Friday, August 6, 2010

So, tell me writers ...

Isn't this tee shirt great? I need one of these, but I'd like mine to say, "Don't piss me off or you'll end up in my next picture book!" Now that could get ugly! Some of you know I'm working on a story right now. Most of what I write are picture books geared towards kids ages 4-8, but have written a few middle grade novels. None have been published yet, but I'm still working on that. I was in the middle of writing a MG story recently when I had a new idea come to mind. So, I put the other on hold to begin the new one. I started on July 30th and I've been working on it about a week. At my last check, I was around 19,532-words and it's been coming along great. However, I have a few questions for those of you who write ...

1. Do you concentrate more on getting a rough draft down first, or do you edit along the way?

I have a habit of editing along the way and I know that slows me down a lot. I'll sit down to write, only to spend a couple of hours editing the last chapter. Of course, I add stuff along the way, so it's technically writing. I'm not sure if editing as I go is good or bad. The thought of having an entire manuscript written in a rush terrifies me when I think of having to go back and edit it all at once. It's really hard for me not to edit as I write because I keep changing stuff or come up with something new to add.

2. Do you try to keep your chapters around the same length, or does that not matter just as long as you finish the scene or get your point across?

Writing novels is still new for me, so I don't know if how I do them is good, bad, helpful, or what. For the two I've completed, I set out a certain word count as my initial goal. Then after creating an outline and deciding how many chapters I needed, I divided the numbers. That gives me a goal to work towards. Of course, after editing and coming up with new things to add (or take out), the word counts aren't exact. However, I've found it's helpful to have that as a goal. Does anyone else do that? Or am I just weird?

3. Do you base your characters on specific people you know?

A lot of my characters are based on people I know, often more than one person within the same character. What's frightening is how much *I* am in some of them. Again, I don't know if that's good or bad. Part of me sees it as good -- like a bizarre fantasy of someday being interviewed about my book. Silly, I know. But another part of me finds it terrifying -- like opening myself up and exposing all my secrets. When I read back some of the stuff I've written, I see a lot of myself in the characters. I honestly can't tell if that's a bad thing, or if it's just my voice coming out. It's scary, that's all I know!

4. How do you organize your time in between work, family, home, etc.?

I'm terrible at this when it comes to both writing AND reading. If I get a book that really interests me, I won't do anything until it's finished. That's good and bad. Good because it's obviously a really good book. Bad because I don't accomplish anything else. I might as well add sad too because I usually read books in one (or two, maybe) sittings and I'm always bummed when I finish. It's like chocolate -- it never lasts long enough. I find I do this with writing too, whether it be a picture book or a novel. It consumes my time and everything gets pushed to the back burner. Of course, it's still summer and I am technically on vacation, so I guess that's okay. Once school starts up, things will be different. What do you do? Do you give yourself a certain amount of time, or simply write when you can?

5. And finally, how do you keep your back from hurting when you're spending so much time BIC (butt-in-chair) writing?

Most of you know I have problems with my back. It's caused from sitting too long at one time. Every few months I'll wake up in the middle of the night with horrible back spasms. I have to take a combo of 3 medications just to help me relax enough to sleep. I'm usually okay the next day. I thought for awhile it was caused from poor posture while using my laptop. I don't sit at a traditional desk much and I move around from various chairs, to the bed, to the table, etc. But right now, this story is so fresh in my mind and I want to get it all down. It's really playing havoc with my back. I know I need to get up and move around more. I've been exercising on my TreadClimber, but that doesn't work back muscles. I also have a Shiatsu massage pad that I put in my chair when it gets real bad. It makes me cuckoo though because now is the time I have to write before school starts, but if I write too long, I pay for it dearly with back pain. Do you stretch, do yoga, cuss at the cat, or what?

Anyway, I'm going to get working on my story now. Thanks for taking the time to read this very long post, if you made it down all this way. Don't forget about the contest for The Marshmallow Man below. I won't pick a winner until tomorrow's blog, so there's still time to enter! Thanks, again!


  1. HAH. I OWN that slogan on a sweatshirt. I wear it to conventions, quote often. It gets weird looks from security people at airports.

    As to your questions:

    1. Do you concentrate more on getting a rough draft down first, or do you edit along the way?

    When I write, I *write*. Editing's for wusses. (it happens MUCH later in the process, after I have finished writing the story and am quite certain that it's the worst thing I've ever done and it needs IMPROOOOOOVING. Now. With copious quantities of red ink being spilled.)

    2. Do you try to keep your chapters around the same length, or does that not matter just as long as you finish the scene or get your point across?

    I...tend to be far too obsessive about this for my own good. If a chapter winds up being MUCH longer or MUCH shorter than the (average) rest, it bugs me. And then I have to go back and figure it out. THey don't have to be of identical length, but they all have to be in the ballpark, otherwise I get twitchy...

    3. Do you base your characters on specific people you know?

    Not consciously, no.

    4. How do you organize your time in between work, family, home, etc.?

    Again, when I write, I WRITE. Few other things exist until I've written down what I need to write down. The editing part of the process, that's shared between me and hubby (who's my first line editor) and that's much more "together" time. Of course, I don't have kids so all this is pretty moot - it's two adults in a two-adult household sharing a life.

