In a post late this November, I mentioned how I was finished writing my Saint Flaherty series. That’s my psychological suspense literary novels, for those who don’t know, and at the time of that post, I’d just written the final words of the third and final book. Not only that, I mentioned how I was done with that whole universe for a few weeks at least while I regrouped from writing Book 3. I even was tossing around writing a random one-off novel just to occupy myself.
I should write more posts like that. Really, I should, because a couple days later, I started Book 2.5. Well, I say started, but between Monday, November 30th, and Friday, December 11th, I descended into an obsessive haze of writing. How obsessive?
55,669 words obsessive. Nearly 5,000 words a day, every day. And I didn’t write every day, either. Really, it’s a bit magical to write that way, there’s no other way to put it. It’s a process I descend into for days at a time.
From the outside, I’m sure it looks like I spend hours staring at my screen. But from my perspective, here’s how it looks.
I wake up in the morning, check my email for the reply from my alpha reader, the infinitely talented and patient Ro. She’s sent me back yesterday’s chapter complete wither her illuminating and hilarious comments, as well as having replied to my various musings on characters and plot.
Re-reading yesterday’s writing as well as her comments takes me all of my cup of coffee and breakfast. Following that, I might wash the dishes, or get dressed, or stare aimlessly at the Roomba as it muddles around. And then it’s time to write.
Sometimes, writing looks like words on a page, even inside my head, but not days like this scenes come alive in my head like watching a stage show. Visions flash in front of my eyes, dialogue sounds through my ears. I can see every hair on my characters’ heads, the tiles on the floor, dull glow of dawn through plastic blinds. They move, and I sit there, recording it all. Get hungry and drink a Coke so I don’t have to pause, keep going, the hours slipping away in the blink of an eye, how is it noon? It was just ten o’clock.
This stupor of writing usually lasts me until two in the afternoon, when my brain runs out of energy and I’m forced to break for lunch. And I do make myself take a break, an actual rest. I lunch while doing something else, generally reading comics on my phone or watching an episode of something on TV. Something to let my brain go on autopilot as I remember who I am outside of the head of whatever character I’m occupying.
I write first person present tense. Sometimes I get up and am surprised to find myself short again, or to find that, in fact, I’m not a college student anymore, or don’t have a black eye. I live what I write, and when I step out, I have to remind myself who I am.
After my break, I often resume work by taking a shower. Yes, that’s work; it’s brainstorming time, what I call a ‘thinking shower. They’re less about washing than numbing my senses in order to see my way through plot problems.
Thinking showers require two things: very hot water, and loud music that evokes the correct feeling, the feeling of my book, the tone of it, both in style and lyrics.
Every book I’ve written has had these soundtracks. My kid stuff was written solely to a diet of Ellegarden’s “TV Maniacs,” while the final third of The Mercy of Men (Book 2) was created to the first half of Linkin Park’s discography. (Deal with it.) This book started out as Gotye’s creepy “Somebody That I Used to Know,” only to move, halfway-through, to “Sail” by AWOLNATION. Maybe I should cry for help, maybe I should kill myself…
This is how an angel dies.
I sit in the hot water, as hot as I can stand, and the thoughts come from nowhere, the scenes, the words. I have only to push aside my daily monologue and there they are. Dry off, write them down. Is it time to make dinner? How can it be already? Put freezer food in the toaster oven, set the timer, I’m almost done with this, just give me two more minutes…
It’s always a triumph to end a section. I know I’ve done well, I’ve #donewrote. I can see that I’ve created, made progress. I have created.
My day ends with reading over what I wrote, making small edits, catching big typos, and sending the whole document off to my alpha reader. By the time I’ve finished that, there’s hardly even time to watch an episode of something mindless before I hit the pillow, peacefully drained.
Sometimes I wonder if my novel-writing weeks are how an addiction feels. The need to continue, the absolute obsession with it. My eyes are watching Pokemon, but my brain is finding ways to get my character out of peril, or into more. Falling asleep, waking up, washing dishes, my characters are my every waking thought. I don’t dream about my books, but only because I’m too exhausted.
That’s my writing process; that’s how I create when I’m in the zone. Some days I have a blog post to write, or laundry demands to be done. My mom wants to see my face occasionally, as does my husband, and they drag me away from the process some days more willingly than others, but pretty much my days don’t vary.
Until I get stuck.
This happens in every book I have written, bar none. Not my kid lit, not my main-series books, none of them. I get to almost-done and I hit a wall. Absolutely a wall. Reach for the magic and come up empty, because there’s nothing there.
I’m in this place right now, for Book 2.5. It’s frustrating, but I’ve been there before. What I need is to give myself a little bit of time, a day or a week, and come back to it. Re-read from the beginning, gather the threads until I have a fist-full, and find which ones still need tying off. I usually end up counting this read-through as my first soft-edit.
It’s a drag to not be able to complete the manuscript all in one rush, but it’s not really a surprise. I was hoping to finish 2.5 before I left for my Christmas holiday, but that’s apparently not to be. Ah well.
What does your writing process look like? Anything like this? Completely different? Feel free to post below or link me what you’ve written about your own experiences. I know my process isn’t the norm, being a full-time thing, but I’d love to hear the differences. Let me know!
[On another note, I will be on holiday through the Christmas period. If I’m a bit slow letting comments through moderation, I apologize. Never fear, I’ll see it soon! Thanks for your understanding in advance.]