How, When, Where to Write?
by Gloria T. Delamar
Terms to Know Because Their Applications Should Be
Crediting of a person or thing to a time other (especially earlier),
than the actual period; something placed or occurring out of its proper
time. (Even fiction writers must do basic research.)
The bestowing of human characteristics on animals or inanimate objects
(Not highly-regarded by editors today; seen in SOME juvenile stories, but
be aware that many editors of juveniles are tired of this "cuteness").
A trite, stereotyped expression, idea, or practice; hackneyed by constant
use or repetition; commonplace. (Editors want fresh expressions and ideas.)
The Wonders of ILL:
Do you know that most libraries participate in the InterLibrary Loan
system? They can get you almost any book in print, with the possible exception
of rare volumes or those published in very small numbers. First they try
the local connections, then the state network, then regional, and then
national. Sometimes the book can be obtained in only a day or two; sometimes
it can take months.
Magazines are also available through ILL. Sometimes the entire issue
is sent; sometimes only the article you need is photocopied. There's rarely
a fee, although you occasionally run into a library that provides the needed
item, but discourages usage by asking for high fees. If there's a fee,
you'll be alerted ahead of time, so you can decide if you want the material
sent or not.
"Age" the Material and "Cool" the Manuscript:
When you've done all your research for your article, or thought out
the characters and plot-line of your short story, let the material "age"
in your conscious and subconscious for a little while. Give it a chance
to come together so the important elements take their proper place and
the whole is well thought out. Don't write too soon.
After your manuscript is written, put it aside to "cool." In the first
flush of creation, you're far more likely to be enamored of your words
than you are if you put them aside for a few days (some writers say two
weeks), work on something else, and come back to the material with a fresh
Quitting Point; Starting Point:
There are basically two approaches to how writers quit for the day
or session--and begin work again. Some like to leave sections incomplete,
so they can come back and pick up right where they left off. Others like
to work to a logical stopping point in the material; when they come back
to the work, they're ready to tackle the next phase.
Which method works best for you is an individual matter. There are those
who say that quitting with sections incomplete wipes out writer's block,
because the writing session already has a defined starting place. Others
like the sense of completion that comes with thinking of the material in
phases; they like the challenge of coming back to new territory.
You might think about your work methods, especially if you regularly
find it difficult to get a session started. Try the opposite method from
what you've been doing and see if that helps.
Day or Night--Adjust to Write:
Know what your basic metabolism is. Are you a lark or an owl--a diurnal
or a nocturnal? No matter what other writers advocate as the best time
to write, your own body knows when you are at the peak of YOUR creativity.
Accommodate your writing time to your best "mind" time. Get up early? Schedule
mid-day sessions? Stay up later at night? Do it YOUR way to accomplish
more and do better work.
Identify and Date Your Clippings:
When you tear clippings from newspapers and magazines for your files,
don't forget to jot the date and publication data on them. You may need
this reference information later.
Responses to Question, "How, Where, When, Do You Write?"
Successful writers are frequently asked by beginning writers (or blocked
ones) where, when, and how they write, as though mimicking that style might
bring sales or creative juices to the asker. Answers are so diverse that
they may seem to be of little help. But there may be ideas to consider
in examining how other writers approach their work.
Herewith, comments of selling writers, varied and some contradictory
I approach my computer as though it is an accomplice in the writing,
which it is. * Since the advent of the computer, I've increased my output
and my will-to-edit trifold. * The first draft is always in pencil. * I
pound out the drafts on my trusty old ty typewriter. * And from the elite:
I dictate to my secretary.
Re dress-code: I dress for the day, taking the attitude that I'm going
to work. * I stay in my nightwear all day. * I keep a separate set of what
would ordinarily be loose-fitting nightclothes and change to those to work
Re Starting/Stopping Points:
I always finish a scene or section before quitting so I can start anew
at the next go-round. * I always quit in the middle of a part and pick-up
from that when I go back.
I keep all my work in my study so I can pick-up whenever I choose (heard
most often, even where the study consists of nothing more than a desk).
* At the dining table when the family is out. * I do a lot of the actual
writing sitting in the local library. * I go to a fast-food place, order
a snack, and write until the place gets too full of people to work peacefully.
* Sometimes I just take off in my car and park somewhere.
Five days a week, with weekends off to live normally. * Seven days
a week. * "X" hours a day (answers vary from one or two all the way to
eight or more). * When I choose--I don't seem to need a set schedule. *
When I'm on a project, I work feverishly, the rest of the time at my leisure.
* With family and work obligations, I schedule Monday evenings and Saturday
mornings and try to keep those times sanctified for writing. * Early in
the morning (this person's called a diurnal/lark/day person). * Late at
night when the rest of the world sleeps (this writer's known as a nocturnal/owl/night
Re-writing and/or Polishing:
At least two or three times. * It varies, sometimes depending on the
material; but there are always several revisions. * Maybe from three to
ten times; it varies; but never, "never." * About a dozen times. * It never
seems to end, up through re-writing the galleys. (Only naive beginners
and geniuses don't re-write.)
If your current method doesn't satisfy you or seem to bring out the
best, consider trying another approach. If you always write randomly, try
a schedule, and vice versa. If you always dress for the day, try some loose
robes, or vice versa. If you always write in pencil, it may be time to
join the computer age (no vice versa here, writers who make the change
rarely say they'd like to go back to the pencil or pen, though many re-write
with pencil-notes on printed-out drafts). If the dining table presents
problems with having to move things constantly, try even the smallest corner
of the apartment or house, or maybe a closet turned into a tiny room via
a folding door, where you can keep your things available. Blocked? How
about altering your starting/stopping concept?
But, don't bother trying to turn a diurnal into a nocturnal or vice
versa--it simply won't work. A true conversation: One nocturnal writer
was asked by a diurnal, "What can you do at 3 a.m. that you couldn't do
at 9 a.m.? The nocturnal replied, "Well, let me put it this way: what can
you do at 9 a.m. that you couldn't do at 3 a.m.?" An enlightened "Oh" ended
Thought for all Time: Stop PLANNING to write--WRITE.
- © Gloria T. Delamar