The Writing Process (2/22/17)


I’m a high-maintenance writer.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m not one of those “I’ll-only-drink-one-brand-of-bottled-water-and-only-eat-red-jellybeans-at-my-book-signings” types of authors . . . those luxuries are reserved for big shots like Stephen King and Craig A. Hart. If I’m invited to do a book signing, I’m thrilled if they give me a chair and a pencil.

No, my high-maintenance issue is much more serious. For me to successfully put words on the page, I need to carefully set the stage and ease into my book. Writing, for me, is the equivalent of sliding into a scalding hot bath by first inserting a toe, followed by a foot, all the while hoping I don’t slip, break my neck, and drown. Getting into the right mindset can be a challenge, which is why I have a system in place that hasn’t failed me yet.

First and foremost: room temperature. My writing lair gets cold—especially during the winter months—so foot coverage is mandatory. I’m currently rocking Mogwai slippers from the movie Gremlins, but any movie-based footwear will do. I also run a space heater to maintain a steady stream of warm air. Once the temperature is exactly 70 degrees (I joke, of course—anywhere between 70 and 70.5 is acceptable), it’s time to crack open my beverage. Morning writing sessions require a cold Mountain Dew (chilled to an ICEE slush consistency in the freezer for 20 minutes), while evening sessions merit a classy alcohol-based beverage like Bud Light. Tea and water are also acceptable, but only in moderation. My bladder isn’t made of steel.

Next comes darkness. Or I should say: dimness. Not of the mind or soul, but of the actual room. My lair is in the farthest corner of our basement, as it’s the perfect place to escape noise and distraction. The window has been carefully covered with Styrofoam, parchment paper, and a massive Rent movie poster, ensuring not even a glimmer of light can peek through. On my desk are two small lamps—each producing a soft glow to illuminate my character sheets and time lines . . . and also so I can easily locate my beverage.

Music is the final, and possibly most important, ingredient. First drafts demand loud and intense heavy metal (bands like Archons and Slayer fit the bill nicely), while rewrites require more concentration, thus softer music, in the form of movie soundtracks. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard are two favorites, while Bear McCreary is always a close third. Tip: Headphones are invaluable to help drown out those pesky sounds of the “real world” that might seep in from upstairs.

Now it’s time to get down to business.

Once the dual monitors hum to life, I open my work-in-progress and get ready to think about writing. But first, Facebook must be checked to see how many times my hilarious cat post has been “liked,” or if anyone has shared the link to my latest novel. If not, two new posts are created (carefully adhering to the strict cat/book—book/cat formula), and from there, it’s off to Twitter, where I cleverly retweet other people’s posts, instead of taking the time to create my own. (I suck at Twitter.) Amazon is my next destination, where I check the sales ranking of my novels (if I were shameless, this is where I would mention the titles as Mortom, Resthaven, and Roam), before finally moving to goodreads, to see if there are any new reviews since I last checked on my phone fifteen minutes prior.

And with that, the writing can finally begin . . . unless I need to stretch my legs and reset the process.