The “Behind The Scenes” Writing Tag

Behind The Scenes banner

I’m so excited about this! Writing memes and tags don’t seem to be as common as reading memes / tags, so it’s always a treat to discover one. Several bloggers I follow have already done this tag, too: Aberdeen at A Glimpse of Starlight (thank you for nominating me!),  Sarah at Light & ShadowsVictoria at A Gathering of DreamsRae Oestreich at The WallflowerNicole L’autore, Briana da Silva, and Kristen A. Kieffer. So I’m thrilled to finally hop onboard!

The purpose of the Behind The Scenes Writing Tag is simple: You answer questions about your writing process, giving readers a “behind the scenes” look at how you approach your craft. So, today, I invite to come with me behind the curtain, so to speak, and see how I work.

Writing Area Last Day

A photo of my bedroom writing space, taken on the day I finished Draft #1 of The Keeper’s Curse (February 2015)

Where do you normally write?

If I’m at home and working on my novel, I’m almost always in the chair in my bedroom. (See the above photo.) I love this swivel rocker chair and matching ottoman from Pier 1 Imports. It’s so comfortable, warm, and snuggly, especially in the winter. So it’s become my favorite place to read as well as write – especially since when I sit down there, I don’t want to leave! Otherwise, you’ll find me at my living room desk.

What is always near the place you write?

Sticking with my novel-writing location, here’s a list of what’s “within reach” when I’m revising The Keeper’s Curse:

  • Revision Checklist: I’ve been using a checklist I created back in April to help me remember the changes I wanted to make for Draft #2. I’ve stuck to this checklist well for the most part, though other unanticipated changes have come up as well.
  • Handwritten Notes: This has been a HUGE help for my writing process. My subconscious drifts back to my writing projects when I’m not working on them. As a result, I’ve made a habit of jotting down notes manually or drafting a text message so I don’t forget my ideas in between writing / revising sessions.
  • The Emotion Thesaurus & Emotion Amplifiers Companion: I LOVE these writing resources from Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi! The Emotions Thesaurus offers ways of varying character expressions (physical cues, thought patterns, internal sensations, etc.) for a wide range of emotions, so it helps you avoid recycling the same motions or gestures again and again. The Emotion Amplifiers Companion does the same for conditions like hunger, pain, and attraction that “amplify” emotions.
  • Binder of Writing Craft Articles: Yes, I confess I’m “old-school.” But I try to remember to print out blog posts featuring great writing advice and organize them in a binder. That way, I can look up certain techniques without searching my online bookmarks or pins on Pinterest – because if I go online, I’m likely to start noodling around on other sites, too. 😉
  • Books for “Technique Inspiration”: If I’m struggling with how certain kinds of scenes (fights, dances, etc.) are written, I’ll refer to books I’ve read and see how the authors handled them. I have NO intention whatsoever of plagiarizing. Instead, I study how sentence construction, word choice, and other techniques, then apply that knowledge to the “movie scene” that’s playing in my head.
  • A Cup of Tea: See the “Snack & Drinks” question below.
  • Candle: See the “Writing Rituals” question below. And for safety reasons, I put the candle on top of my armoire (large piece of furniture on the left side of the photo).
When do you normally write? Night, afternoon, or morning?

Morning and afternoon. Writing gives me an adrenaline rush, so if I do it at night, it takes me hours to go to sleep afterwards. (*lol*) Plus, my thinking is clearer and imagination more active during the day, so it’s naturally an ideal time for me.

However, I have the darndest time getting up early to write. Novel-writing has to wait for the weekends because of my day job – and after five days of getting up at 5:00 AM, my body refuses to get out of bed before 7:00 or 8:00 AM on Saturdays, Sundays, and other off-days. I really want to work on this so I can get myself moving faster and make the most of my weekends… But it’s tough sometimes!

Is there a certain snack you like to eat (or beverage you like to drink) while writing?

I’m not really a snacking writer. Hunger tends to distract me, so I’ll take a break if it strikes. But I always have a cup of tea handy when I write! That doesn’t surprise many of you, though, does it? 🙂

How often do you write a new novel?

