How I write a book

Last week I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about my writing ritual (which was actually more truth than fiction, unfortunately).

This week, I want to share what I actually do when I write.

Jasper and me, the day I got he got to come home with us.

But before I start, I have to introduce the newest member of our family. That photo above is of Jasper, a 3 month old Border Collie – Shepherd mix (though we’re seeing a lot of terrier in him as well). We’ve had him for just over a week now, and he’s become my little writing buddy. As I type, he’s resting patiently in the bed near my feet, waiting for me to be done so we can go play. Some days he’s patient, like today. And some days writing has to wait because he’s much more persistent than the book I’m working on.  But he’s quickly found his place in our family, and we all are just totally smitten with him.  🙂  Be prepared to be inundated with photos of cuteness from time to time on this blog from this proud puppy mama!

At any rate, I found the following post I wrote a little less than a year ago in my family blog titled “How do I write?”. In it, I answered a bunch of questions that were found at this article.

Most of the answers still ring true, so I am re-blogging this post here with a few amendments. Read on, and then share your own writing story. Don’t forget to leave a link to your blog entry in the comments here so I can read them!

How long do you spend writing each day? 
I wake up every morning an hour before I have to get ready for my real job to write on my novel.  On good writing days, I wake up two hours early and actually get some decent work done.  If I’m feeling really inspired (or it’s NaNoWriMo), I will also spend an hour or two in the evening typing away.  So that’s 2-4 hours for the novel.  That’s not including my job where I write for a newspaper – which would put me more at 10+ hours of writing.

What time of day do you prefer to write?
Morning is my very best time.  It’s when the house is quiet and I am at my most creative.

Do you set yourself a time limit or a word limit? No limits?
Both. If I write less then 1,000 words, I feel like I haven’t accomplished hardly anything.  My happy goal is 2,000.  But some days I only have an hour to write total.  I can usually get out about 800 words in that amount of time if I am super clear on what I want to write.  I try to be kind to myself if I fall short of my word count goal.  It doesn’t always work out that way, and I might be in a bit of funk if I type less than I wanted to.  But I at least try.

Do you write with music on? If so, what music do you like to write to?
Music on, always.  Almost every writer I saw in the interviews I linked to said music was a huge turn-off for them.  But I find it centers me when I am trying to concentrate.  But there are rules.  I try to make the music match what I’m writing to help capture the mood of the piece.  I cannot listen to new music because I’ll try to focus on that instead of what I’m writing.  And when in doubt, music without words (or words I don’t understand) is best.  My current favorite for writing is Sigur Ros, an Icelandic group who is totally brilliant.  Right now, I’m obsessed with Spotify, a music program I subscribe to that allows me to listen to unlimited amounts of music for just under $10 a month. I have one playlist I listen to always, which you can check out here —>

How often do you check the Internet? Do you fall into Internet black holes? Or turn off your WiFi completely?
The Internet is both my friend and enemy while I’m typing.  It’s a great resource when I’m trying to research something I’m writing about, or when I need to find new words for description to keep from being bland or repetitive. But the slightest sign of writer’s block?  I’m checking my email or perusing Facebook, looking to see what’s up on Amazon, or getting stuck in a vortex that resulted from one innocent search on cicadas.  If I’m really feeling distracted, I’ll turn off the Wi-Fi.  But most times I just let myself fall a little in the black hole before pulling myself out again.

Are you a basher or a swooper? Kurt Vonnegut characterized writers into these two camps: “Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter any more, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.”
I am mostly a swooper, especially during NaNoWriMo!  When you have to write 50,000 words in 30 days, you just don’t have time to look at what you’re writing.  This process does two things.  First, it allows me to keep up the motivation while keeping the negative nancies in my head at bay.  If I’m not re-reading what I’ve written, I can continue to believe that it’s utterly fantastic.  And I can happily write till the very end.  But the second thing swooping does is it produces a ton of errors.  Facts in the story change.  A Jack might turn into a John.  Repetitive words and points are a given.  And things are awfully jumbled.  The editing part sucks, which is probably why it’s my biggest hangup when it comes to producing a fully completed novel.  This time, I’m being more of a basher, re-reading what I’ve written when I feel like I’m stuck.  Editing might be a little easier with this one, but the negative nancies are raging hardcore.  I think I prefer swopping to bashing in the novel writing process.

Do you eat when you’re writing?
First novel I ever wrote, I had random snacks at my side at all times.  In one month I gained 10 pounds.  Now I try not to have anything but coffee or water at my side.  But I am guilty of eating my lunch at the keyboard, hence a few wayward crumbs stuck between the keys.

What snacks/drinks do you go to?

What’s your biggest procrastination tool? Or are you a freak who never procrastinates? Freak!
If it’s shiny and catches my eye, it’s my procrastination tool.  Probably Facebook is number one.  My iPhone is number two.  And if I have to, I’ll just leave the computer altogether and grab a few deep breaths in the sunshine on my back porch.

How do the people (roommates/partners/children) who live with you fit into or around your writing schedule? 
If I wake up early enough, there’s no problem.  My husband lets me be if he sees me typing away with my headphones in place.  And for the most part, the kids understand that if I’m typing away, especially with my headphones on, I am not to be bothered.  If it is really hard to concentrate while they’re awake, I will just lock myself in my room.  But life is life – kids want to be taken care of, almost-husbands deserve attention, even the kitties need a little love.  So I try to limit novel writing time to early mornings and later evenings.

Do you find yourself tied to the place you’ve grown accustomed to writing? Or can you just pick up and go?
I write best in my own house, though I will pick up my laptop and write in bed, on the couch, at the table, lounging on my back porch….  Sometimes I have typed away in my car while on my lunch break at work.  I’d love to type away at a coffee shop, and I’ve attempted it from time to time.  It’s great for people watching, etc.  But it can also be distracting with so much movement going around me.  However, my last book was written at a spa retreat while sitting in a room filled with people by a fireplace. I got some really awesome writing in that weekend.

Now it’s your turn. Go! 🙂

Crissi Langwell is the author of fantasy novel “A Symphony of Cicadas” and single-parenting memoir “Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows“. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Related posts to check out:

What NanoWriMo taught me about writing a book

NaNoWriMo 2012

Finishing the novel

2 thoughts on “How I write a book”

  1. M.L. Millard – Sonoma County, CA – Fiction and now weekly journaling about sheltering in place.

    I finished a novel with about a 200 word a day goal. Took a little longer, but I think I would have given up otherwise!

    1. Crissi Langwell – Crissi Langwell writes romance, women's fiction, young adult novels, and more. Her passion is the story of the underdog, and her stories include ones of determined heroines, family issues, free spirits and more. Beyond writing, Crissi is an avid bookworm, loves to meditate, and has tiny muscles from weight lifting. You have to look closely. She pulls her inspiration from the ocean, and breathes freely among redwoods. Crissi and her husband are both Northern California authors with day jobs. Currently they are kicking their kids out the nest (2 down, 1 to go!), and can't help spoiling their beautiful, bratty Maine Coon cat.

      I would have a hard time staying in the story at that amount, lol! My patience is too thin! But as long as you’re going forward and have persistence, any word count can work.

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