Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Writing Wednesday

Yes, I know, I changed up the theme. It's supposed to be Women Who Rock Wednesday. Just bear with me this week (and probably next week as well since I'll be at BEA). Since I was in the writing cave for awhile I didn't get a guest lined up (but I've emailed a really good one who I am hoping to interview next. She's got a music-driven debut YA that comes out next week....)

And I'm in talking about writing mode because I just taught a class at StoryStudio tonight (well, technically last night, but I'm back to the blogging at 2 am routine) and I think it went pretty well despite my teaching anxiety that I blogged about at Teen Fiction Cafe.

But before we get to the writing talk, I have a winner to announce for Jeri Smith-Ready's fabulous YA debut SHADE....Amygdalia! You are the winner. You didn't leave an email addy so please contact me at stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com.

So in case you missed it, I poured my heart out on the MTV Books blog this weekend and talked all about my struggles with writing as of late and my breakthrough. You can read the whole thing here, but I wanted to focus on the things that really helped me shake my funk and getting writing. Hopefully some of these tips can help my fellow writers out there and well, otherwise I have documented them so I can come back to them.

1. Writing is your number one job. Not blogging, not tweeting, not email-replying. These things are all great procrastination tools and, if you are like me, you feel terribly guilty for not doing everything on a timely basis. (I was not raised Catholic or religious in any way, but somehow, I totally got that guilt thing.) I'm a people pleaser and a perfectionist. I want to do everything at once but it is not possible and....

2. Multi-tasking is evil. I truly am starting to believe that everyone thinks they have A.D.D. because we are encouraged to do so many things at once. There are some things I can do at once, such as workout on the elliptical and watch TV. Sometimes I attempt to do email and watch TV, but I'm even trying to break this habit because then I do not enjoy my relaxation time nearly as much. And dammit, I deserve a little bit of relaxation time because I am overly stressed and the main reason for that is...

3. Overscheduling yourself is stressful. Because of my perfectionist tendencies and need to please everyone, I push to the limits and am always in a rush to get things done. So I had to teach myself...

4. Breathe and focus. Time to slay the multitasking impulse and the need to cram so much into one day. It really isn't the end of the world if you don't reply to any emails or blog and only tweet to update on your writing progress for a week. I did this. It was quite refreshing actually and helped me realize that writing is my number one job.

Now that we've come full circle, let's get to some of my techniques for doing this because it was really really hard to break the multi-tasking, overscheduling habits, not to mention overcome all my doubts about my writing and get back to #1 on the list above.

My first step was creating a schedule that forced me to have at least two hour-and-a-half periods of pure writing focus a day. I woke up in the morning, answered quick emails/tweets, then had my tea and settled in for an hour-and-a-half of uninterrupted writing. I turned off my wireless connection, tried to hide the BlackBerry so I could not see it's little blinking light telling me that I had messages and wrote. Then I took a fifteen minute or half hour break. Then on to another hour-and-a-half of uninterrupted writing time. Then another break and on it went until I had to go to work or make dinner.

This was pretty good, creating a time of focus. Except my doubts still would creep in and I'd often sit there, staring at the screen, frozen because I couldn't nail a certain scene or figure out the perfect first line.

So my second step was giving myself permission to write the shitty rough draft. I hate first drafts. I really do. I like revising and that is where I tend to figure out structure and theme and all of that good stuff. I knew the general plot of what I thought would be roughly the first hundred pages, so I just started writing as fast as I possibly could. I kept track of word count at this point trying to see how much I could do in a day or an hour-and-a-half block. Even if I felt my writing sucked, I could be proud of the quantity. Now as a warning, at least for me, this only works up til a certain point. If I go too fast, I veer dangerously off path and the story can take a wrong turn. Once I sensed that happening, I stopped and went into revising mode.

Third step, for me at least, is BINGE. Once I was in revising mode, I was excited about the story. And once that was happening, I let nothing stand in my way of writing when I felt like writing. The hour-and-a-half thing went out the window. I had to remind myself to stop and eat. I neglected loved ones. I definitely forgot all about the internet. And that's fine because of rule #1, writing comes first. I knew I'd be binging for roughly a week and that wouldn't put me too behind on other things/make my husband forget what I looked like.

Now I'm in catch-up mode. I'd take a few days to do that and go straight back into binge mode, but I have to tackle a different project and I have a week in New York for BEA. I may have to start back at the beginning of my steps when I get back, but that's fine.

The main thing is you have to establish a routine that works for you. For the most part the routine that works for me is that hour-and-a-half of focus thing during the day and dealing with my email, blog, etc at night. But now I know if I get into that binge mode, I should just go with it, then take a couple days to catch up afterward.

So yeah, if I disappear for a while, you should know it's a *good* thing. Those are my writing tips for this week. Like I said, look for an entirely writing focused blog next week as I visit NYC and attend my first BEA. But we'll be back with rocking ladies soon, don't fret.

Oh and if you have future writing topics you are curious about hearing my take on, feel free to comment and I will consider blogging about them in the future when I'm in writing reflection mode. Feel free to share your writing tips as well!

Now off to read because when I am in my regular routine, that is how i like to cap off my nights!

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