Finding the (right) time to write

Our environment influences us, no doubt. It changes our mood, our attention span and our train of thought. I’ve come to find (without too much surprise) that it has a direct influence on my writing.

I’ve spoken before about atmosphere and writing – with respect to music and background noise in particular. But location isn’t the only thing that changes the way we write. For me, time of day is extremely important. Depending on whether or not I can see the sun shining, how long it’s been since I’ve slept, the knowledge of what’s going on in the outside world… all of those things can play a role. In my experience it really depends on the type of material I’m writing, but knowing the right time to write can be just as important as finding the correct place. Let’s start at the beginning.

Morning.

Mornings are damn productive. Get up and go. My preferred method? Empty stomach, lots of coffee, empty cafe. For some reason I do my best long prose writing in the mornings. This is when my novels get a boost. It’s a great time for brainstorming and even better for a high word count in a short amount of time. Mornings seem to be a great time to express a lot of emotion and thought without over thinking things. It’s easy to get into a flow. My favorite time of day for poetry.

Afternoon.

This is prime dialogue time. I’ve had my coffee, I’ve had something to eat. People are moving, talking, commuting all around. This is when I can really focus on word choice and character building, making conversation-writing a dream. In the morning I let my imagination run wild with ideas, and in the afternoon it all comes together. Not a good time for poetry, I’ve found. Stream of consciousness is much more predictable (and less interesting). I love writing fantasy in the afternoons, as this is when I do my best technical thinking and problem solving.

Evening.

For me, this is the least productive time of day. In the evenings I enjoy reading other people’s works, watching movies, listening to music. It’s nearly impossible for me to focus on my own writing in the evening, unless I’m especially inspired or have found the perfect location. This is when my mind is on other things.

Late night.

This, my friends, is where the horror happens. After-dark writing produces an atmosphere that I just can’t seem to tap into at other times of the day. Emotions are easy to unlock, settings become much more vivid in my mind and – perhaps most importantly – I’m tired. This is when the thoughts that come at the end of a long day – thoughts that we tend to push out of our minds in the lighter hours – start to creep into full view. If I dim the lights and turn my back to an open door and start typing, I can really unsettle myself at times. When I start glancing over my shoulder and double checking to make sure the door is locked, now I’m in prime terror territory. Poems and short stories thrive here.

Of course, this is just my experience. You may find that your right times for writing are totally different. Whatever the case, try out different things. If you’re stuck in a rut or running out of ideas, leave it for later. Get up early the next morning and try again. Have a go after supper. If that’s not your thing, wait until the lights go out and try again. Style is a tricky beast to master, but experimentation will help you figure it out. And if it doesn’t work? Try again later.

Happy writing.

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What NaNoWriMo Taught Me

This could be a huge post, but I’ll keep it moderately short, as my education via NaNoWriMo can be summed up in one sentence:

I can’t write a book in a month.

Now, there’s a few reasons. One is my style. I’m a slow writer without a doubt when it comes to large projects. I get excited, then work frantically, then lose interest, and then become absent for a while. Then the cycle starts anew. It’s probably the most important reason I’m not a professional writer – I’m not reliable when it comes to time constraints and deadlines for a story.

Next is my inherent inability to judge scope. What I mean by this, is that I constantly over or underestimate the size and scale of my projects when I start them out. One of the novels I’m working on started out as a poem. After two pages, I decided to make it a short story. Eighty pages later, I’ve decided I may as well give in and admit it’s a full-length novel. The Keeping of the Light is facing a similar dilemma: I keep telling myself it’s a one-off, but the truth is clear: the story is too big, and the lore is too complex. It’s almost definitely going to become a two or three-part series.

And then came Everwander, my NaNoWriMo project. I thought that writing a story in my pre-existing fantasy universe would speed things along and make me spend less time on lore and mechanics, but what happened is the exact opposite. Since stating Everwander, I’ve spent more time working out magic systems, languages, cultures and geographies than ever before. With TKOTL, I opened a can of worms. With this project, I’ve started dissecting the worms.

Needless to say, I’ve come nowhere close to finishing the project this month. NaNoWriMo has been an unsuccessful venture for me – but I won’t say that it’s been a complete failure. I’ve learned a very valuable thing from this experience: I can’t rush my writing.

As many times as I’ve impatiently waited for the release of a new novel or part of a series, I can honestly say now that I see why deadlines get pushed and wait times are underestimated. I started out the month planning to write at least 50,000 words, and ended up writing only 7,134 words. Also, I haven’t written so much as a chapter title since the 6th of November. My stories are going to take their time, whether I want to or not.

So I may as well take my time and do it right. The book will be finished, but who can say when. When it is, I’ll let you know. Until then, keep looking for new chapters posted here. Thanks for reading, and happy writing. Cheers.

Where No Man Comes (a poem)

this void of land,
this spear of sea,
divides with lonesome lines the air.
the livyers, swaying, fold with fate
as eons fade from being,
and hearts of stone pulse beneath
the fragile frame
of mountains.
each beat an eternity;
a flicker consuming
the rise and rot
of ages.
the pitiful remains
of some benign beings persist
as subtle blurs in elevation;
refined beyond recognition
by the birth and death
of countless seasons.
no witnesses remain
which might exclaim, yet maim this majesty.
those which have are all but disappeared,
their true undying legacies
rebuilding what was ground away.
their lives unending
mending
all those scars begat by greed.