Wicked Wednesday-Writing Rituals

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?

16 Thoughts

  1. My needs at the start of a project are pretty simple—chair and pc. I apply backside to chair in front of pc and start typing. I never really know where a book is going to go until I start to write it. Time enough to scribble down notes to myself and figure out plot twists and do plot-specific research after my characters have interacted with one another for a while. Of course this works best when I’m writing a book in one of my series, but I’ve only once written part of a book this way and had it come to a screeching halt because I couldn’t figure out what happened next. In that one instance, I never have come up with the rest of the story. Maybe someday.

    1. I love hearing different writer’s routines and rituals! And I am so curious as to why that particular story wouldn’t give you an ending! How mysterious!

  2. The daily writing routine is simple: get hot beverage, food, and laptop and write!

    Starting a new book begins with a program called Scapple, from the makers of Scrivener. It lets me put all the ideas down on “paper” and draw connecting lines. I start with my victim, then I try Annette Dashofy’s trick of coming up with five potential “bad guys,” all of whom have a motive to kill my victim. Then I can flesh out the details and draw lines to connect those ideas. Unconnected ideas will eventually be trashed. Then it’s on to Scrivener and start writing out scene cards — then I write!

    1. I’ve seen Scapple and have wondered about its use. Do you find it more useful than an on paper mind map? I am always looking for new tools to improve my process!

      1. I do, but mostly that’s because paper anything gets ruined in my house. I switched to digital so long ago I don’t think I could go back to paper.

  3. If I’m writing in a series, I also copy my prior book into Scrivener, rename it, and delete the prior book chapters. Then I decide on the approximate number of chapters and us the Scrivener scene cards to do a rough outline that follows the Save the Cat beats. Once that is in place and I know where the necessary scenes are going to fall I use bullet points to fill in the scene cards creating an outline. I love scrivener. It lets me find plot holes, move scenes to where they better fit, trash scenes and write new ones. Then on to writing! Sometimes the outline holds, sometimes those characters take over and an entirely new story line emerges.

    Liz, interesting idea for Scrapple. I also have it but have only used it to outline character relationships. Love your idea.

    1. A couple of the Wickeds do the same with importing previous books in a series into Scrivener and then deleting the content that doesn’t need to carry over. It seems an elegant solution!

  4. So interesting to take a peak behind the scenes at each of your writing techniques. Some similarities and some differences, but the end results are always great books.

    I find I can’t fully concentrate at work until I’ve hit a few of my regular haunts on the internet, like the Wickeds, and gone through my non-work related email from the night before. It gnaws at my brain until I do that.

  5. Thank you writers for sharing your routines! Mostly I write letters these days, lots and lots of snail mail going out and coming in and I am so thankful for the computer which makes it easier. I do like to have instrumental music going in the background for any writing I do which includes journaling.

  6. Very interesting. It’s really fun to see how an author works, for this reader anyway. I keep filling this info away in the back of my brain, & email files, for future reference for that book I’m not going to write.. 😁😁

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