Tag Archives: whitechapel

How I Write

writing processRecently on Chuck Wendig’s blog, he was talking about the nuts and bolts of his writing process. I posted a comment about my own process, but thought I would expand on it a bit.

First off, because I write at work as well as at home, I don’t have a daily timeframe in which I always write. What I’m working on in a particular day changes too frequently to fall into a process, and writing at home is often when I have some spare time and the energy to do it. As a result, my writing timetable is more about daily time management rather than something like “I get up at 5am and write for three hours.” That being said, I do try to write something meaningful every day, and I tend to write before noon on weekends, and between noon and early evening on weekdays.

I tend to write first drafts in plain text. For a while I just used Notepad in Windows, but I’ve recently been a convert to WriteMonkey. It doesn’t have easy text formatting tools or spell check (which is good, because that tends to be what I fiddle with when writing first drafts), but there are useful features like real time wordcount and a progress bar that keep me going back to it. Basically, it gets the hell out of the way and lets me write my ugly first draft without judging me. Even better, I can install it on my Dropbox, so I always have it on any computer I have my Dropbox hooked up to.

A quick side note: I know a lot of writers like programs like WriteMonkey because they are “distraction-free.” I’ve also heard stories of writers who turn of their Internet connection or shut down certain pieces of software while they’re writing. I don’t do that – the only concession I’ll make to the Internet when I’m writing is that I’ll switch my Google Talk to “Do Not Disturb.” When writing in the office, I can’t really block out email or IM, especially because our IM client (Communicator) also doubles as our office telephone system. But in general, I tend to work in short sprints of 10-15 minutes, instead of trying to run a marathon of several hours. Sure, sometimes I get into the groove and I’ll write until I stop, but more often than not taking two minutes to answer a quick work email will recharge me enough to start my next 10 minute sprint.

Second and subsequent drafts used to be done in Word 2010 at work and OpenOffice 3 for home, but over the past few months I’ve run into enough formatting problems trying to switch documents between the software suites that I went ahead and put Word 2010 on my personal laptop as well. I used to just copy and paste the text from WriteMonkey into Word, but recently I’ve been playing with the textile markup export. Between that and Word 2010 styles, I can go right from boring text to a look that is closer to what I want, so I can jump right into revision instead of (again) fucking around with formatting.

I do subsequent drafts in Word until I’m ready to call something final. Then I usually print it out, or export it to a new program to look at it one more time, because changing the context can often cause thing to jump out at me that I didn’t see before.

Blog posts like this one are generally written in Windows Live Writer 2011, because blogs are pretty much one-draft writing. The exceptions are my Tour de Holmes essays, which go through the usual WriteMonkey/Word process, because those require more research and crafting.

All of my writing (both work and personal) is saved to Dropbox. Not only does it mean I always have access to everything I’ve written, but Dropbox does save old versions of files, so if I really screw up (which I’ve done a couple of times), it’s easy for me to go back in time and get that draft I thoughtlessly deleted.1 One side benefit is that I can also pull my drafts on my phone, which has been useful when I get a spontaneous idea or when asked about a particular point of a project in progress.

I’ve been trying out the Scrivener beta, and I’m already in love with its organizational options. It might replace WriteMonkey for longer projects like Whitechapel and Marvelous Superheroes, but thus far I haven’t done too much with it – I’ve tried out too many betas to trust a project I care about to them. But once it’s out of beta, I’ll likely drop the $40 and start moving some projects into it.

What’s your process like?

  1. I’m ruthless in deleting old drafts. Unless there’s a strong reason for me to keep an old draft, I’ll delete it rather than letting it clog up my hard drive, and I’ll often delete old drafts once a project is done.

Status Report

My Grandmother's glasses

Image by Earl – What I Saw 2.0 via Flickr

Things have calmed down a bit, so I have time to write a status report of what’s up with me.

The weekend sorting out Grandmom’s house and going to her funeral was emotionally difficulty, but socially and logistically fine. There was no drama, and only very minor snags in getting things sorted out. We’ll probably have to make a few trips back and forth to TN to resolve some more stuff, but it’s just a matter of getting it all done.

