Ask The Midnight Society – Part One
The Midnight Society wanted to help our readers get to know them a little better, so periodically we’ll be running “Ask the Midnight Society” where a question is asked and our members answer! Feel free to leave questions in the comments below for us to answer next time.
Let’s jump right off. This week we asked two different questions.
1. What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?
2. What are your writing / editing habits?
Here is what we had to say…
What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?
Amy: One day when I was in 8th grade, my bus dropped off everyone from my stop at the wrong end of the street. We were all goofing around, walking down the street until a friend came walking toward us from the other end. We asked if he knew what was going on and it was then he told us the bad news. My house was on fire. And it was set by someone on purpose.
Thankfully, no one was home and no one was hurt. I lost all of my possessions, but kept the memories.
I was about ten and my family stayed at this seaside resort that was kind of rustic. And by rustic I mean rundown and badly maintained. There, I made friends with another girl, the daughter of the superintendent of the resort. We would sneak out into the big park behind the main building at night even though we weren’t supposed to (there were no fences or gates and this wasn’t in the safest part of the world).
We didn’t go too far into the park, we just sat on one of the benches close to the entrance when we saw a light far ahead, a single bluish light like a shooting star or one of those homemade fireworks. She said no one was allowed to fire those on resort property b/c it was a fire hazard and her mom would be mad. She said she’d go see who was doing it. I didn’t want to go with her because the park was dark, only a few of the lanterns were working.
So off she went. I sat on the bench and watched her grow farther and farther away, until I got bored and shifted my gaze away from her.
Except when I did, it turned out she was sitting on the bench behind me.
I was like, what the hell, when did you sneak up? She didn’t seem to understand what I was talking about. I asked if she found whoever fired the firework, and she was like, what firework?
Seemed like the last thing she remembered was sitting on the bench with me, talking.
I’d say it was a prank, except there was no way she could have turned around and run back to sneak up behind me, in a totally silent park, in two seconds flat.
Nothing weird happened after and tomorrow she was just fine…
Interesting stories, wouldn’t you say? Now on to the next question…
What are your writing / editing habits? Music? Tea? Coffee? Ocean view?
I trust my process. I have to in order to write bravely. Here are the fun facts:
1. I have a rhythm.
I write every morning and text a friend for accountability. One hour through the week and two to four hours on Saturday and Sunday. In the summer when I’m off from teaching, it’s four hours most days. This iron-clad routine makes everything else possible. I usually write at home, coffee with vanilla almond milk nearby, but sometimes I’m the first customer at the coffee shop when it opens. This routine has stuck, because nothing else needs to be scheduled at 5:30 in the morning, it’s too early for my brain to talk me out of it, and my addiction to coffee pulls me out of bed. Seriously, pairing my morning routine with an addictive substance worked for me, but this is not an endorsement of addictive substances. Get out while you still can!
2. When I’m not writing, I’m writing.
I take a notebook or my phone with me everywhere. It’s not organized, though it probably should be to make best use of the ideas. In college, I wrote all through my literature lectures (it looked like I was taking notes, he he). Since I don’t have that anymore, I now write the entire time I’m at church, because it’s one of the few places where I’m required to just sit and be quiet for an hour. The essential questions typically raised are good for my genre, because they deal a lot with life vs. death and fear vs. love. They also make room for something beyond what I can see and hear.
I read a lot, so I use Goodreads to help keep me in books. To some extent, reading is writing.
3. When I’m writing, focus and trust are my greatest assets.
I use Trello to break down my writing tasks into achievable mini-goals. That huge list of all the things that need to be done to get your manuscript in fighting shape can be daunting. Focus. Stephen King says he writes one word at a time. Keep your head down and follow that advice.
In the drafting stage, I use word count goals (about 1,000 words an hour). I’ve also had success prepping for the drafting stage using the snowflake method. My ideas most often start with “What if…?” Unless an issue arises that is detrimental to continuing the draft, I make a comment about it and just keep going. As I get to know the characters, they have my full permission to take the story in new directions. This takes a lot of trust–in myself and in the mystery of writing. So much more bubbles up than I ever plan. However, I recently heard about writer Rachael Aaron, who writes over 1,500 words an hour (!), so I want to try her strategies.
In the revision stage, I re-read the draft and add comments to problem spots, and then I process all the comments. This stage can feel like I’m making zero progress, so I do a balance of quick-fix problems and slow-fix problems in each session to create momentum.
In the editing stage, I use Nat Russo’s checklists. They encompass a variety of language issues.
I try to get excited about getting stuck, because I know it means something new and cool and unknown even to me is going to arrive as a solution. I live by Annie Dillard’s quote from The Writing Life: “One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water.”
On feedback: I trust my readers at least 90% of the time. I don’t make excuses for why their feedback is wrong. This was the greatest gift the University of Iowa workshops bestowed on me as an undergrad. I learned that the work is not me, and anyone who’s giving me feedback wants what’s best for the work. I should want that too. My best revisions come from readers’ questions and responses. They don’t tell me how to fix it, which is good, because I still get to go into the adventure of the unknown.[/color-box]
For writing, I have to have silence. Music is distracting. But for editing, I like to listen to movie soundtracks playing softly in the background. And I hate hate hate when people look over my shoulder or ask me what I’m doing or intrude in my bubble in any way! At first my SO got offended, but now I think he got used to it.
I write with diet coke and excessive amounts of chocolate. I do all of my writing in word sprints. If the timer isn’t counting down, I am unable to make it to the end of the sentence.[/color-box]
I have trained myself to write just about anywhere, anytime. I’m short on time most of the time, so I’ve learned to make the best of any writing moment. If I can choose my perfect writing setting, however, it would be in a comfy chair, a giant coffee nearby, and Spotify to play music for me while I write. That’s the recipe for success…at least for me.
Let us know YOUR answers to the questions we asked in the comments below or ask a question for next time!