Writing, Writing daily, Writing Process

Don't break the chain!

This is a good visual trick for establishing a routine of any sort. In this case, it’s about writing daily.

Jerry Seinfeld once gave advice to a young comic.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

And then he repeated for emphasis: Don’t break the chain.

In looking for an image to illustrate I found a site that allows you to do this online.

For some of you, this might be great. But you know me, I’m the analog girl, and for me, that big calendar on the wall would be the answer. In fact, it’s how I used to meet my deadlines when I was writing novels.  I’d have a one-year calendar on the wall beside my desk (where my storyboards are now) and I’d write each day’s page count on it and watch that chain of days grow longer and longer.  On good days, I’d scratch through the word count, sometimes more than once, as I kept adding more and more.  Deadline+adrenalin=werdz on page!

To add to the mix, a recent lifehacker post demonstrates “Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret on Steroids.” He points out that it can be used to build any habit from exercise to reading to Jerry’s original goal, writing.

After a long career of not writing daily, of believing that forcing words every day whether they seemed ready or not did not produce my best work, I finally gave in and started the writing daily habit.  I remembered those days under deadline, and how the adrenalin built, the muse flexed, the creativity soared.  And yes, I discovered that writing daily and insisting that I produce a certain number of words could work for me. I was amazed, and on a creative high.

Real life knocked me around a bit recently and I’m not writing now.  I miss it.  I need to get back on the bandwagon. I may even get another Yearly Wall Calendar if I can find a blank place on the wall to stick it, and a fat red marker… or no, I’ll keep the word count instead or… I dunno. I’ll figure it out. If I don’t get back on the wagon I think I’m going to lose my mind, though.

Do you write daily? Do you have any daily habit? Do you track it?  How?

In the meantime, advice to remember, writers–Don’t break the chain!

4 Comments

Filed under Analog, Office gear, Organizing, Storyboard, Writing, Writing daily, Writing Process

So. This nanowrimo thing.

I may do this.  It’s crazy, man, crazy.  I have no business even thinking about it.  There’s every reason to believe I won’t be able to finish it.

But I may do this crazy thing.  I’ve churned out words before, but this November looks rough. Looks like a ridiculous time for me to even consider this insanity.

I wonder if I can have the name pooks.  I’m sure somebody else is already there with my name, damn it.  Maybe planetpooks?  I need to go sign up.

So.

Who’s in it with me?

Come on. Do it. Try. Just try. I don’t want to do it alooooone!

November 1st approaches….

NOTE:  I’m there.  My name is (brace yourself) pooks!  Be my buddy!

4 Comments

Filed under nanowrimo, Writers, Writing, Writing daily, Writing Process

Let's start at the very beginning.

Whether I start working on the second book in my trilogy or dive into the new book that just exploded in my head, I am ready to get back to writing. Not writing is eating me from the inside out.

For me, the opening to a new book is a foundation of voice.  If it’s going to be a humorous book, I have to find that right tone that makes me giggle from the very first page and take off, even if that means muttering, stewing, cursing and pulling my hair out for days trying to find it.  Once I’m into the process I can write just to get words down and come back later and fix them, but not the opening to the book.

I have to really nail it.

Even if I come back later and change it anyway.

Also, I am a mood writer. I have to get into that moment, feel it, taste it, experience it.  When I’m lucky (which is quite often) the opening flows out of me because I’m in that moment, even before I know what the story is going to be.  That is how I find the story–the character and situation coming to life and flowing out of me in an ecstatic burst of muse-inspired magic, and I finally get to the end of it, sit back and look and say, “Wow. This is what I’m going to write next.”

But that doesn’t always happen, and right now I have two different books that are both at similar stages–I know characters, situations, at least some world-specifics and am bubbling with urgent need to create.

But they aren’t talking to me yet.

My attempts to begin have been forced and have not turned out the way I want them (even though others have said, this is fine, keep going).  I haven’t tapped into the magic yet, and so I’m in that teeth-gnashing stage.

I’ve taken to creating soundtracks for each screenplay or novel, something I can play in the background and if I’m diligent enough, create a Pavlovian response so that simply plugging in the iPod gets me at least 2/3rds of the way into my world.

I don’t have soundtracks for these books yet.

We all have different processes.  My process has changed through the years and still changes from one project to the next.  So. Tell me your process for writing the first pages.  Throw down words, come back later and fix?  Light a candle and meditate?  Toss back some single malt and growl a lot?

What’s your process?  Maybe you’ll inspire me. Or at least give me something interesting to distract me.

Oh, and any suggestions for Victorian London steampunk soundtrack music would be appreciated!

Image from Steampunk Workshop.

9 Comments

Filed under Music, Steampunk, Writers, Writing, Writing Process

Let’s start at the very beginning.

Whether I start working on the second book in my trilogy or dive into the new book that just exploded in my head, I am ready to get back to writing. Not writing is eating me from the inside out.

For me, the opening to a new book is a foundation of voice.  If it’s going to be a humorous book, I have to find that right tone that makes me giggle from the very first page and take off, even if that means muttering, stewing, cursing and pulling my hair out for days trying to find it.  Once I’m into the process I can write just to get words down and come back later and fix them, but not the opening to the book.

I have to really nail it.

Even if I come back later and change it anyway.

Also, I am a mood writer. I have to get into that moment, feel it, taste it, experience it.  When I’m lucky (which is quite often) the opening flows out of me because I’m in that moment, even before I know what the story is going to be.  That is how I find the story–the character and situation coming to life and flowing out of me in an ecstatic burst of muse-inspired magic, and I finally get to the end of it, sit back and look and say, “Wow. This is what I’m going to write next.”

