Jessie: In New Hampshire enjoying the scent of wood smoke in the air.
We’re talking about rituals and routines on Wednesdays this month and so, of course, I wondered about your writing routines. How do you start a writing session? What do you need to do or to have at hand to get to work? Do you have any rituals associated with a new book or a new series?
Edith/Maddie: I talked earlier about starting my daily mornings of writing. On a less-frequent schedule, I love setting up a new Scrivener project for a new book. (For readers not familiar, Scrivener is software many of us use to keep our writing and all the book information in one place.) I save the project for the last book in the series as a new project, rename it, and delete all the content. This carries over all the research, my Series Characters file, and the series timeline to the new book. Then I take a nice pen and a notebook to my rocking chair and start coming up with character names for the new book. It makes me so happy to have a new story brewing in the creative parts of my brain.
Julie: Edith, I do the same thing when I get my project into Scrivener. My starting a book ritual is a bit different. I start with a yellow pad where I start my plotting, and move to a pack of notecards where I add scenes and rearrange until it all makes sense to me. Then it moves into Scrivener. I’ve realized lately that a writing routine makes a huge difference for me to get get in the headspace for the work. Before I start I get a beverage, close my eyes and think about the story for a few minutes, and then I begin. I need to make space for the muse to come and visit.
Sherry: Wow Julie that is so impressive! Usually, I get an idea, open a Word document, and start writing. Sometimes I talk the plot out with one of my writing friends. I’ve been working on plotting more before I write, but when scenes start playing out in my head I just have to get them down. The interesting thing with the third Chloe Jackson book is that I’ve changed my writing schedule. I normally write in the afternoon, but I’ve started doing a morning and afternoon writing session. I guess when the muse hits, I don’t want to let her go.
Liz: For my last few books, I’ve been able to have plotting conversations with Jessie that have been SO helpful. I’ve come away with so many scenes to start the book, which really helps me with that paralyzation procrastination that hits me when I don’t know where I’m going next. I put all those scenes into Scrivener also and then rearrange, add, expand as needed.
Barb: Like Julie, I start on paper, often with circles and arrows and lots of lists. Then I write a synopsis for my editor which forces me to see the narrative structure of the story. Then, like Liz, when I’m lucky, I get a plotting session with Jessie. From there, to scene cards in Scrivener. Then write the first draft, never looking back, so I don’t turn into a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife. I don’t know whether these are habits or rituals or some sort of superstitious attempt to replicate what worked the last time, but it’s what I do! One thing is for sure, there is no one “right way” to write fiction.
Jessie: Thanks Barb and Liz for the nod! I love to noodle up plots and untangle knots with other authors!
I start all my books with a glimmer of an idea, a lot of research to see where the idea leads and a notebook to corral the thoughts that come up. I ask myself questions in the notebook and then I answer them a variety of different ways. If one feels right to me I circle it. Next I make a sort of mind map of the story on a large glass board I have mounted on my office wall.
Once I feel like I have an idea of what scenes will start to look like I write a sentence or two describing what happens in them onto sticky notes at random. I add to and arrange the sticky notes again and again until all the scenes are in place. Then, because my current editor requires an outline, I dictate a more detailed version of what I am reading from each sticky note into a Word document to become an outline. I copy and paste each paragraph of the Word document into my scene cards in Scrivener. Then, I am ready to start to write the book.
Readers, what do you need nearby to take on your own work or favorite projects?