    5. And finally, how do you keep your back from hurting when you're spending so much time BIC (butt-in-chair) writing?

    Who said I keep my back from hurting...? Seriously, there have been moments of SEIZURE if I'm on a high writing kick and don't MOVE from the chair for hours (which does happen sometimes). Then I whine and moan and complain and move like a fragile 90-year-old for a little while until I get the back sorted out...

  2. Congratulations! Even with editing along the way you've put out a lot of words! Keep at it. And maybe use the advance from the sale of your mg (I'm thinking positive for you here!) to buy a hot tub for the back :)

  3. Great Questions~
    1. Draft first - v little editing
    2. not at all
    3. never
    4. this is not easy - i get up v early before anyone else...and I stay up late after my family is asleep.
    5. I do BIS instead of BIC --- I type on a laptop on my sofa or write 1st drafts into a notebook... i think yoga helps too!!!

    happy writing!!

  4. I work on 3-4 manuscripts at the same time, call me ADHD but otherwise I get bored.

    I edit along the way OCD must be mixed in there too

    People always influence my characters - so much so it's frightening

    And I lay in bed and write late into the night - sort of an insomniac

    Guess I have a few problems I should be working on in my own life ;)

  5. Considering I'm not published yet, I don't know that my answers work; but ... I try to get the first draft down without editing, but I think if you can't write the whole thing at once (and really who can write 20000-40000 words in one sitting?) then you do end up doing some editing the next time you come back to it. Since I do mine on computer, my first draft is in black, anything I eidt or add along the way is put in a different color. That way as I read back through it, I can see what my original train of thought was and how I thought I might improve it.

    Back trouble--I've worked with a personal trainer before and do back exercises and use different cushions in my chair. With 2 young children, I don't get to sit very long anyway.

    Balance time--I don't do this very well. I am working on 4-5 different ideas/"ms" throughout the week (one for each day of the week, pretty much). I write when I can, which is sometimes only long enough to get a thought down. Really makes writing a novel a slow process. As for reading, I'm the same way. I've still trying to figure out a balance between house, writing, family, reading.

    Character - I do usually base my characters loosely on someone, at least to begin with. I get a story idea first, then the characters flesh themselves out and they may not be the same person anymore. Sometimes my characters start as a celebrity--I usually see my stories as a movie in my head.

    Length - this is the least of my worries. I do try to balance out the chapters, but I do that last (or I will do that last, haven't quite gotten there yet)

    Good luck!

  6. I have to tell you I've tried it both ways, edit as I go and not, but I rather prefer a light edit as I go. I DO try and keep my chapters almost exactly the same size but I'm sure it's not that big of a deal. I don't base my characters after specific people. I'd feel bad if I did. My characters are capable of pretty rotten things. As for oganization, I'm always trying new things, but for the most part whatever works with my busy family. As for my back I alternate from the counter to the bed to the dinning room chairs, I think the variety agrees with me. ;) Good luck to you and keep us posted on your progress!

  7. 1. I'm a rough draft girl--just slog through and write it down before it gets lost or forgotten!
    2. My chapters vary in length, it's totally about pacing for me.
    3. Yes! And names, too! Many characters are hybrids of people I know, often acquaintances, not close friends.
    4. I have failed at that so badly. Life here is a train wreck. I'm curious to see how having all 3 boys in school all day will affect my writing.
    5. I need regular exercise, so I'm on the move A LOT. I do yoga once a week, karate 3 times a week, run and generally putz and putter. I don't generally sit in the chair for more than 2 hours at a pop without getting up for a 20 minute break--even to mop floors or something.

  8. Great questions, Rena! I always edit as I go, and I base my characters on people I know!

    None of my stories is published so whatever you did, it's a success as far as I can dream. Back pain is my problem too, so are my wrists and fingers..Good luck Rena!

  9. 1. I don’t edit too much. Usually one look over the chapter, unless I’m killing it, then just power through.

    2. I keep my chapters to 10 pages or less.

    3. I loosely base the characters on characters form films more than anything, making me quite unoriginal. Oh and the hero often times gets my voice because I’m a narcissist.

    4. I have no one to love me. However, school last year put a kabaosh on all writing—wesbite included. I HAVE to make time this year, no matter what.

    5. Jello shots.

    Let me know if you’d ever like to write an article or two for bradmouth. You seem funny to me. Like haha funny, not “that poor woman funny.”

    theBrad (verla)

  10. 1. I edit as I go...yes it slows me down.

    2. My chapters are usually about 10 pages.

    3. Sometimes memories and such sneak into my story.

    4. I write when I write and usually when I'm alone.

  11. Did you say you started on July 30 and have 19,000+ words? Holy cow, that's fast.

    1. Edit as I go.
    2. Chapters are usually about 10 pp.
    3. Sometimes characters are based on someone I know. Most MCs have some aspect of me in them.
    4. I'm always trying new schedules. Latest: write MWF, teach TThS, family/house/other -- evenings and Sundays.
    5. I try not to sit more than two hours without stretching. And my chiropractor warned me to replace my computer chair every two years. I also wear athletic walking shoes literally all the time except to church.