June 11th, 2008

How I Work

In response to this post by difrancis, here's how I work:

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1. I open up iTunes and build a playlist that matches the mood of the story, then put it on repeat. It typically has anywhere from twelve to eighteen songs. I have a rule that I download one new song I've never heard before by an artist I've never listened to for each list, to give it some life.

2. Then I create a new OpenOffice.Org document. I work in 1.5 space, because double is sort of unfriendly-feeling, and single is claustrophobic. I'm well aware that feeling this way is crazy. I choose a fun, unprofessional font which reflects the setting of the story, yet is still legible. For example,
  • my fantasy/western is in Rockwell
  • My humorous quest fantasy features Sylfaen
  • The sci-fi/urban fantasy hybrid is in Eurostile
  • The literary necrophilia story is in Frutiger Linotype. (Aren't you glad you know someone who writes literary necrophilia stories?)
3. I set nebulous goals when I sit down, based on the nature and scope of the project, time constraints, and how I feel.
  • With the humorous quest fantasy, I try and swim through a plot point every time I sit down to write. I can't do it by words because the pressure would distract me from the voice, but since the protagonist really wants to get to the next plot points, those are easy to manage.
  • With the sci-fi/urban fantasy, I usually aim for 800 words a day. I know what happens, and I just have to plow through it. It's natural for me to have a succession of days ranging from 2,500 to 3,000 words, but I aim low so I can feel more accomplished! (And then if I only get 800 I still feel good.)
  • The literary necrophilia story is a rewrite of something I finished when I was fifteen, so I don't keep goals for it--if it takes me another decade to finish it, what do I care? I'm rewriting it for me.
4. Yes, I'm one of those nincompoops who works on many stories at once. I can't help it. If I'm in the mood to write about pirates, and I try to force myself to write about Faerie, I can later tell my heart wasn't in it. I don't like to waste my time. (And no, the answer is not always combine them. Trust me, every book of mine would turn into sassy pirate faeries who are in love with death in Ancient Egypt in the future but it's also the Old West and there are giant toads people ride which are actually gods... You get the picture.)

A while ago I realized that the biggest problem with this method is that I'll make the same mistakes on all of my projects at the same time instead of learning one lesson and then being marginally better when I tackle the next project. Since I shouldn'tcan'twon't force myself to work on only one project, I compromised and limited it to a handful of projects. I hide the rest in a folder titled "FOR_LATER."

5. Once I finish (and yes OWW people, I know you keep seeing first chapters, but I promise I have a pile of finished books!) I let it sit for months. Then I go over it once myself, make changes, and print out the entire thing for my crit group. Unless it sucks like Island of the Ghost Seals, and then I put it back on the shelf to rot and start something new.

I'd love to see yours, either in the comments or as a top-level post. (If you already posted it and I missed it, link to it please! My reading list is getting kind of big and I haven't been able to keep up lately.)