Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Routine of Writing

Only in Florida . . .
A raccoon was found inside a vending machine at a high school in Volusia County (next to the county where I live). Since it was a high school, I suspect the raccoon may not have wandered in by himself.

From Colorado, a new hailstone record:  4.83"

And a truly remarkable photo from Facebook, credited to:  marcokorosecnet.

Taken in Kansas - and as far as I know, "for real."


On Friday morning of this week I was happily sticking pencils, one by one, into the electric sharpener, when I realized that I, the author who urges creativity even unto rule-breaking, was following a fixed routine established at least a quarter century ago. This was how I edit hardcopy, and the heavens would fall if I deviated from a single step!

And then I got to thinking . . .

Several years ago one of the grandgirls, evidently prompted by a discussion at school, asked me, "Gramma, do you have a routine?"  And I had to admit I did. From getting up, making coffee, feeding the cat, checking the news, making the bed, to walking into my office every morning but Sunday and sitting down to write. Except "editing" mornings when I took hardcopy into my bedroom, sharpened my pencils, and settled in to decimate what I'd written over the last couple of days.

So yes, as creative as I try to be, my life is circumscribed by routine. 

Good or bad?

Before going any further, I must point out that I'm still strongly opposed to anyone who preaches, "My way or the highway." Each person must find his/her own way through the writing maze, but I've spent the last eight years giving advice on what works for me—and hopefully will work for you as well—so once again, here are my personal thoughts on the subject of routines.

When it comes to writing, I believe an established routine helps. NOT to produce "routine" writing but for finding the time in your busy schedule to get those precious words out of your head and onto paper (or at least onto your hard drive). Some authors I know get up at five in the morning to find their precious "alone" time. Others write late at night. Only a few of us have the flexibility I do, being able to write without the constant demands of a job, spouse, and/or children. But no matter your situation in life, you will accomplish far more if you carve out a space of time that is solely yours. Not just for a day or two but week after week, year after year. Your own special "me" time. 

All the years I was growing up, I recall my mother going into her office, shutting the door, and that was it. NO ONE disturbed her while she was writing. (Fortunately this routine was never tested by the house catching fire!) This was, I should add, in the days when most women did not work outside the home, so she had the freedom so many writers only wish they had in the so-called "liberated" world.

So, yes, when it comes to getting a book done, establishing a writing routine and sticking to it is vital. A "hit or miss" approach could leave a book hanging for years.

So What about an Editing Routine?

Those who grew up in the digital age will undoubtedly find my editing routine amusing, but I still feel the need to edit hardcopy for at least the first couple of run-throughs of what I've written. Somehow, sitting there with pencil in hand, clarifies my thoughts, sharpens my mind, lets me see what I missed on screen. So to add to your amusement, I'll detail the routine necessary before I can even look at Page One. 

Note: Hardcopy editing is done in bed, propped up against a pile of pillows. [Sure, you can sit at a desk (or at a narrow writing bench on a cruise ship - which I've done), but editing in bed is much more comfortable.]

1.  I move my latest's book hardcopy from my office to my bedroom; also, my Character/Description List, Notes, and previous chapters (in a blue leather zippered container I've used for every book I've ever written).

2. I set up the metal bed tray I've had for more years than I can remember, fixing it at the angle I prefer. 

3.  I remove a slew of pencils, two easy-writing pens, a red felt pen, and a pink marker from their containers on my bedtable.

4.  I examine the end of each pencil. If it is not "pointy" sharp, I stick it in the sharpener, also on the bedtable. They have to be perfect.

5.  I dig out at least two lined legal pads from another bedside table and add those to the pile on the bed.

Then, and only then, am I ready to look at what needs to be editing.

The Editing Process.

Pencil in hand, I begin to read. Sometimes I smile and continue on; other times, I balk, scowling at a paragraph, grumbling and agonizing over how I could say the same thing so much better. Perhaps I only need to change a word or two. Perhaps I scribble in a whole sentence—or cross one out. And sometimes I need to grab up one of those legal pads and a pen and write an Insert that enhances the bare bones of that meager first draft.

Other times I need to juggle the order of what I've written—which is when that red pen comes in handy, marking (1, 2, 3) the order of the sentences (or clauses) being juggled. The pink marker, by the way, comes in handy when indicating the portion of a paragraph to be kept during a major rewrite.

To me, all this is much easier on hardcopy. It's also useful to have what you're deleting there before you, in case you change your mind! And scribbling changes in pencil works the same. So easy to erase and try something else, without obliterating the original.

Yes, I have to get up off the bed, gather up all my stuff, and trundle it back to the office. And then I have to sit down and make sense of all those pencil scribbles, red and pink markings, and the legal pad Inserts written in pen. But it works for me. I feel I do a much better job of editing when I start with hardcopy. I usually don't use "on screen" editing until a second complete run-through of the entire book. 

Note:  I do not, however, hesitate to change my hardcopy edits while typing them in. I'm always looking for more detail, more color, more clarity.

Old-fashioned, you say? Probably. But it works for me. And after forty books, I'm unlikely to change my methods. But hopefully, setting up a writing routine and an editing routine will help you in that eternal struggle to "get the blasted book done." And in the even more important struggle to make it the best book it can be.

~ * ~


For a link to Blair's website, click here.

For a link to The Abominable Major on Amazon,  click here.

For a link to The Abominable Major on Smashwords,  click here.

Background information on The Abominable Major can be found on my Facebook Author Page. To read it, click here.

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