How Do I Write?

The answer to this question is different for every author, and it probably varies for every book. But at its core, there are certain things that become ingrained that enable us to produce book after book. So what works for me?

ipodMusic. Earbuds to be exact. I spent over twelve years working as an education and training consultant in very random environments. In order to concentrate, I’d put on my headphones and write. I’d forgotten about this when I started my first book. Then one day, after six months of struggling while sitting at the kitchen table, my husband showed me Pandora and gave me some earbuds. It was literally like nirvana for me. Everything clicked, and my mind went, “Oh, we’re supposed to write now.” I’d found my forgotten muse. I now have a soundtrack for every book I write.

lateDeadlines. Whether it’s self-inflicted or contract driven, I’m way more productive if I have a set date to finish the manuscript. I have a spreadsheet that I track daily word count against goal and diligently track my writing every day. Once I have a due date in that spreadsheet, I can always get the book done on time even if I’m only sending it out on query.

coupleCharacter Docs. I have to sketch out my characters—backgrounds, arcs, worries, motivation, etc—before I start writing. The depth of these documents varies by book, but I’ve found the more I know the characters before I begin, the easier it is to create the story. The plot can flux as I write, but the characters remain pretty solid or the story won’t hold up in the end.

booksReading. Like Christi Barth said in her post last week, Reading Is Just As Important As Writing.  For me it’s essential. I gave up almost all television the year I started my first book. I read every night before I got to sleep and usually more during the day. On average, I read four to five books a week. I have to feed my passion in order to write it.

bookgroupSounding Boards. This usually comes in the form of trusted friends – my critique partners and beta readers. Sometimes I just need to bounce ideas around to find the solution to a plot problem or the hiccup that has stalled the story. It happens to everyone and having people to talk it through are invaluable to my process.

Those are the most important things for me, well, outside of simply putting my butt in the chair and typing. I’m a stickler on wanting every word to count, so I’m not a writers who can draft 200K words in order to end up with a 100K book. I hate deleting scenes (but will), so there are days it takes twelve hours to write 2K, but other days I accomplish that in 2 hours.

I’m also a linear writer. I have to write from beginning to end without skipping scenes which is why I need my sounding boards when I get stuck. My brain won’t let me go around a problem so I have to fix it before I can move one.

It’s important to know what works for you. Excuses are easier to find than motivation, so knowing what makes you productive will keep the books coming.


How Do I Write? — 5 Comments

  1. Some of the things that work for you work for me, too. Deadlines are a big thing for me, but I have to admit I’m more motivated by deadlines imposed on me than ones I set for myself. Sounding boards are great. I like having people to bounce ideas off. And character docs are important to me as well. I complete character sketches for my main characters so I know about their motivations, goals, fears. Knowing my characters helps me to figure out where the story will go.

    Unfortunately, I let reading go by the wayside in the last couple of years. Part of it was lack of time, but part was fear I’d be influenced by another writer. But I’m working hard to remedy that. One of my goals this year is to read at least an hour a day, usually before bed. For the last few months I’ve had either a print book or ebook, as well as an audiobook on the go at the same time. I’ve been reading authors I’ve never read before. I’m getting back into it! But the one thing I can’t do is listen to music while I’m writing. I get totally distracted!

    • It’s different for everyone, but the important thing is knowing what works for you. Identify them and use them to keep you writing. The great thing for me with the music and earbuds is I can write anywhere as long as I have those two things. It keeps me productive even if I’m sitting in a dance studio or swim center waiting for my children.

  2. I’m like Jana–deadlines given to me work a lot better than ones I set for myself. I’ve started assigning reading to myself since Christi’s post (and since RITA books are on their way) and am enjoying that, though honesty compels me to admit I still don’t read nearly as much as I wish I did. I love how you’ve spelled out your “things that work,” though; I think that in itself is helpful.

    • Reading feeds me. It has also made me a better writer. I’m very analytic, so being able to identify what I do and don’t like in a book or why I do or don’t like a book makes me think harder about how I write my stories. What did that author do right? What kept me interested? What didn’t? etc. Yes, I read differently now that I’m an author, but I still enjoy the heck out of reading.

  3. I tried a non-linear approach on the book I just turned in. If I encountered a problem, I skipped over it and wrote a later scene. Huge waste of time, because I ended up deleting every scene that I jumped ahead to write.

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