Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Writers' Habits & Rituals


Quite often I'm asked if I have a routine or a writing ritual. I don’t really, except for the fact I write all my rough drafts by hand. The words seem to flow better for me with pen in hand. Also, I need complete silence, so do the bulk of my writing when I’m home alone. If I have a deadline and my girls are around, I've been known to take out my hearing aids and get ‘er done lol

Curiosity drove me to find other authors writing habits…

Stephen King famously writes no less than ten pages a day, even on holidays.

The Da Vinci Code's Dan Brown keeps an hourglass on his desk and, on the hour, puts aside his manuscript to perform push-ups, sit-ups, and stretches.

Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient, writes everything longhand and then literally cuts and pastes (with scissors and tape).

P.G. Wodehouse author of ‘The Inimitable Jeeves’ and many other works, used to pin the pages in undulating waves around the wall of his workroom. Pages he felt were working well would be pinned up high, and those that still needed work would be lower down the wall. His aim was to get the entire manuscript up to the picture rail before he handed it in.

Ernest Hemingway, “Papa” Hemingway wrote 500 words a day. That’s not bad, though. Hemingway woke early to write to avoid the heat and to write in peace and quiet. Interestingly, though Hemingway is famous for his alcoholism, he said he never wrote while drunk.

Truman Capote, the author of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “In Cold Blood” claimed to be a “completely horizontal author.” He said he had to write lying down, in bed or on a couch, with a cigarette and coffee. The coffee would switch to tea, then sherry, then martinis, as the day wore on. He wrote his first and second drafts in longhand, in pencil. And even his third draft, done on a typewriter, would be done in bed — with the typewriter balanced on his knees.

Danielle Steel works in concentrated marathon sessions, which affords her blocks of time she can devote to her large family. Unlike many of her heroines, Steel shies away from the limelight, refusing to do promotional tours, and lives a relatively quiet life that is frequently far from glamorous. When writing, she has been known to work eighteen-hour days, typing away on a 1948 metal-body Olympia in a flannel nightgown.

A typical day for one of my favorite authors, Maeve Binchy, is breakfast (grapefruit and Irish soda bread and tea,) then upstairs to a big, bright workroom. They have one long desk: her husband (Gordon Snell) is at one end, and Maeve at the other. He writes his children's books, and she does her stories. They both try to be at their desks by 8:30 AM, and they work until 1:00 PM. This includes answering mail and filing. Then when work is over, they have lunch and play a game of chess. They play seven days a week and have been doing so for over thirty years, and both admit they are still hopeless at it, but love it to bits.

For fun I asked a few author friends on Twitter if they listen to music when they're writing.

NinaPierce No music. Nadda. When I'm in full concentration, music scrambles my wiring and I can't think through it. Seems more people plan music to their book. But that is so not me. Music definitely can spur my imagination, but wreaks havoc on my thoughts.

Johnny Ray or Sirjohn_writer listens to many kinds of music, including Russian. I have others on my computer, from relaxing to explosive, it depends on my mood.

mgbraden Music? I actually don't usually listen to any. I find it easier to hear the voices without it! :-)

Stella Price or Eververse listens to alot of indie. I like The Faint, She Wants Revenge, GlassJaw and some old stuff like Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits. And LOVE Concrete Blonde.

SavannahChase listens to everything from Linkin Park, Matt Pokora, Incubus, Rob Thomas, Cinema Bizarre, Darren Hayes, The Midway State,BEP,Danny,Tommy Lee....I have a very eclectic taste..I am one of those author's who needs music while I write. I can't write in silence...Music inspires me and gives me the drive to let the story just flow through my fingers.

As you can see, the writing habits of all these authors, whether they be seasoned or new, is as diverse as the stories they tell. There is no right or wrong when it comes to settling in to write a story. The common bond I find with all authors is their love of the written word—an insatiable need to tell a story.

Write on…or go insane.

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Ms. Heather said...

Thanks for those tidbits! I love hearing about the habits of other authors.

Savanna Kougar said...

Adelle, I always find how other authors create and write. THANKS!

Yvette Davis said...