But that doesn’t always happen, and right now I have two different books that are both at similar stages–I know characters, situations, at least some world-specifics and am bubbling with urgent need to create.

But they aren’t talking to me yet.

My attempts to begin have been forced and have not turned out the way I want them (even though others have said, this is fine, keep going).  I haven’t tapped into the magic yet, and so I’m in that teeth-gnashing stage.

I’ve taken to creating soundtracks for each screenplay or novel, something I can play in the background and if I’m diligent enough, create a Pavlovian response so that simply plugging in the iPod gets me at least 2/3rds of the way into my world.

I don’t have soundtracks for these books yet.

We all have different processes.  My process has changed through the years and still changes from one project to the next.  So. Tell me your process for writing the first pages.  Throw down words, come back later and fix?  Light a candle and meditate?  Toss back some single malt and growl a lot?

What’s your process?  Maybe you’ll inspire me. Or at least give me something interesting to distract me.

Oh, and any suggestions for Victorian London steampunk soundtrack music would be appreciated!

Image from Steampunk Workshop.

9 Comments

Filed under Music, Steampunk, Writers, Writing, Writing Process

And behind door number three…

If you’re not interested in the creative process and how I get from “idea” to “book,” you’ll want to skip this one.

So.  I have had a storyboard on the wall for book two in my trilogy for, maybe 18 months, maybe longer. It started off with only three cards, but as I thought of stuff, I would pin it up there to deal with later (when I was smart) instead of writing it down somewhere to lose (when I was dumb), or more likely, assuming I’d remember it (when I was flat-out stupid).

That’s just a small portion of the board, but it shows that some of them are scribbled by hand, some printed, some on colored cards (meaning I am not sure about them, but maybe they will take me somewhere), and post-its show up there, too, although they sometimes get knocked off so I really prefer cards with push pins.

Still, not enough cards to write a book, or even a brief synopsis, because they are isolated scenes with no connective tissue, no major mile markers to guide me, just a general idea that this scene probably will fall in this part of the book (beginning, middle or end).

The time has finally come to build this story.

But I couldn’t find the spine of the story.  What kind of story is it?  I know what happens in it, and the big huge revelations that explode everything to hell and back, but in Blake Snyder terms, I couldn’t figure out if it was door number one, a Golden Fleece or door number two, a Whydunit.  And from my experience plotting the first book in the trilogy, I knew that as soon as I understood what kind of story it was, at least some of the pieces would suddenly start falling into place.

I kept reading/skimming story breakdowns in Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies and could see elements in both Golden Fleece and Whydunit that fit my story, but neither was a clear winner.  So, I whipped out the colored index cards and decided to put the story elements that fit Golden Fleece on pink cards and story elements that fit Whydunit on blue.

And it still felt kind of murky. (See?  It even looks murky there, and that’s not because I adjusted the settings in iPhoto to make it look murky.  Okay, it is because of that. Sue me.) Anyway.  This tried and true process still wasn’t giving me answers.

BACKSTORY: I might point out that when I was looking for the structure of the first book I read through every Snyder-genre in Save the Cat Goes to the Movies, and dipped back into Save the Cat, too. (I say Snyder-genre because he redefines genre in a way that is amazing and is what truly opened my eyes to structure, but honestly he should have used a different term because genre is something tangible and defined.  His interpretation is something new and not really “genre” at all, and if I just left “genre” hanging out there, you’d wonder if I’m totally insane, not knowing if I’m writing a romantic comedy or a horror or a science fiction novel, right? What Snyder actually isolated is about structure and elements of plot that certain story-types have in common, not truly genre.)

Okay, so I was almost to the end of his book thinking, “This doesn’t work. I thought it worked; I thought he was brilliant; this doesn’t work for my new story.”  And then I hit the last section–Superhero–and like a flash of Hollywood dazzle and special effects, the elements were there, this was the story I was writing.  What’s more, as soon as I recognized that, many other story pieces made sense.  Ideas and scenes I already knew I was going to write were right there in the superhero structure Snyder outlined, and suddenly they were fleshing out and I was able to connect them better and the whole thing started taking shape.

Which doesn’t mean it got easy.  It just means it finally started revealing itself to me with logic behind it, not just floating in the primordial ooze that my muse hands me. /BACKSTORY

Okay, then.

So, here I was again, struggling to find the right Snyder-genre, waiting for the pieces to suddenly click into place, and it was staying vague and if-ish and maybe this and maybe that and, haven’t I been here before?

Oh yes.  I have. Indeed I have.

Exactly here before.

Ladies and gents, boys and girls, the answer was right in front of my nose.  Intellectually I had already decided I knew what this story was not. It wasn’t another superhero story, because, duh, I didn’t want two books in a row to have so much structural in common, plus, we’d already established that part of the bigger three-book arc, plus–

I was wrong.

And as soon as I recognized I was wrong, look what happened.

Behind door number three–

Answers started coming faster than I could write them down.  Yellow cards started piling up. Until now I feel like I just was dealt the winning hand in the championship round of Texas Hold ‘Em.  Read ’em and weep, boys.  Read ’em and weep.  (Okay, nobody can read my handwriting including me, but still.)

Which doesn’t mean it will be easy.

But it just got fun.

4 Comments

Filed under Analog, Index Cards, research, Save the Cat, Screenwriting, Storyboard, Writers, Writing, Writing Process