Not very often. I started writing TKC in January 2013, and I’ve been working on it ever since. (I’m currently revising Draft #2.) Between my work schedule and offline commitments, my writing time is limited. I’m also not one of the fastest writers out there, either. But I’ve learned to accept this part of my process, and I’d rather focus on getting TKC into tip-top shape before committing myself to a new story.

That being said, when TKC is with beta-readers next year (hopefully), I’ll start my first novella! It’s exciting to see the light at tunnel’s end for one project and know it also means the dawn of a new one. But I need to plan more of the novella first before I’ll feel comfortable drafting it.

Do you listen to music while you write?

OH YES. 😀 Music helps me focus in all writing situations. I can’t stand writing in silence! And with novel-writing, the right piece of music allows me to “steep” in the emotions I’m trying to convey.

As for what kind of music… In most cases, it has to be instrumental music. (Lyrics and distinct vocals distract me.) From there, it depends on what I’m working on:

  • Novel / Story Writing: Film soundtracks, all the way! For TKC, I’ve listened to various tracks from all of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films (Howard Shore is a genius, IMO) as well as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, and The Lion King.
  • Blogging: Mostly new age or soft instrumental music. My go-to choices include Dan Gibson’s Native Spirit and Mystic Sky (acoustic music with Native American influences and nature background noise), David Lyndon Huff’s Sound Therapy albums (piano / synthesizers with nature background noise), and anything by Deuter (new age / meditation music).
  • Poetry: I don’t write poetry as much as I used to, but I’d listen to music then as well. Funny thing is, this is the one exception to the “instrumental” rule: I’ll listen to just about any kind of music when writing poetry, even if it has vocals and lyrics. Typically I put one song on repeat and keep playing it until I finish a first draft. I’ve been contemplating a blog post about this topic for a while, so if you’re interested in finding out which songs helped me write some of my published poems, let me know in your comments.
What do you write on? Laptop or paper?

I do most of my writing on my laptop. If a computer isn’t handy, I’ll take notes, outline, or scribble whatever is in my head on paper, then type it up later. The only exception is poetry. I have to write a poem’s first draft by hand. There’s something magical and intimate about stream-of-consciousness writing using pen and paper. I don’t know how else to explain it, except that the flow of thoughts stall if I try typing a poem’s first draft instead. Sometimes you have to let your gut feeling tell you how you’ll best write something.

Is there a special ritual you have before or after you write?

It’s more of a routine than a ritual, but I think it counts…

When I’m at home, I’ll make a pot of tea, light a candle, and pick a piece of music to play on repeat. I’ll also review my revision checklist and notes if I’m preparing to work on TKC. Also, the candle-lighting tends to be only for TKC / novel-writing; and I don’t worry about candles if I’m writing away from home.

About the candles: I rotate between seven or eight different candles, using one candle at a time and switching every couple of hours. I also let my intuition choose which candle I’ll use for each session. Finally, I’m very picky about candle scents. I prefer floral, nature, or clean fragrances – no food or fruity ones! 😉

What do you do to get into the mood to write?

I’m not sure how to answer this question. Some days I don’t feel like writing, but I do it anyways for the sake of forward progress. But usually I’m excited to write – especially if it’s novel-writing – because my time for it is so limited. I’ve been waiting and looking forward to this time all week, so when I sit down to start a writing session, I’m raring to go. 🙂

Do you have a reward system for your word count?

Not really…? I usually limit myself to fist pumps or dancing a little jig when I hit a milestone. (It’s the embarrassing truth. *lol*) I also blog about my progress through the Chronicling The Craft series, with the intention to post an update at every 10% or 20% mark. But I don’t feel tempted to full-out reward myself until I’ve completed a draft. For example, I don’t go out to eat very often; so when I finished Draft #1 of TKC, I treated myself to dinner and dessert at an Italian restaurant I like. 🙂

Is there anything about your writing process that others might not know about?
  • I’m both a “plotter” and a “pantser.” (Which… makes me a “plotser,” I guess?) I prepare an outline with the major plot points and any subplots, but I never plan dialogue / conversations or smaller details in advance. It’s fun when your stories surprise you!
  • I swear my stories are movies playing inside my head. When I’m working on a scene, I feel like I’m right there with my characters; seeing, hearing, smelling everything that’s there. It sounds crazy, but most other writers I’ve talked to have said the same about their work.
  • When drafting a story or blog article, I use the “writer-copter” method. In other words, I skip around and work on the sections that are clearest to me at that time. It’s a great way to combat writer’s block; it lets your subconscious resolve the areas you’re stuck on, while you consciously remain in the flow. However, it forces you to be SUPER organized (outlines, tracking which areas you’ve finished and which ones you still need to finish, etc.). But if I hadn’t used this strategy, it would have taken me longer than 25 months to write TKC’s first draft.

