Process Porn For Writers

Taxing The other day, Marko asked:

I’m a sucker for process porn…I like reading about how other writers get the words down. What’s your hardware /software setup for writing? Laptop, desktop, longhand, sticks and clay tablets? PC, Mac, Linux, Amiga OS? Scrivener, Word, WordStar for DOS, Notepad?

(I like to do my first drafts in longhand, and then do my first editing pass when I transcribe onto the computer. I also use Dropbox to keep all my scribblings in sync across four computers, so I can grab whatever’s handy.)

You want to know my process? I can do that. I mean, if you want to hear about the parts of the process that reveal that I am alone in a godless universe, well, you’ll find a day in the life described right here.

But the nitty-gritty-nuts-and-bolts-dick-and-balls process, sure. I can talk about that.

The night before, I tend to do some prep-work on the next day’s blog post. Ideally.

Morning, I get up, I go into an office with an L-shaped desk. (This is, of course, after the coffee is with me. Nothing happens before coffee is bubbling inside the cauldron of my body. I require caffeine magic.)

I compose the rest of the morning’s blog post. I do this right inside the bowels of WordPress itself — the service auto-saves pretty regularly, and I’m also obsessed with clicking SAVE on any document upon which I work, so it doesn’t present me with any issues of losing text.

I tend to post a blog post sometime between 7AM and 9AM, unless I was fortunate enough to finish it up the night before, at which point that mad little fucker goes live right at 12:01AM.

Then it’s time to move into the meat and potatoes writing. Right now I’m working on a personal project, and that’s tricky, because I also have a number of paying projects competing for attention. So, what I do is carve out a little time before, say, 10AM to run through 500-1500 words in that personal thing. It’s not fast, but it’s something, and it guarantees that I’m playing the long con as well as the short scam.

I write my fiction directly into Microsoft Word, I think it’s ’07. The prior release. I do so on a desktop computer with a — I think it’s a 24″ monitor. Big, bright. In Word, I let the text fill the page — I more easily catch mistakes when the words are big and bold like that. It also feels very clean. I dunno. Don’t judge me. I have tried Scrivener Beta for Windows, and I was only in there for a couple minutes. Seemed cool, but a) It looked very Windows-flavored and failed to have the clean brightness of Mac programs (and Word has that brightness, in my opinion) and b) I just don’t have time to learn Scrivener’s ins and outs right now.

During this time, I close down Tweetdeck, Thunderbird, and Firefox. I leave only the document open as well as my Dropbox directory.

I have the iPad set up to my right, and if I need to check the Internet for research or take a breather, I do so using the iPad. That single-screen device helps cleave away distractions.

The iPad is also good because it’s where I write and keep a lot of my notes. I predominantly use PlainText for that, but also use Index Card. Thinking too of getting hold of Instapaper, because Evernote doesn’t do the trick in terms of web-clipping on the iPad.

I then move onto the paying work — I originally did it reverse, with my personal work coming after, but it didn’t fly, motivation-wise. I am motivated to do paying work because, duh, see the word “paying.” Personal work carries with it no such impetus because I cannot guarantee it will ever earn me any coin. Hence, I do that first. It gets a (small, admittedly) priority.

Paying work is generally in Word, as well.

Script work is in Final Draft, which sucks balls and I will one day change but for now it suits my needs without making me tear my nipples off to eat them like single-bite amuse-bouches.

I keep track of all paying work in a clumsy Excel spreadsheet. Accurately track deadlines and start dates, less accurately track when I should have or have been paid.

Afternoons are generally for editing. I edit in Word and Final Draft with the Track Changes revision feature on, so I can see what’s changing and what’s already changed. Plus, all that red feels… eerily productive. When I get notes back from someone, I sometimes print them out. It’s easier than switching windows or opening several at once. A hard copy has value for me.

I back everything up with Dropbox. I also have a pair of external hard drives.

I often PDF stuff at vital stages, too.

I never write anything longhand because my handwriting looks like you duct-taped a pen to a hamster on quaaludes and let him run around a notebook page for an hour. Messy, apocalyptic handwriting.

This sounds awful, perhaps, but sometimes a glass of wine or Scotch helps loosen the writing up a little. That sounds like I’m an alcoholic, but I rarely do this, and when I do, no more than a glass. Or, ahem, two.

I also really like meth. Not for writing, but for housecleaning.

I kid, I kid. No meth for Wendig. It’s a state law.

I try to get in some reading during the day. In a perfect world that reading would be endless tracts of awesome fiction, but usually, it’s something I’m researching. A shame, but there it is. I also drink a cup of tea somewhere in the middle of the day. Really helps.

Also in the middle of the day, meetings sometimes occur. Usually betwixt me and the writing partner, Lance. For that, it’s often Skype. Sometimes a cell phone.

I do not work past the afternoon. I gotta cook dinner and need downtime, so the work day is over when the work day is over. Outside some light blog prep that night, I almost universally do not extend my work into the evenings. If I’m on deadline,  I just plan in advance and get the writing done before that.

I am less productive when I over-work. Go figure.

When our child is born, I expect all of this to go vomiting out a window.

Howzabout you people? Titillate us with your process porn. Tell us how your, erm, sausage is made.