…but I’m not sure I’m going to change.
So since it’s almost 2020 (Happy New Year, everybody!) and most normal people are forming resolutions, I thought I’d make a little list of writing habits that are frankly terrible ideas and should probably be resolved.
Right. About that.
The idea comes from the fabulous children’s book author Diane Zahler, who left a post “I Resolve Not To” on her blog in 2013.
(Diane. If you are listening, please give us more fairytales. With dragons, if possible. I’d love to see you write dragons.)
Anyway, here goes.
- I have no specific writing time. I’ve hinted at this one before. I’m somewhat baffled by the people who say “Write every day at the same time. Clear your desk. Light a candle.” Undoubtedly it’s a good idea…but performing artist/university schedule makes that literally impossible. Also not a big fan of scented candles…sorry.
- I work on several stories at once. Not as bad about this as I used to be, but still results in a blank stare sometimes when people ask “What’s your work in progress?” As if there’s only one. Imagine a snarl of at least five balls of yarn a cat has knotted together and you’ll be closer to the truth.
- Peak writing time is 11:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m. Do not try this at home. It’s very unhealthy and makes your eyes feel like sand has been flung in them. I know this one sort of goes against my “no specific writing time,” but it’s also one of the few times I know I can safely steal away in a quiet house and write. And the other plus is my little inner editor is very well-scheduled and checks out for the day at 10:45. So after that, everything sounds like a good idea. Werewolves in 1900 London? Giant spiders? Living ink blobs? Why not? Type away.
- I listen to music while I write. In itself, not a bad habit. Sometimes it’s inspiring. But remember I’m a musician–my tastes can get a little bit snobbish. And when I can’t find anything to match the mood of what I’m writing and spend far too much time browsing for it…that’s a very bad habit indeed.
- I do not explain my magic systems enough. This is probably the greatest personal flaw in my writing. I workshopped a story set in Japan once–consensus was “We love the prose, can really see your descriptions…but we have absolutely no idea what’s going on.”
- I edit as I go. I know! Number one rule of writers is to write now, edit later. But I can’t help myself. Things change and grow as I write and I have to go back and fix the beginning to reflect that. I am also what one of my past instructors would have called a “mindless copyeditor.” I just can’t ignore a typo. Ever.
- I am a shameless (okay, mostly shameless) word thief. If I read something I like (or hate), my mind’s already turning over how I can adapt it for my purposes (or rewrite it the way I feel it should be written). I can see threads of my favorite books in plenty of my writing.
- I write different pieces of the same story in different places–notebooks, journals, multiple computer documents…and then I can’t find any of them later. I can remember writing them…there was something gooey I had to get on paper…where’d it go? Under the couch? In the fridge? Usually I give up and write it over again. And find it shortly afterward…
- I don’t back up my work nearly enough. Personal nightmare fuel here in a life of scattered thumbdrives. But when I do back it up, I get confused about which version is the latest one and then wind up losing new work because I can’t find it…
- Despite being warned, I still sometimes have drinks around my laptop. That scares me just typing that. I know, I live dangerously.
- I lose track of ink pens the way some girls lose hairpins. But then, I’ve never been good at keeping track of hairpins either, so…
- Fantasy or die. I am a genre writer to the core. Do not speak to me of suburban literary fiction. If I were forced to write half as many dramatic scenes in an ordinary kitchen as there are in print–arrgh! No.
Okay…so I probably should fix at least a few of these. Anything sound familiar, writers out there?
The funny thing is, I’m not uncomfortable with all of these. I’m probably not going to stop writing at night (even though I really should), and I certainly can’t see myself writing without at least some elements of fantasy. I’m going to keep scribbling things everywhere because I can’t help myself when I’m “in the moment.”
They might be bad writing methods, but they haven’t stopped me from writing yet.
Speaking of which…I have a story to finish.