My Nominees for the Behind The Scenes Writing Tag

I know that a number of readers are writers themselves… so if you’re a writer and would like to take part – TAG! It’s your turn! 😉  Be sure to link back to my post so I can read your answers, too.

31 thoughts on “The “Behind The Scenes” Writing Tag

    • *lol* I actually use a laptop tray with a wrist-rest bar and a cushion bottom when I’m in my comfy chair. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d be able to write in that spot, either! The keyboard wouldn’t be angled high or comfortably enough.

      Thanks for commenting, Tammy! 🙂

      Like

  1. Love this! I can relate so much- I also do the revisions and handwritten notes thing. And I listen to movie soundtracks when I write too! Particularly LOTR 🙂 And I’m *very* old school- I always write by hand first. Although I’m definitely a plotter. Also just read the synopsis for your book and it sounds really cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Always happy to know someone else is a Tolkien / LOTR fan. 😀

      Do you find that handwritten notes in between sessions so helpful with remembering ideas and keeping things focused?

      I actually wrote the first draft of the first novel I ever finished entirely by hand. (Said novel wasn’t TKC, btw. I drafted that on my laptop.) It took 2 years to finish that way, but it was a neat experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m definitely a “plotser”, too! I like to go in with only an outline, and then let the characters develop enough to dictate events to me…though that usually requires me to stop and write new outlines. 😛

    The Emotion Thesaurus and the Emotion Amplifier Companion sound amazingly useful! I’m going to have to get my hands on those after this semester is over. (Right now, I *shouldn’t* be either writing *or* blogging, but somehow I can’t manage to stop myself from doing either…but I’m trying to keep it to a minimum, at least.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • *lol* I know the feeling. I haven’t had to change my outline much for TKC, but I’ve had to move plot points around to better suit the protagonist’s character arc and help the overall plot flow better. But that’s not such a bad thing, right?

      Both thesauri are SAVIORS. 😀 Angela and Becca also have the Positive Trait and Negative Trait Thesauri as well, and those books have been super-helpful with rounding out my character profiles for TKC’s cast. Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do if those ladies hadn’t thought of creating them.

      Hey, you gotta fit in time for writing and blogging whenever you can, regardless of your circumstances, right? 😉

      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yay! I’m not the only one who writes with candles! I have a bunch that I use! Where do you like to get your candles from? Do you have a particular store you like?

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay for candle writers! 😀 What kind of scents do you like?

      Most of mine are from Yankee Candle. But I have one from Thymes that I love (Clary Sage Tea) and a Sweet Lilac from Reflections / For Every Body. And I’ve been tempted to buy Japanese Cherry Blossom from Bath & Body Works, since that’s one of my favorite scents there… But I have plenty for now. *lol*

      Do you think you might do this tag, Tori?

      Like

      • I like floral and rustic scents like Bath and Body Work’s “Flannel” and Patty Wax’s “Edgar Allen Poe.”

        Ohhhhh cool. ^ ^ I stocked up on candles all year for NaNo. 😄 The Japanese Cherry Blossom at Bath and Body Works smells so good. ^ ^

        I believe so. I’ve added it to my list. 😄

        Liked by 1 person

      • I may be going to Bath & Body Works later for Christmas shopping… Might have to check out the Flannel candle, since that sounds new to me. 😉

        My favorites from Yankee Candle (off the top of my head) are Midnight Jasmine, Midsummer’s Night, Exotic Bloom, and Ocean Star. They also had a “picnic” line over the summer, and one of their limited-time scents was (*drum roll*) Tea Time!! I couldn’t resist buying it, of course. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This is really a great tag, and I liked your answers a lot… because they sound a lot like mine woudl be. I’m a pantser and a plotter as well, for example, and my stories are like films in my head too.
    But I’d never listen to music while writing. I need absolute silence. the faintest noise distracts me.

