- by Laura Resnick
Rejection, Romance, and Royalties:
The Wacky World of a Working Writer
I’m not a creature of habit. Mostly because I’m not organized and disciplined enough to maintain habits. So I hate the inevitable questions about my “habits” as a writer.
You know the questions I mean: How many hours per day do you write? How many pages per day do you write? How long does it take you to write a book? How long is a chapter? Do you see the characters or the plot first? What time of day do you write? Do you face East or West when writing?
Good grief, I don’t know.
And I’m often flabbergasted when I hear about how someone else writes a book. Multiple drafts? (I’d quit in exhausted despair.) Graphs and charts and right-angle juxtaposition? (I was always bad at geometry.) Everything planned in advance, all factors known and accounted for before composing the prose. (I’d never feel compelled to write if I already knew everything that would happen.) Scenes written at random, then later put in order and quilted together. (How does one even do that?)
I’m also regularly bowled over by the work habits that other writers reveal: Writing from 4:00 AM to 7:00 AM. (Sorry, I’m busy REMing at that time.) Writing ten pages a day everyday no matter what. (The number of friends whom I’ve had to coax out of the “I’m so inadequate, I’m such a fraud!” doldrums after hearing that one…) Writing on separate projects in the morning and the afternoon. Writing without leaving a room for weeks. Writing in public, in private, by hand, with voice-operated software, without music, with one specific piece of music playing non-stop, with the TV on, with the blinds drawn, with candles burning, with cookies at hand, outside, inside, at the beach, on a laptop, in a laundry room…
Meanwhile, if you’re someone who can’t ever get into the habit of forming habits, like me, then your writing process is always changing. Which is why I can never answer those questions about how I write. I don’t really know how many pages a day I write, or how many hours a day I sit here, or what daily goals I set, or what I know (or don’t know) at the start of a project or a scene, or how much research I do! I don’t really know because every book is different, and because I’m different for every book. Moreover, my process for a 250,000-word epic fantasy is different than it is for non-fiction, or for a 100,000-word contemporary novel, or for a 3,000-word short story.
So when people ask me all that stuff about how I write…not only can I not fathom why anyone would want to know this, since there is no right answer, no universal formula, no secret handshake, and it’s a pretty darn dull subject, anyhow…but I also really don’t have an answer. One way or another, the books and the stories and the articles get done year after year, and that’s all that really matters.