RB and Ella: The Come On! Interview, Part 2

Back for part 2, in which we cover writing process, writing and family, and sugar fixes. Enjoy!

Ella: Day to day, what does your writing routine look like? What time do you write, how long do you write? Do you have a daily goal? How long does it take you to reach it, on average? What do you do when it’s just not working that day? Do you write crap just to get to your goal and fix it later? How much editing do you do as you work? How focused is your writing when you start for the day? Do you have the scene mapped out before you start or do you just write?

RB: My goal is to write six days a week, three pages a day. Sometimes I write more. Occasionally, less. When I’m not at my day job, I like to write first thing in the morning. Get my pages done so they aren’t hanging over my head. Do it. Do it. Do it. When I’m at work, I like to write in the middle of the work day. When I’m on a roll, I can write three pages in forty-five minutes. When the words seem to be stuck in my head with superglue, it can take double that time. When I’m stuck, I just plod through. I make sure I’m listening to my soundtrack and type one slow sticky word at a time. It’s a horrible feeling, but for myself, I’ve learned that if I just force myself through the block that it dissolves faster. And yes, I have written crap just to make my quota. Crap can be fixed during the editing phase, a blank page cannot.

I try not to edit as I write. This compulsion is still a work in progress.

If I find a scene that’s not working, I just hit the return button—even in the middle of a sentence—and start all over. And I count the non-working scene towards my three page quota. I may decide to use that scene in the end. I may combine it with the rewritten one.

I try not to start a scene, or any day of writing, blind. This just makes it harder for the words to flow. When I end writing for a day, I write a sentence or two or a paragraph about where I was headed, what the characters were feeling, thinking. This way I can jump right in the next day.

Ella: Do you have any “crutches,” like my diet coke and swedish fish thing? Music you play? Warm-up routines?

RB: I used to write with Swedish fish and sour patch kids. That didn’t always work out so well. After about twenty minutes a sugar rush would hit and my writing would be all over the place. And ten minutes later, I wanted to put my head on the desk and take a nap. Now my only crutch is my book’s soundtrack.

I don’t have any warm-up routines. I just open Word and start typing.

Ella: Do you have rules when you work about things like answering emails, surfing the internet, stopping to go get a pastry, stuff like that?

RB: At my day job there are constant interruptions. It sucks. But I’ve learned to deal with them. When I’m writing at home, I get emails out of the way and cookies set up before I start to write. My biggest issue is when I need to research a topic in the middle of a scene. Like in Callie’s story, her nemesis summer vacations in New York City and shops in all the fancy stores. Since I’ve never been to NYC or ever shopped in any extreme fancy place, I stopped writing to find the best and most expensive places to shop in NYC. I could have just made a note and looked it up later, but I had the need to find the answer RIGHT then. I stop writing to research more times than I should. And eventually I quit trying to stop myself from doing it. If I can get the answer I want in less than ten minutes, it’ll make my writing better because I will be focused on the scene and not on where Monica spent her summer vacation. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Ella: Have you had to let a lot of other things slide to focus on your writing? I know you give up sleep, but do you have to do a lot of “nope, can’t do that” to get a book done? Do people get pissy with you about that? Does the undone stuff make you crazy?

RB: Husband is really understanding and for that I’m grateful. I regret losing time with him and Bubbles the most. That’s why I started writing during the work day and why I only write six days a week instead of seven. Housework normally slides, too. And reading. And catching up on my shows. But those things aren’t as important.

Ella: Now that the girls have started school again, I get bombarded with requests for volunteering at school or fundraisers, or taking a project home to do for the teacher, etc. I used to say yes but lately I’ve just started saying no or ignoring the requests, which makes me feel mean, but I’ll never get my writing done if I keep saying yes. Sometimes I get a lot of emails and texts about some projects we’ve got going on with the house, too. It’s making me crazy. Do you deal with that?

RB: Well, not really. I prefer to stick to myself in social situations so maybe that’s why people don’t ask me to help out… Maybe you should become more antisocial. 😉 But when Husband or Bubbles ask for my help and I still have not met my quota, I do say, most of the time, that I can help after my writing. I feel guilty when I say it. And if it’s Bubbles asking, doubly so. It’s my job as a parent to be there for her, right? And soon she will be in college. So when she needs me now I should put my writing on hold and go to her. But then I think, well I only have a page and a half left to write. Probably’ll only take me thirty minutes. I will help her then… So, yes, I guess I do deal with that. And feel horribly selfish when I put my writing first.

We’ll wrap up tomorrow, talking about editing, tech, and um, possibly some sibling squabbling and/or tantrum throwing. See you then!

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2 thoughts on “RB and Ella: The Come On! Interview, Part 2

  1. That is pretty cool. And got a lot to learn but than again i am just an amateur who just got started. strange though while writing an hour like today I don’t have the time to get a sugar fix.I have to make myself stop ::D to have a drink or something else.
    Again thank you both and look forward to part 3

    • Ella: It’s amazing how much nuts-and-bolts stuff there is to learn about writing. My assumption for so long was that it’s a creative thing, so you just do it and hope for genius, and there is some of that, but there’s so much craft and process to fall back on, to make that “genius” easier to achieve. I took writing classes in college and got none of this, which just makes me want to bang my head against the wall now–all that time wasted!

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