Novels · Why I'm a Ridiculous Person · Writing

The Process of Writing: It’s Kind of Addictive

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…

Chapter done.

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.]

9 thoughts on “The Process of Writing: It’s Kind of Addictive

  1. I love reading about author processes and find it fascinating how very different we approach the craft. Even stranger however, is realizing that someone you’ve never met, perhaps halfway across the globe, has the same crazy visions and writing sprees that you do. How odd that we writers are all different and yet the same.

    Can you imagine if people didn’t like stories? We would all be thrown in the loony bin.

    You and I have similar processes and it is nice to see that there is someone out there with the same kind of wonderful crazy! Binge-writing is like a drug addict’s high for writers. I hope that I too get another bout of it soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is amazing how many of us binge on writing, like it’s all-you-can-eat cotton candy. Or something like that. Possibly less sweet. The first time I got in a writing jag like that, I was like, “This will never last! Surely I’ll burn out!” When I didn’t, I was thrilled because so much was happening at once. Novel writing stopped being the process of years and became a matter of weeks.

      I think there are definitely some people who think writers are nuts anyway, but hey, better letting the little crazies out than keeping it all in! Or at least that’s what I tell my husband.


  2. I love that feeling so much, when the words just fly from pen to paper or fingers to screen, it’s both exhilarating and exhausting! My personal record is 6,000 words in one day. However, I can count on one hand the amount of times I have been able to go from morning to night without stopping and they are very much isolated incidents. Fair play to you for being able to keep it going consistently day after day. Don’t worry about getting stuck, take some time away from it and you will get unstuck eventually!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, fantastic record! I made a record once in high school and have never met it again–don’t think I could at this point. I only get these jags a couple times a year. It has to be the right kind of story, where the plots (even though I’m a total pantser) feel very clear in my head. Thanks for the encouragement! It is the best feeling.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. I used to be a pantser in my more reckless teenage years! But I’m very much a plotter now. I’m almost finished a scene by scene breakdown of my third novel and I find it a huge help to know exactly where I’m going with the story before I get stuck into the meat of the writing itself. But everyone has a different approach that works for them! 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I’ve gotten better at having some idea of where the story is going, but I’m also bad for getting bored when I know what’s going to happen. I’ve found that if I write the last chapter and spend the rest of the time back-filling, that works pretty well for me.

              Sometimes I really wish I could outline, though; I think it would make it much easier to schedule my days when I’m not on one of my sprees. Especially when I was writing Book 3 and trying to wrap up fifty jillion plots, that would’ve been nice. Really, though, you’re absolutely right, it’s whatever works, and it sounds like you’ve got a method down.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. And it sounds like you do too! There’s no right or wrong way, it’s whatever works to get words down on the page and from your blog post above you are certainly achieving that. I look forward to following your progress!

                Liked by 1 person

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