Thursday, December 24, 2009

Writing spaces

Christi Corbett is guest posting on Pimp My Novel today. Her post is about ideal writing spaces versus actual ones and it's a fun read, and it got me thinking about writing habits. I find other writers' writing habits interesting so I think I'll post about my own (or, as my grandmother used to say, 'Enough about you, now back to me.')

I once shared her vision of the ideal writing space along with her beliefs about what it would do to my writing ability. Once I stepped into the magic writing space, everything would be, as William Goldman might say, even better than magic.

Not so. Anyone surprised? :)

Good writing happens in the strangest of places. On my current WIP, the best piece of writing that I think I've done so far (I bet the two people who've read it probably disagree) was done when I was on a temp placement in a very quiet office the week before Christmas. The phone wasn't ringing. I had no internet connection. There was only one staff member in the office and she was busy being important. I was busy being the 24 year old temp receptionist, bored beyond belief. There were no magazines to flick through, and I bite my nails down to stumps so I couldn't even file them desultorily.

Woe was me.

Eventually - after several hours, I'd like to point out - I remembered that I occasionally write things and had been working on a novel for ten months. I didn't have the file with me to work on (and couldn't have uploaded it to the work computer even if I had) so I picked a scene that I hadn't written yet but that I knew had to happen, and I wrote it.

I left the office that day beaming, skipping, singing and full of Christmas cheer.

Writing spaces, indeed.

In fact, if I didn't have a full-time job now, I'd probably be begging for placements at that company again.

My usual writing space is on the couch at home. I tend to sit with my feet curled under me like a question mark and my laptop balanced on the side of one thigh. My laptop is an almost 4-year old iBook (one of the nice white ones) and it 500MB of free space on the hard drive. It's an old friend and I love it, but it does tend to go on strike, cry, and rent its garments every time I hit 'Save'. Far from perfect, but it works for me.

I also write in cafes, during breaks at work, or with people when I can find spare time and another person.

When I'm blocked, I use Write or Die. That got me through the hardest portion of my WIP. You choose a word count goal and a duration, and then you have to keep typing until your time is up. If you stop, your computer will play a very annoying sound. I sometimes cheat and just keep typing and erasing full stops to stop the sound going off while I think about what to write next (I lack honour). I haven't been brave enough to try Kamikaze mode yet - that deletes what you've already written if you pause for too long.

It's the game element of Write or Die that I like. Can I manage four hundred words in ten minutes? Oh, I did, brilliant! Let's try 500 this time. . . I can keep that up for hours. I usually have to scrap at least half of what I write but it is good for getting myself warmed up.

What techniques and tricks do you use? Where do you do your best writing? Does it matter? :)


  1. You know me, I seem to write wonderfully in the Lake District but fail miserably everwhere else.

    I guess a writing space can be helpful, but for the most part I find it's the state of mind I am in as opposed to the location that really effects my writing. Creating a location just focuses the state of mind... then again maybe I'm just odd.

  2. Where I write depends largely upon my current WIP's status. I can write first draft in a box. My revisions are almost all done on the butcher block kitchen table where I can spread out my scenes and pages. I have a small desk in my office that I write in a lot. I love that space. I also write in cafes and while on the run. I learned during my move that I can write anywhere if necessary. My DD's broken toe? I wrote in the doctor's office. My recent trip to Texas? I wrote in the bed, pillow beneath the laptop, while DH drove his dad to get a shot in Longview. I set the timer on the microwave when I am at home. 60 minutes, beep, up and get a coffee or toss in a load of laundry, back down again for another 60 till I get my requisite time in (4 hours or more is my goal).

    I will be like Pavlov's dog when I am ninety. I will probably get up and try to fold laundry at the nursing home whenever I hear a beep.

  3. Thanks for the posts, guys, interesting to know :)

    Zoe, I totally agree with you about the state of mind being more important - I'm currently trying everything from crystal therapy to hypnosis to imbue my new netbook with 'productivity' vibes.

    Christine, I do like the idea of you training yourself to respond to beeps :) I bet the nursing home staff will be delighted!


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