Guest Author Maurene Goo: How I Draft by Avoiding It Until I Have No Choice But to Write
The hardest thing about being an author is writing.
All the other stuff that comes with it—social media, panels, signings—it’s all ancillary to the main show: Your book.
And my God, do I find ways to avoid writing it. To sit there and do the actual work.
While drafting, my house is spectacularly clean. All my plants are thriving. The bathroom cabinet is stocked with toilet paper. My inbox is a dream. My Instagram grid looks amazing.
But then, I eventually do the thing. I start thinking about my book. I write pages of notes in my new notebook dedicated to this manuscript. I make little flashcard things, hard copy or on Scrivener. I read entire books or just bits and pieces of books that might inspire me. I watch TV shows with characters and humor that fit my story. I brainstorm with writer friends and my husband. Hours are spent online researching the weirdest things. I get a good feel for the book and am ready for the next step.
For years, I resisted outlining. And then I started writing on deadline which changed everything. I was forced to have a plan. To plot. And so I found a sweet spot: Instead of a rigid outline, I just write out, almost conversationally, what happens in each scene. There’s an improvisational spirit to it that pleases my pantsing-loving heart.
Okay, so then… I am finally ready to write.
You know how some writers will write anywhere they can, in whatever time they can eke out? I have seen people post about writing in their car while their child was in piano practice for thirty minutes and I am like :O Pretty much impressed by anyone who can write in less than perfect conditions because I am not like that. I need a very controlled environment that includes:
- The perfect writing soundtrack and good speakers or headphones
- Access to beverages
- Perfect temperature, not too cold, not too hot
- Internet, even though I shouldn’t be on it
- Pristine surface for my laptop
- No people around me who will talk a lot or make annoying repetitive sounds (misophonia woes)
Ridiculous, you say? That is correct! These are all obstacles I have built for myself to waste time, to make excuses, to not start.
The truth is, I seek out these conditions initially, but once I start writing, I remember how to be a writer again.
And how do I start writing? It sounds boring but… I keep to a schedule and have a daily word count goal. I used to poo-poo routine. Like I am such an artiste that I can only write when the muse comes. In a dream world, yeah. When it’s a job with a deadline, a routine is necessary for me. I’ve done this enough times now to know that I write best in the late afternoon. Mornings are a joke because I wake up late and am a zombie. And then it’s impossible to write when hungry, so I’ve got to eat lunch. And then, then I’m ready because I got social media and chatting with friends all out of my system. And I don’t need an entire work day to write even if writing is my full time job. I simply can’t sustain hours of writing. (I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.) Nothing good comes out of me sitting in front of my computer for eight hours attempting to write.
But with those few hours? I make the most of it. I write using the Pomodoro technique. It feels almost salesy to say I actually use a specific method, but it’s worked, not just for me, but for a ton of my friends as well. (This sounds like a very appealing pyramid scheme!) It’s a very simple method where you write for 25-30 minutes straight, then take a 5 minute break. Then go again. As many times as you need to. I usually do 4-5 sessions of this in one sitting.
I often write with my friends, too. I need to see humans once in awhile, it’s one of the things I miss about having a full time office job. So, a solid group of writer friends have become my coworkers and we all meet at coffee shops and write together using this method. After the water cooler talk, someone inevitably says, “Okay, should I set the timer?” If I’m not with friends physically, I have online writer friends, too, and we do accountability sessions that are similar. After the timer goes off, we check in and ask how we did, or even share snippets of work.
The accountability is really what helps me the most. As I have just spent more than 800 words saying: I will find any reason not to do my work so working with others has proven to be the best method that works for me.
And then, sometimes? You just have to finish the book. Like, faster than you have time for. So, as a natural insomniac, I also do some of my best work in the middle of the night when it feels like the entire world is sleeping. No one’s online and it feels lonely. And it’s usually in these 2 a.m. writing jags that I feel myself back in that space where all writers start: I love writing. And really, no matter how you do it, that’s where you always hope to find yourself.