I got a request to go over my methods from an unexpected source. In the interests of satisfying their curiosity, here’s a summary of what it’s like being me when I have my writer hat on.
Step One: Bunnies
> A story idea that refuses to go away is called a plot bunny.
Some writers carefully engineer stories, and some subsist on bunnies. I’m generally a bunny writer. Most of my bunnies are inspired by things I dislike, as in “I hate X. This bunny displays a hatred for X, therefore love the bunny and shall make it a proper story.” I wish there was more to my inspiration, but no, I run on rageohol. When I get a bunny I especially like, I will take it on a long walk.
I’m not actually kidding. This is part of why I live in the basement: so my pacing does not disturb others. If a story doesn’t make me want to pace to think of it, it’s not getting written, fullstop.
Most of my stories come with stories about how they came to be.
Step Two: Notes
I take notes anytime and on anything. I have to handwrite my first notes for a story, even if I have access to a computer, because there’s a certain amount of scribbling involved.
Worth mentioning, a lot of my notes are dialogue. If you look at my notebook– and I don’t care if you do, I mean, there’s nothing seditious in there; just hitmen being stupid at each other –it looks like a wall of text.
That’s because in the breath of spring– or in the heart of wine– in a bar somewhere– come moonrise– I draft my dialogue by slamming it together–Untagged!– like an Emily Dickinson poem– that some jerk took the line breaks– out of.
This is a test to see if the characters are decent, because if I can’t tell who’s talking from that mess, it’s going in the round file.
Step Three: I put my notes in a file.
I’m transitioning to using Scrivener instead of a straight up word processor. Scrivener is a text compiler, meaning it’s possible to use it to shuffle bits of text around by dragging them as a pictorial unit, which is a huge draw for me. Anyway, for anything shorter than about 15K words, the results are what I refer to as my outline, even though they’re not a formal outline by any stretch of the imagination.
Longer things get outlined with doodles on these special note cards I hand cut myself because I’m just that picky.
I’m also notorious for spending time hashing out elaborate sequences of events with my girlfriend over beading or dinner. This is why I thank my roommates a lot, because I can talk for hours about who was standing where when some fictional thing exploded.
Step Four: The part where I actually write.
I do this with headphones in and lounge music playing in the background. I can’t write without headphones in, but they don’t necessarily have to be playing anything.
I aspire not to backspace while writing since the goal is more words on the damn page, not fewer words. I take breaks to dance and whine at other people, meaning this is usually where my coach or my girlfriend get involved, unless I previous “What if I did this?”ed them in the middle of the night.
(“You’ve very tolerant of me knocking on your door at midnight with no pants on.”, “Well, I’m usually awake anyway.”)
This is the boring and tedious part where I’m most likely to lose interest. I don’t consider anything I drop a loss. I’ll use tidbits of it again somewhere for something.
Additionally, there’s a part right before the end of most things where, if I hit it, I realize I’m almost done and write furiously for hours at a go until I am finished, then I all of the wine in my face and go watch trashy action anime.
If you’re getting the impression this is not that complicated a process, you’re right. The hardest part of what I do is applying my ass to the chair. The world is full of temptation.
Step Five: The Part Where I Bemoan My Own Existence
I like to let things sit for a day or two before I revise. Sometimes, this isn’t possible because I have failed at scheduling myself. My work doesn’t generally suffer due to deadlines, in fact I find them motivating. But, my editor upcharges for rushes as she damnwell should.
I don’t always use an editor. Paying Eun-Byeol or one of my other writer buddies who needs some extra scratch to look over my crap saves me about three drafts compared to doing it myself. Considering I do eightish drafts for the average short story, this makes a 37.5% reduction in time from first draft to submission. They tend to catch dumb mistakes too. If I can use them, I generally will.
“My editor is yelling at me.” = “My editor had such an involved note that they chose to instant message me and explain in detail why I need to address something in my latest submission. I appreciate this gesture deeply and sincerely, but I’m also embarrassed.”
I’m not as much of a perfectionist as I used to be, but if you look at the edit history for “Edge of Everything”, the one sentence had twenty-four edits over the space of that many hours.
I very seldom get in tug-of-war matches (undoing and redoing edits) with the people who assist me. One, I wouldn’t give repeat business to someone I butted heads with in that way and two, given certain comments about my phrasing, I’ll tend to pull the affected words out and write new ones.
Step Six: Pressing The Submit Button
This takes an hour of double-checking that I have everything in order. My bio is short, I can do standard manuscript format while standing on my head, I always say thank you.
My girlfriend and I and possibly everyone in the vicinity do Subs for Subs after, meaning we celebrate finally pressing the button by going out for sandwiches. I then move into mooning at my email, waiting for a response.