It hit me hard partially because it was so sudden — just a few weeks ago we were at her house over Christmas break, and we had no idea that there was any problem. The other part is because, in many ways, Grandmom had become much like a mother to Michelle (and by extension, me and David) over the past few years, so it was more like losing a parent than a grandparent.

But life moves on, and so do we.

Work has been its usual blend of awesome, exciting, challenging, stressful, and systemically chaotic. For every time I have to toss documents onto my netbook to make sure I can work over the weekend to get things done, there are the times when I get to play Assassin’s Creed 2 and Mass Effect 2 as research for work.

I admit I was reluctant to get back to work on Tuesday after the emotional rollercoaster, but I also know that if I don’t force myself to be social, I’ll become a hermit and withdraw from people even further. Luckily, I have a lot of friends that I’m privledged to call co-workers, and between the camaraderie and the personal feeling of accomplishment I get when I can check items off of my list, I was able to feel more myself by the end of the day.

Social Life
Weirdly, the past few months have seen a resurgance in my social life. I’m going out to dinner more often than I ever used to, and it seems that it’s a rare weekend where we don’t have something going on. (For example, this weekend is our monthly Requiem LARP, and then we have tickets to see the WWE Royal Rumble here in Atlanta.) I’m in a few different games, and we often go out to concerts, shows, and events.

I’m often not a very social person, usually happy to sit at home, but I have to admit that it’s been really nice going out and being with other human creatures. Of course, sometimes I’ve had to bow out of a social obligation to get work or writing done, but it’s been nice to have the option to hang out with a diverse group of people with varying interests. Plus, it’s good for me to get out of my head for a while and not burn out on the endless projects I can end up giving myself to do.

Right now I’m working on side projects like Whitechapel and my podcasts and my anthology fiction when I have bits of time. For a while I was able to juggle it all, but with Grandmom passing I’m having to prioritize everything on my plate. Still, Whitechapel is getting some good buzz, and I have some notes for the ghost story I want to write in the next couple of months. Like Justin, I’ve got a lot of scraps that I want to stitch together, so I might as well keep driving that into stuff that sees the light of day. I’m also continuing to learn from my peers and trying new things all the time about my craft.

The Camarilla
Honestly, I haven’t been paying a whole lot of attention to it. I understand some stuff is going on, and some people are excited by some stuff and angry at other stuff, but after nearly 13 years of regular club participation, it seems like people are always excited by some stuff and angry at other stuff.

Mass Effect 2
Did I mention that I’m playing Mass Effect 2? Because I am. (Well, not at the moment. Right now I’m getting ready to go play D&D.)

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Writing and writing and writing

New & Noteworthy Books

Image by olinlibref via Flickr

Before I start, I need a moment.



Whew. There. Now that that’s out of my system, "Gloomy Sunday" has been confirmed as one of the stories in the upcoming Close Encounters of the Urban Kind by Apex Publishing. This is awesome for a couple of reasons: it’s only the second time I’ve been paid for my straight fiction (the first was "Questions" for the Pseudopod podcast), and it’s the first time I’ve been invited into an anthology instead of blindly submitting a story for consideration. I have a chance to do a polish and reformatting pass before the editor gives me redlines. And then, at some point in the future, the awesome happens.

But no time to slow down. I’ve been chugging along on Whitechapel, and I’m pretty pleased with how it’s turning out. I’ve been babbling about my writing process on that project quite a bit — you can check out my post-mortems if you’re interested.

And because my brain doesn’t have enough going on, I’ve been poking around with an older project for the past few days — a weird kind of pulp superhero universe. It’s something I’ve kicked around for a few years now, but it’s been intermingled with some other projects in my head, and I’m in the process of slowly extracting them so I can focus on fleshing out those elements. Originally I had a few different OpenOffice documents that I was trying to keep notes in, but it was hard to keep track of all the interconnections, so I’m now putting all my notes into a TiddlyWiki page. My time running a Scion cycle on Obsidian Portal has helped me to think of ways to use a wiki for cross-referencing world information and characters. Of course, I don’t have any plans to work on comic scripts or a superhero RPG, so I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do with it just yet, but I’m sure I’ll have some fun with it at some point.

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