Friday, July 13, 2012

The Curse

You’d think by now, I would have an intelligent answer for people who are kind enough to ask me about my method. To tell the truth, my usual response is the classic 1000 yard stare.

Writing books is sort of like raising kids. What works with one doesn’t work with the next one.
Nevertheless, not only are fans and yet-to be-published authors obsessed with the question, writers are too. I’m all ears when someone comments on their Method. I’m in awe of Vicki Delany’s high productivity yoked to outstanding plotting and characterization. She, along with many other mystery writers, manage to do this year after year.

Nevertheless, I have a few warnings and affirmations for those trying break into the field. Discussing all of them would involve a number of blogs. I’ll focus on one in today’s short post. It involves a curse.
The habits you establish at the beginning will haunt you, and you won’t shake them off easily. I began writing with pen and paper and I now I find my most productive method for completing a first draft is best done the same way.

There was a huge advantage attached to beginning with this method. I used a quota system of five pages a day. No matter what happened! And things usually happened.
But, I had naively assumed that I could write anyplace, anytime, anywhere. A priceless assumption!

The universe never seemed to understand my sensitive artistic precious little soul. Ordinary days were filled with the delight and trauma of raising three daughters while my truck-driving husband brought home the bacon.
I made trips to doctors offices, emergency rooms, led our 4-H club, coped with aging parents, took the girls to piano competitions . . .well, you know the drill. Neither my days or my writing ever seemed to go very well. But that didn't stop me from digging the pen and paper out of my purse.

Don bought the truckline. There was even more work to do, as after ten years, I became responsible for the clerical work.
If I do first drafts with pen and paper, the plot moves forward. If I use a computer to do this, I tinker.

Choose your curse carefully. It’s not easily broken.


Bev Myers said...

This makes me laugh. On the recent #writerhell thread on twitter, I said hell would have no keyboards, only pens and legal pads. For you, this could be heaven. Each to his own!

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

This is interesting, because I have been drifting back to experimenting with legal pads and papers. I say "back to" because I did it a little when I started writing but then moved to typewriter and later computer because it was easier to edit on a printed page than one written by hand.

But now it has to do with my laptop. I thought at first it was nice to sit in my favorite armchair with it in my lap. Now, I found it annoying to be plugged in. I'm realizing that at least for outlining legal pad and pen are great.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Beverle Graves Myers had an awesome post on the Poisoned Pen Press blog. I loved her response to my pen and paper comment.

Frankie, so many writers get locked into the "I can't write anywhere but" trap. And under this condition, or that condition. Once published, marketing pulls the rug from under routines.

Vicki Delany said...

Thanks for the mention, Charlotte. Me, I'm strictly a computer person. I really only started writing after the arrival of the home computer - I was a very early adapter being in the computer biz.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Vicki, I began using computers early too, but the habit of writing anywhere, anytime has proved so beneficial I've gone back to it. I would love to quiz you about methods someday.

Hannah Dennison said...

What a great post! I use legal pads to start off too. But what about those mental roadblocks? In every book I've written, I start to freeze when page 200 looms. I don't know why - it takes me weeks to get past that page.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Hannah--That's an interesting hangup. I'll bet we could collect some hum-dingers if we asked writers to contribute to a list.