Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Daily Routine, Part 2

(The long-awaited conclusion to Part 1!)

As promised, here's a breakdown of my writing habits. D will have to speak for herself. And, ironically, today is a very atypical day--we got up at eight in the morning, at least two hours before I usually stir, so we could let the cleaners in at 8:40 AM. They're earning their pay right now.

I've committed to writing a new flash fiction story every week until at least October, 2009; those appear every Friday at 512 Words or Fewer. I usually spend most of Thursday--or Wednesday, if we have other plans for Thursday, as we do this week--writing that story and recording the audio. Best case, it takes me an hour or two to do the writing, half an hour to record myself reading it, and another half hour to find intro/outro music and do the audio editing. Most weeks, I'll spend Monday and Tuesday mulling over my story idea until I can get a handle on it. Writing is as much about critical thinking as it is about stringing words together.

Since I get bored quickly and am easily distracted, I've taken to using full-screen text editors: WriteRoom on the Mac, and DarkRoom Q10 on the PC. I suppose if I had more self-control, I wouldn't need to clear my screen to keep from playing on the Internet when I should be writing, but the green-on-black display is also comforting and nostalgic. Besides, it's still easy to hit F9 or Alt-Tab, respectively, when I need to look something up in Wikipedia.

I save my current works-in-progress on a 4GB thumb drive. Since they're all text files (UTF-8, thankyouverymuch), I can easily move them between my Mac (which is user friendly), my desktop PC (which has MS Office), and my laptop (which also has Office, and is portable). I know, I could use Google Docs or DropBox or something to sync files, but it's like Scotty said: "The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain." I just need one frickin' text file, okay?

And yes, I do have emacs installed on all my computers. Fear my elite skill set.

I often listen to music while I write. Usually it's a film score, because lyrics can be distracting; "Weird Al" Yankovic songs demand too much cognitive focus to be background. I'm not looking for noise--just something that's different enough to be orthogonal to my primary task, but ideally complementary to it. For example, Hans Zimmer's scores are great for writing action scenes.

When I know what I'm going to write, I can produce about 1,000 words an hour of first draft. (I type pretty quickly.) My problem, as I told Jim MacDonald at Viable Paradise, is not putting words down on paper; it's putting the right words on the paper. ("Ah!" he replied. "You have achieved enlightenment.")

Backups are important. I copy finished files from my thumb drive to my desktop PC, where they'll get automatically uploaded to Mozy every seven days. All my computers run MozyHome for offsite backups, and though I haven't needed to restore anything yet, I've lived through two complete hard drive failures in the past, and I'm willing to pay $5 per computer each month to avoid a third massive-data-loss ordeal.

I've started using Duotrope's Digest to track my short story submissions. One of my goals for this year is to get two(2) pieces published in professional or semi-pro markets... but I'll talk about all that in a separate post later this week.

~CKL
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