Zoe E. Whitten and I are friends on Twitter, and each day we’re treated to each other’s rantings, writing tips, promotions, random thoughts, etc. When she asked to do a guest blog over here at Canister X, I was happy to oblige. I’m always curious how other writers think, especially indie authors, and since Zoe is one of those, I wanted to see how she operates, her thoughts on the writing life, and whatever other goodies she wanted to throw in.
I’ll let her take over from here.
When I approached A.P. about a guest post, I offered to write on request or come up with a random topic. He chose, and he wanted to know about my writing routine. This is harder than it sounds because I don’t have a routine. I’ve heard how some writers have strict schedules, and they operate according to these schedules for maximum efficiency. I know a guy like this, and he is the very model of a modern mid-list missive man.
I, however, am not one of those writers. I don’t do schedules, and I’ve never been good at keeping them. I don’t even make government-mandated appointments on time, a behavior that made hubby nervous when we were getting my new sojourn permit here. (It worked out fine, and the cops loved my blue hair. It’s pink now. I’m going through a phase, you see.) I showed up late to my Army base when I flew in for basic training, and most of the time that I was on the base, I continued to move at my own pace despite the frantic screaming and shouting of my drill instructors. (Oh, they loved me. I could just feel it.) We were late to our wedding by ten minutes. I was four days late for my birth. What I’m saying is, I am the nemesis of the schedule-maker.
It may be in my blood. My great-grandmother used to complain, “I’m going to be late for my own funeral!” It was almost her catch-phrase, which is funny, because a train stopped her funeral procession a mile from the cemetery, and then the train stopped moving for half an hour. When we got to the cemetery, the funeral home director had no clue why so many of us looked so very amused.
The idea of sticking to a schedule sounds good, in theory, but I can’t make myself care once I fall behind. If I miss something today, I’ll get it tomorrow. It’s no big deal. (Which might make me sound lazy.) I retired from regular work due to multiple sclerosis, but before my symptoms made holding a regular job too painful, I frequently signed up for double shifts or overtime. Even now, I’m a workaholic. On any given day, I can crank out anywhere from 2500-10,000 words, with the very rare gust up to 13,000. But that shouldn’t be the topic of a routine day. (Also, any day over 8,000 words means the day after will be a light work day, in the 1,500 range.)
So, let’s look at a routine day for me. I probably went to bed around 5 AM the day before, but I wake up around 11 AM. First step is turning on the computer, even before I get on my jeans. (Assuming I manage to get them on. This is not always the case.) Once the PC is booting up, I shuffle to the bathroom, and then to the kitchen to make tea.
Tea deserves its own special place in this routine, because I’m often a bit distracted in the mornings. Because of my MS, some days it takes longer for my thoughts to boot up around the plaque scars in my brain. So, I’ll put water on the fire and head back to my room to open my apps, get my iTunes running, and open whichever story I’ll be working on for the day. I’ll hope not to get distracted and forget about my tea, but half an hour later, I reach for a mug that isn’t there, and then look down. My brain spins through my recent memory and, DOH, I did not ever make the tea. So, I head to the kitchen, clean out the white dust remaining in the bottom of my overcooked tea pan, and fill it again. Then I head back to the room.
On a “good” day, I may not get tea until well after 3 PM. But it should be noted that these are also the days when I look down at 4 and realize I’m still not wearing pants either. But, let us assume for this routine I got the tea on the second try. Then, laughing at myself, I return back to my room to peck at the keyboard and sip my tea.
Sometime around 4-5, my stomach will remind me that I skipped breakfast, as usual. I will typically stop for a cheese sandwich (yes, I laughed like a loon when Margaret Atwood mentioned cheese sandwiches in her recent “tech speech” on publishing), or a ramen or some other snack food. Then, with the stomach placated, I return to my room and keep pecking.
Hubby comes home, so I take more frequent breaks to go in the living room and alternate between cuddling with him and intentionally messing up his game. (He plays Mount and Blade: Warband, and he takes it very seriously.) But by this point in the day, I’m running out of creative steam, so even when I’m at the PC, more of my time is spent staring at Tweetdeck or a browser. Hubby will call me away for dinner, unless it’s my turn to cook, in which case, he’ll come in much later and remind me that if I want to eat, I might want to think about cooking. Then, with food nommed, I return to the room refreshed and ready for . . . a nap in my chair. But before I do, I hit the keys for an hour or two more, just to get the last little bit of work done.
