Monday, November 05, 2007

Making a word

Okay--as requested by Pete at CarrPeeDiem:

Jeanne, Ava, Celina: As the highest-number rollers this week, I’d love it
if — either here, or on your blogs — you took a few minutes to talk about how
you write, what you do, what produces the high numbers. You don’t HAVE to,
but I know I’d find it interesting, even if no one else does…

I'm an odd bird. For one thing, I can sit down and read Gone With The Wind in an afternoon. I've always been able to read quickly and to comprehend what I read. And, to answer the inevitable next question: NO, I do NOT speed read. I've been reading since before the age of two, and my parents used to invite people over so that I'd read the TV Guide to them. I actually hurt myself crawling out of my crib in the middle of the night trying to get a book.

That translated fairly quickly into writing. I've mentioned on here before that I wrote my first novel-length story in my late teens. I got out of the daily writing grind when I left college, and only got back into it when a car wreck left me unable to work and with very few sources of entertainment. Try affording my book habit--I dare you.

So when I DID start writing, I was writing in order to be entertained. As an impatient person, I learned to type quickly. I always wanted to know what happened next. Every morning, I got up and armed with heating pads and medication, settled myself in the recliner in front of the very very old Dell desktop with no internet connection and sank myself into my story. Asphodel took me three months to write, Gift of Redemption about two. Tempation and Apostolate took about a month each. Darkshifters and Coils took about the same. Each book was over 100k, the largest hitting at 165 in its first draft mode.

Terella is on pace at the moment to be a five or six week project. I expect it to top out at about 135k, mostly because I've allowed myself to get sidetracked on a subplot. Once edited, it will be right at 105-110k.

So how do I do it? My recipe is simple. I have a room where I can shut the door. That's vital. I have music playlists created by me for specific types of scenes: fight music, love music, grief music, fun music--and none of those songs have words. I'm a huge classical music fan and I don't think I can write a war without Star Wars music. Period. On average, I write about 2000 words an hour. Sometimes, I can hit closer to three. Usually, I work for five hours a day on writing, while spending another two or three on rewrites or (God forbid they show up now) edits. By the way, I hard edit: red pencil on paper. It takes longer, I have to actually read what I've written, and I get a better feel for the flow of the piece.

In other words, writing is my full time job. It doesn't pay much yet, but I have hopes that it will. I write something every day, even if it's just in my journal because I'm too tired to sit up with my laptop. If I'm on pace, and the house stays relatively clean and there is no teenaged angst screeching up and down the stairs, I can write up to about 12k a day. I average between 7 and 9k, at least until after November 17th. My internal editor tends to catch most of my errors, although some of the typos I catch when I reread are amusing. And, unless something in 'real' life interferes, I stick to that schedule like glue. I tend to work on only one writing project at a time, using my rewrite time for whatever project is next up for release or submission. That allows me to concentrate solely on one plot, one set of characters, one world.

I immerse myself in it. I breathe it. Sometimes I dream plot resolutions. Sometimes, I dream scenes and have to get up and write them THEN. I just let it take over, and when it does lots and lots of words result. I'm not special; I'm just obsessed. If you factor in a few stops to blog, or to make a few posts, or to answer emails (I'm an addict!) or even just to stretch or fire up the heating pad again, I get rejuvenated and go right back to work. I stop and worry about the finer aspects of writing once the story is on the page.

In the end, it doesn't matter if I get the tea. In the end, it matters that I have a story I can work with. Once Terella reaches the horror which is the first rewrite, I may feel differently about the project. But, for right now, I can just let the story explode and hope that I type quickly enough to keep up with it.