So far, I think the 2 hardest things about NaNoWriMo are:

  1. Saying No — to distractions, to obligations, to cute puppies, to sleep.
  2. Allowing Yourself to Write Crap —  but you have to. And it’s probably not as bad as you think… (And even if it is, that’s what December is for: revising!)


I’m at about 7,000 words right now, which means I’m only… 967 words behind where I should be! Oh wait, I forgot to carry the decimal. So that’s… 9,670!


Well, it’s all right. I refuse to be discouraged or stressed. For me, the goals for this month are to try to get to 50,000 words; to push myself; to create characters I love and a plot that keeps the reader hooked; and most of all, to learn more about myself as a writer. I need to figure out how I work best, and then do it. Simple as that.

And you know, I used to think I could copy other writers’ habits and routines. I asked my professors, I Googled my favorite authors, I asked every writer I met: HOW DO YOU DO IT? But the truth is, there is no “right way” to do it. (Only a few weird ones…) We each have to find the ways that best suit our individual personalities, you know?

That said, I still like reading about what other writers do. Morning v night, computer v long hand, plot vs pants? The Wall Street Journal recenty surveyed several different authors — including Junot Diaz, Orhan Pamuk, Anne Rice, and Margaret Atwood — about their writing habits (via Jeff Abbott). There are some very interesting answers. (And weird ones!)

Well, since we’re on the topic, what do you do? What’s your optimal writing routine?

16 responses to “Say no to life, yes to crap! … Wait, what??”

  1. Sonja Avatar

    The number one thing I need to write is QUIET. You’ve posted several times about what music you’re listening to as you write, and I just cannot imagine listening to music while I write. Insane! In addition to quiet, I need to be well rested. I usually write for about an hour to an hour and a half at a time – almost never more than two hours in one go, but sometimes. One writing period a day – two is very rare. I always write on a computer. I find writing longhand to be very frustrating, as I edit my work constantly. I’d say that at least 50% of the sentences I write are changed before the next sentence is written after it. I also need a lot of down time to percolate before I write anything.

    In summation, I don’t think I would ever attempt NaNoWriMo. I just can’t get out that kind of quantity in one month – especially now that I have children.
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: Oh, by the way, I broke Quinn’s arm last week =-.

  2. Angie Avatar

    Sorry I’ve been MIA but you know, I really miss writing. I’m glad we have JBU, but sometimes I wish I was writing short stories–except I have no patience for it anymore. I suppose once I have a few hours to myself, the writing will commence.
    .-= • Recent post by Angie: View of the Hudson =-.

  3. Kristan Avatar

    Sometimes I need quiet too. But then sometimes I work really well at Panera. My optimal auditory input requirements are still unclear. :P

    I’m sure kids make writing so much more hectic. Part of me thinks I need to get as many words out as possible now before I become a parent, just in case I can’t get any out after! So your routine is really impressive to me.

    No worries, I know you’re transitioning into your new life and job!!

  4. Sonja Avatar

    RE: “So your routine is really impressive to me.”

    Please keep in mind that kids + the requirements of my routine = virtually zero fiction writing for FIVE YEARS.

    And now that I think about it, I can write in a cafe setting – as long as there’s no loud music. I can distance myself pretty easily from strangers talking to each other. Maybe I should try going to cafes more often…
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: Oh, by the way, I broke Quinn’s arm last week =-.

  5. Kristan Avatar

    You know, Jennifer Weiner (bestselling chick lit author) says she ALWAYS has to go out to write, if only to make sure her kids realize she is “going to work” – because if she just stayed home, they would know she was there and demand her attention. (Kind of like Riley does to me… :P)

    I can do cafes usually too, like Panera or Starbucks. For some reason, the overwhelming amount of noise and sights you have to block out makes it easier, I guess because you don’t have to discriminate, you just ignore everything.

  6. Albie Avatar

    plot v pants?

  7. Kristan Avatar

    People who plot everything/heavily, OR people who fly by the seat of their pants. :P

  8. Margot Avatar

    Saying no to cute puppies?!?! Shame! When I was younger and had to write papers for school my dad would let me come to his office and sitting in the hearing booth (that booth they stick you in to test your hearing). It was so quite that it ended up being a distraction because I could hear my own heart beating.

  9. Kristan Avatar

    LOL omigosh that sounds kinda freaky!

  10. Todd Newton Avatar

    The article, while interesting, seems to imply that one MUST have an obscure or odd way of writing to be as successful as these folks… or maybe I’m reading too much into it. But, seriously, person after person is like “I stand on my head and quack like a duck before I write” and another says “I dictate while running to keep the ideas flowing as fast as the blood” and nonsense like that. Okay, I made those up, but you know what I mean. What about the thousands of us who just go to a coffee shop, open MS Word, and sing Happy Birthday in Spanish until the words start flowing???
    .-= • Recent post by Todd Newton: Why Writing Fantasy is Difficult: Setting =-.

  11. Kristan Avatar

    Well, I loved Margaret Atwood’s response for the very reasons you bring up:

    “Put your left hand on the table. Put your right hand in the air. If you stay that way long enough, you’ll get a plot,” Margaret Atwood says when asked where her ideas come from. When questioned about whether she’s ever used that approach, she adds, “No, I don’t have to.”


    I would guess a lot of writers of that stature have developed quirks and tics to their methods because they are quirky, ticcy people to begin with, but now their fame allows them to be even more so. I think the vast majority of writers ARE like you. I know I am! Minus the Happy Birthday in Spanish part, hehe.

  12. Kimberly Avatar

    Music is a must for me – very, very loud music. Generally, I writing everything out on my lap top, because I can type much faster than I can write. Every once in a while I will write by hand, but only outlines – usually.

    After trying out the pants method, which didn’t work out so well, I’ve now become a mixture of the two. So that would make me what? A plantser?
    .-= • Recent post by Kimberly : Addicted =-.

  13. Kristan Avatar

    Planster, haha, that’s good! I think I called it a plotser once. Same idea, just as ridiculous. :P

  14. Kimberly Avatar

    LOL – great minds think alike (or close enough alike) : )
    .-= • Recent post by Kimberly: Addicted =-.

  15. Aisha Avatar

    Not that I write much, but when I do I like doing it completely alone, in complete quiet, usually late at night when everyone else is asleep. I prefer a laptop because of the editing, but I love writing on paper, too (it has to be mechanical pencil though, and I’m slightly picky about them.) Writing on paper forces you write write write, and you can edit later, so I like that aspect of it. Plus I like how my handwriting looks hehe.

    I guess I could write in a cafe or something, but I’d be paranoid that someone were reading what I was writing. It would have to be on paper; my handwriting is too small and messy for others to decipher at a glance.

    I really liked the article btw :)

  16. Kristan Avatar

    “Writing on paper forces you write write write, and you can edit later, so I like that aspect of it. Plus I like how my handwriting looks hehe.”

    Hehe, me too! Well, my handwriting, not yours. Yours is probably nice too, but to be honest, I only vaguely remember it at this point. :P

    Really, you’d be paranoid? You don’t strike me as such. And I’ve never worried about that… Only in classes, back in the day, but that’s usually because it would be proof I wasn’t on-task, lol.

    Yay, I’m glad you did!