Once the work is all done, I will reward myself by grabbing a book from my TBR pile, or my CyBook, and I’ll read for half an hour or so before bed. By this point, my brain is mushy, so despite the length of time I’m reading, at best it’s 10-15 pages before I’m too drowsy to recall what I’ve read. So I set aside my book/ereader, roll over on my couch, say a final prayer, and then crash for a few hours of rest.
This is a writing day, and during writing days, I won’t do much else besides take breaks to check in with the social sites or read email. I work until fatigue sends me back to my couch for a midday nap, and then I get up and do it all over again. But what if it isn’t a writing day? What other thingies might I be doing? Well, there’s research days, which look suspiciously like goofing off on the web. Granted, there are a lot of times where I need to write to someone for research, like consulting a gun enthusiast about packing shotgun shells, or something similar. But most of the time, I can find what I need using a combination of Google, Wiki, and Ask.com.
Research days and writing days rarely go together. I can do it if I struggle, but it’s just like a bottle of oil and vinegar dressing. The two elements separate almost from the moment I stop forcing them together. I get stuck in the middle, staring blankly at the screen as I debate whether to research a topic further or just run with what I learned.
Similarly, I cannot write and edit at the same time. If I’m writing, I don’t want to be distracted by thinking of what another story needs to be better. I have writing seasons, and editing seasons. I’m in an editing season and have completed final edits on my March ebook release, Confessions of a Zombie Lover, the sequel to Zombie Punter. After this I really want to get back to writing, but I have to continue the editing season just a bit longer to make a second draft of Revival of the Magi, and third drafts of Wereporno and Stark Raving Bonkers. Then, and only then, can I get back to playing with shiny new things.
Editing days look suspiciously like writing days, only with more cringing and self-loathing, and less alcohol. Not much else needs to be said on this.
And then there’s my routine days off, which occurs about every third weekend. Then I get up and try to read while my muse says dreadful, awful things like, “If you died goofing off, you’ll never finish the series.”
Which makes no sense. If I die working myself to death, the series will be just as incomplete, and thus, there is a flaw in the muse’s logic. This flaw has never made her shut up, and so, even if I would rather be thinking about the book I’m reading–not mine, somebody else’s–I’m instead thinking about how I’m going to die soon, unknown, unwanted, and unloved. Like Poe, but less liked by my peers. (Also, my cousin said no when I proposed marriage. Boh.) So, typically, I have a few sips of rum to change my muse’s tune, and I read while she wanders around the back of my head cooing, “Oooh, pretty colors!”
If hubby is in the mood, I like to “drag” him to the couch for late afternoon “inspiration.” Sadly, hubby had a heart attack last month, so right now, I’m stuck inspiring myself. I’m not bad, but hubby is definitely more inspirational, more . . . deeply moving, one might say. Knowledgeable in three languages, he is indeed a gifted and cunning linguist.
But on the days off after I’ve had the afternoon inspiration on the couch, I’ll help hubby make a light lunch and follow it with more rum. I’ll go back to reading my recreational book while I sip a mixed drink: rum and coke, rum and tonic, or a dark and stormy, which is ginger beer and rum. In the evening, I know I’ve had enough rum when the letters in my book are wandering. This is when I switch back to my decaf tea, and then I like to shift from the book over to video games. Yeah, you’d think with ruined hand-eye coordination, I’d avoid the humiliation, But I actually like playing games while I’m sedated ’cause I’m less likely to break the controller.
So we come to the end on my night off, still a bit ditzy from “hard partying.” I head to my couch to crash and recharge for another week of emptying my brains onto blank pages.
Zoe E. Whitten is a writer of weird and dark fiction. She has written many novels and novellas, among them The Lesser of Two Evils, Waiting for a Miracle, and Zombie Punter. In May, Belfire Press will release a duel novella featuring two of Zoe’s sci-fi stories, Adopting a Sex Doll and When a Sex Doll Dies. Later on this year, Skullvines Press/KHP Books will publish her first bizarro story, NINJAWORLD.