    And I NEED a chair like yours!!! I want one!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. That chair looks super comfy! Adding a cup of tea with that sounds divine, and I never thought to light a candle. Maybe I should incorporate some of these things into my workspace. I think I’ve been missing out. 😀
    I like the word “plotser” because that describes me better than just “plotter”, too. I structure the plot, but leave plenty of room for surprises, twists, and characters conversations.
    Do you have a list of the Writing Craft articles you use in your binder? I’m always looking for good writing articles. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s very comfy! I’m always reluctant to leave it when I finished writing or reading, so it’s turned out to be a productive choice. 😉

      You know, in the past couple days, I’ve seen different names for the plotter-pantser hybrid. Plotser, plontser, plantser – so now I have no idea what we are. 😄

      I don’t have a list off-hand, no. I’ll have to take a look sometime and see what’s in there. Maybe it might also be a good future topic for 5 on the 5th, sharing 5 of those article links at a time. What do you think?

      Wait. I just remembered one of them, since I’ve been referring to it quite a bit. Here’s the link: http://jamigold.com/2012/08/spotlight-on-subtext-when-characters-are-liars/

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha, hmm I think “plotser” is easier to say, so I’ll stick with that. 🙂
        Sounds good to me! That would be a very helpful 5 on the 5th.
        Thanks for the link! That’s a good article. Subtext is one of those things I’d like to improve on.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. That chair made me want to take a nap 🙂 How do you stay awake in it? And the books on the floor made me laugh – it’s a familiar sight!

    You sound so organized 0-0. I was very impressed. I love how you set the scene/stage before writing – it’s a great idea. One of my favorite authors, Robin McKinley, is also more of the slow, focused, steady types. She takes a long time to finish a book, but it’s always fabulous and worth the wait!

    And as a bookseller/writer, I’m sort of embarrassed that I hadn’t heard of that particular Thesaurus before! I try to avoid any sort of Thesaurus, Dictionary, Encyclopedia, etc, when I’m drafting because I’ll get really distracted. For me, that’s part of the revision/polishing/editing. For instance, the other day I stopped to look at the Russian word for “ghost,” and two hours later, I was reading an article on Queen Victoria and hemophilia . . . It might have all been useful, and (possibly?) relevant to my book, but I am SO EASILY DISTRACTED.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “That chair made me want to take a nap 🙂 How do you stay awake in it?”

      Um… I just.. do. (*shrugs, then laughs*)

      Those books on the floor can be a dangerous thing! I don’t have any out right now, but I do have a journal, a binder of printed articles, and one or two craft books down there right now. I have to remember to sidestep them in the morning when I pull up the shade. (*yikes*) If you say it’s a familiar sight, does that mean you do the same thing?

      The thesauri are actually self-published, so they’re not put out by Writer’s Digest or other publishing houses. I’ve been using the Emotions Thesaurus a lot during revisions, but not so much during drafting.

      Ha ha ha, so how do you refrain from poking around on the Internet while novel-writing? Do you use certain apps / computer programs to block it out? Or do you force yourself to stay offline?

      Like

  8. I really enjoyed reading about your writing process! 🙂 THAT CHAIR LOOKS SOOO COMFY. I’m slightly jealous. And I love your writing ritual. :O I’m also a big fan of candles, but I never use them, because I can never think of a good excuse to… I just might steal this idea of having tea/candles while I write, because that sounds like such a wonderful environment! Not to mention that tea just makes me happy. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Briana! 🙂

      Oh yes, it’s comfy! I love that chair so much. It’s a good reading chair, too.

      Well, now you have a very good reason to use candles! 😉 And you like tea as well? Yay! Let me know if you try either or both rituals and how they work out for you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Awesome! Stay tuned, then, because I often share my love of tea here.

        Actually, you’re coming up on one of the best times of the year to stock up on candles, with Christmas and all the holiday sales coming up. 😉

        Like

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