Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Write on

by Dietrich Kalteis

Early every morning I switch on my computer, and fueled by coffee, I get into whatever story I’m working on, and I go until noon. Mornings are best for me, that’s when I’ve got more energy and focus. Working on my seventh novel now, I’ve got it down to a routine that works for me, and I’m even getting a little better at staying off social media while I’m supposed to be writing. Outside of my morning routine, I carry a notepad with me and jot down ideas that come to me during the rest of the day, and I save these bits until the next morning. 

Aside from coffee, I need music when I write. After trying to find a quiet space to write in my house, I realized how intrusive white noise can be: kids, TV, phones, doorbells, traffic going by, cats and dogs. So, I put on my earbuds and tried music to cut out the distractions. My first guess was it would fill my head with more distraction, but somehow it worked. So now every morning, I line up some tunes that more or less go with what I’m writing, and I start typing away, getting into the rhythm of it. Weird maybe, but I know I’m not alone. I’ve had chats on the subject on another blog with writing friends who do the same thing. Some like jazz or classical music, Sam Wiebe favors jazz without lyrics. Danny Gardner finds one tune that puts him in the groove, then he puts it on repeat while he writes. Hey, whatever works. I set my sixth novel Zero Avenue amid the early punk scene here in Vancouver, and to set the mood that’s what I listened to pretty much right through to the final draft. D.O.A, Subhumans and Modernettes. Author Les Edgerton agreed on the music part, but felt if he listened to punk for nine months straight he’d start hearing the voices. Luckily for me, there were no side effects – so far. Right now, I’m working on a story that’s set during the dustbowl of the late thirties, so the music’s lighter and kind of folky.

When I write I don’t have a word count that I try to hit everyday. Sometimes I only get a few pages done, but if they’re good pages, then I’m happy with that. I like to pen the first draft in longhand before typing it into the computer. And I’ve never used a story outline; I start with a single idea for a scene, and I develop it along with the characters and build subsequent scenes from there and see where it takes me. I tighten it up as I work through to the next draft. When I’m done, I write a kind of timetable and check the sequence to make sure it all makes sense, so it’s a little like working backwards, writing a kind of outline after the story’s done.

Anything relating to my writing, like blogs, marketing and planning events, gets relegated to afternoons or evenings. And I do enjoy getting together with my writer friends at events, writing festivals and conferences. I’ve organized some local events, and this is the fourth year I’ve put together Vancouver’s Noir at the Bar. Writing fiction is a solo effort (with imaginary friends), so I rarely pass up a chance to come out of the cave and get together with other writers who have their own imaginary friends. 

One thing about the whole writing experience, I can’t believe it’s been over eight years since I started writing full time. And time sure seems to have flown since I got that first short story accepted, but here I am, feeling lucky to be writing every day.


RJ Harlick said...

Ah, another pantser. I let my characters tell me the story too, Dieter. I tried outlining once and by the end of the first chapter I threw it away. Good post. I am enjoying reading how each of us approaches our craft.

Unknown said...

Enjoyed your post, Dieter - especially the music bit. I sometimes wonder if listening to music while writing makes my draft overly dramatic, but that's okay - it can always be chopped back to basics later.

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