Ten pages a day?


That's enough to drive anybody to drink.

I mean, I can see 5 ... but sheesh!

Janice said...

Great post.

I read some where that Stephen King writes two thousand words a day.

I'm doing good at one thousand words a day, but that's when the story is really hot and it flowing right down though my finger and down into the key board, lol.


Jane Richardson, writer said...

Fascinating! I love reading about how writers 'do it.' I can't even write with another person in the room, and can't have music playing, need silence. Sounds from outside are fine, at the moment there's a lot of birdsong, and that's fine. :) the music is vital for 'mulling time,' though. I load up a cd of relevant songs and play it when I'm driving or doing chores. Enjoyed this a lot, Adelle!

Jane x

Lindsay Townsend said...

Wonderful blog, Adelle! I love what you do when you're on a deadline! Excellent post!

I try to write 500 words a day. Possibly more if it's flowing. Mornings are my 'best' writing times.

Adelle Laudan said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this. I love researching facts like this. Thanks!

Kissa Starling said...

What a great bunch of facts. I really enjoyed reading this blog. I usually write when I'm alone and it's quiet. That said I can have the tv or music on but when I get 'in the zone' I don't pay any attention to it.


Kelley said...

Great post. It's interesting to see how other authors work. I like music when I write. It helps inspire me. Right now my favorite bands are Apocalyptica and Nightwish.

Sorceress said...

It really is very good, we hope that the rituals are good for improving the relationship.

Diana Castilleja said...

Fun post. I'm a listen to music to write kind of person. But it can be anything from hard rock almost metal to country. 80's is a biggie with me.

1K a day is my goal. Not always met, but when it's flowing, I can do up to about 7-8K in a day. But I have to have a really good groove to get that. And it's rarer the more I write. *pooh*

Sarah Simas said...

Hi Adelle! Wonderful post!

I loved how you shut off your hearing aids when on a deadline. My brother does the same thing, but it's when our mom is nagging at him! LOL

I'm still working on my ritual. I get up early before the rugrats and write. But as soon as my little guy starts destroying his room in the morning...I don't get to write until naptime. And that is starting to dwindle as my daughter is on nap strike. *sigh*

I used to try for 1k a day, but that became too stressful. So, I focus on a scene at a time and go from there. The great thing about being a newbie is the benefit of not knowing what works. I get to test them all. LOL

Adelle Laudan said...

THanks for stopping by ladies.
Sarah,we all find our groove through trial and error. Good luck in finding yours.

Maggie Toussaint said...

What an intriguing post, Adelle! I really enjoyed hearing about these writing habits. Like you, I write in silence. Must have quiet in order to hear all those voices in my head!!!

liana laverentz said...

I find it easier to hear the voices with no music on, too :)

Bekki Lynn said...

Amazing. I enjoyed reading this. I require noise - silence drives me to distraction.

When a story flows it flows and what drives it can be anything from the characters becoming vividly real or personal emotions.

So far today, I've written nine pages. PMS is driving me this time. Darn hormones. lol

Once upon a time I'd gotten so angry one weekend back in 1995 that I started writing and wrote for 72 hours straight with Barry Manilow's greatest hits blaring in my ears - no sleep, I was that angry and my husband was out of town. It will be published one day. It's a good mainstream/women's lit story.

Stories seem to work better for me coming from some emotional depths rather than just coming from an idea.

Adelle Laudan said...

It's funny you would say this, Bekki. I just wrote over 10,000 words today on a new Christmas story. I've never written a Christmas story before. Hmmm what's up with that?
My body is making me pack it in for the night. I'm sure I will dreaming of silver bells, and get the picture LOL

LK Hunsaker said...

A fun post! It's making me want to push myself back into my steady writing habit that I had until summer came. Summer always throws me.

By this point, I can write with or without music, longhand or computer (although I keep my novels on computer for the sake of time), with people around or not. My biggest obstacle is the to-do list pressing at me.

Writing lying down? I can't imagine.

Bekki Lynn said...

I love Christmas stories, Adelle. Keep us posted on it.

10,000 words -- that's awesome.