My Writing Habits
It’s an odd time for me to be writing about our topic this week—Writing Habits--because I’ve spent the past two weeks actively breaking those habits. After more than two years of writing six to seven days a week, at least five hours a day, I was well overdue for some time away from the computer. I’ve spent the past weeks reading, going for walks, and watching one Little League baseball game after another. It’s been great. But when I am on deadline, which is almost always, I try to write every single day.
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of my habits:
First Draft – I commit to writing 1K words a day. Some days I shatter that goal. Other days, every word requires a Herculean effort. But I do it. Writing a book a year, it’s important for me to finish a first draft in roughly 3 months. That gives me 4-9 months of revision.
Second Draft – I tackle the manuscript in scenes, concentrating on giving the unformed lump of clay that’s my first draft a rough shape. This is usually the hardest draft for me, because I’m forced to deal with lots and lots and LOTS of top of the head writing. I find inconsistencies in character, timeline, plot, really crappy writing, etc. etc. etc. Usually, I spend about 2-3 months on this draft, working every day, or at least six days a week.
Third Draft – This is where it starts to get fun. The manuscript is beginning to look like a book at this point (hopefully) and the work becomes more concentrated, focusing on persistent weaknesses. I take a look at my central and secondary characters in this draft. I look closely at timelines and character arcs. I spend about a month and a half on this one. I usually enjoy this draft quite a bit, so the increased time commitment – seven days a week, full days, by this point – is a little easier to deal with.
Drafts Four through Infinity – Usually each subsequent draft will take anywhere from three to six weeks, depending on how much my editor asks me to revise. The time spent working ramps up in these final revision stages. Typically, I’m writing seven days a week, 8+ hours a day to make my editor’s deadlines.
As far as my surroundings, I work at home most of the time, with my dog curled at my feet and a cup of coffee/water/tea at my desk. I like an empty house, which I fill with music from playlists I create for each book. I use lots of visual aids in my writing. I like to surround myself with materials that inspire me. Right now in my office, I have two recurve bows, arrows, a model sailboat, a framed print of a horse's anatomy, TONS of books, and so on. When I work on a book, I do have a habit of immersing myself in as much tactile, real-world inspiration as I can find.
While I have a writing practice, I’m open to modifying it. When Life gets in the way of my schedule, when I’m touring, or just not able to focus at home, I’ll work at a local coffee shop. If I’m really desperate, I’ve been known to check myself into a hotel for 2-3 days of binge-writing.
What about you? What are your writing habits?