Weirder than Weird (Writers, That Is)

Weird Writers and Their Weird Habits!  

There are four winners in the contest for Writers with Weird Habits. To refresh your memory, just check below.  I said I’d give a free copy of one of my stories to the winners and would post the winning subs.  Here, as promised, are the winners and their subs.

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1.  Loren writes that just as Victor Hugo locked away his clothes in his house to finish the The Hunchback of Notre Dame, “I recently hit on a similar technique when I lent out my car for a few months.”  Now, some of us might consider this to be a bit extreme, but it worked and she got her car back!

2.  Kate Larkindale says, “I don’t think I have any super-weird habits like these [the writerly habits in the last post] but I never finish work for the day at the end of a scene or chapter.  I always write a few lines into the next one so I know where I was going when I pick up again the next day.”  Hmm, sounds sensible and practical to me.  What’s weird, though, is often in the eye of the beholder.

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3.   Rhea Rhodan writes, “When writing a draft, I employ Kate’s technique as well. For generating ideas (either between or during stories), I often use a (randomly drawn) pair of tarot cards as writing prompts. One such scene prompted my most recent release (The Legacy of Buchanan’s Crossing), and I used several tarot-pair generated scenes in it as well. I blogged about it last week here: http://clarissajohal.blogspot.com/2014/02/mixed-up-tuesday-guest-blogger.html ” 

Rhea concludes by asking, “Does this count?”

I informed Rhea that it most certainly does, and I urge you all to click on her link and visit the site to see what she means.  What beautiful graphics!  It would be hard not to feel some kind of inspiration upon beholding them.  I might add that writing prompts, whether of graphics, posters, sentences, or what-have-you, have been often used to inspire creativity.  

4. Last, my friend Jas Calhoun writes, “I have a really strange habit.  I send stuff to you.”  Stuff being poems, etc. he writes.  And I guess sending stuff to ME is even stranger than being Jas Calhoun.

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Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) is sometimes known as “The Recluse of Amherst,” for she lived most of her lonely life alone within the four walls of her home.  Her nearly 1800 poems contain no titles or dates.  Talk about her neurotic and eccentric habits which I won’t go into except to say they are often part of the price one pays for being a creative genius.    

Kelton Reid, in “8 Strange Rituals of Productive Writers” (http://www.copyblogger.com/writing-rituals/) writes:

“Charles Dickens and Henry Miller both used to wander around Europe trying to get lost, a technique that psychologists say can foster creativity. 

“My friend and prolific travel journalist Adam Skolnick used to write only in a sarong.

“Steven Pressfield uses an ancient ritual of reciting Homer’s invocation of the Muse before he types a word.  He’s in good company, as they were invoked by Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer too.”

Enough strange habits and rituals for now.  Perhaps sanity and conformity are the true weirdness.

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WEIRD HABITS OF WRITERS

WEIRD HABITS OF WRITING–HOW ODD CAN YOU GET?

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I’ve often thought my method of writing was STRANGE.  I’m a pantzer, which means I make it up as I go along, and I keep multiple copies on my computer, so if I title my file Tomorrow1, I may keep adding longer versions until I reach Tomorrow8, Tomorrow9 and so on.  Another habit I have is to go into a particular Barnes & Noble and just wander about, letting my mind drift and my eyes go here and there.  I’ll see something–often a book cover, title, or something even less substantial–and sometimes INSPIRATION WILL STRIKE and a whole story idea will just leap into my head!  I’ve written over a dozen good stories this way and sold them, too!

But great writers have even weirder, quirkier creative habits, and I’d like to borrow some examples from Maria Popova’s The Odd Habits and Curious Customs of Famous Writers which can be found at  http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/09/23/odd-type-writers/ She in turn derives her examples from Celia Blue Johnson’s Odd Type Writers: From Joyce and Dickens to Wharton and Welty, the Obsessive Habits and Quirky Techniques of Great Authors.

*** Edgar Allan Poe, for example, “wrote his final drafts on separate pieces of paper attached into a running scroll with sealing wax.”  

Edgar-Allan-Poe-9443160-1-402*** Jack Kerouac liked scrolling, too.  In 1951 “he wrote On The Road in one enormously one strip of paper,” something which made his editor ask how they could possibly edit it.

*** James Joyce “wrote lying on his stomach in bed, with a large blue pencil, clad in a white coat, and composed most of Finnegan’s Wake with crayon pieces on cardboard.”  But he basically had to do it this way because “he was nearly blind.”

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*** Virginia Woolf . . . Popova writes, “In her twenties, she spent two and a half hours every morning writing, on a three-and-half-foot-tall desk with an angled top that allowed her to look at her work both up-close and from afar.” Apparently, though, this “trendy standing desk was less a practical matter than a symptom of her sibling rivalry with her sister.”  Kind of like which writer has the better, more impressive computer, laptop, etc. ? 

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*** “Truman Capote wouldn’t begin or end a piece of work on a Friday, would change hotel rooms if the room phone number involved the number 13, and never left more than three cigarette butts in his ashtray, tucking the extra ones into his coat pocket.”  TALK ABOUT SUPERSTITION.

*** But then Jack London “wrote 1,000 words a day every single day of his career and William Golding once declared at a party that he wrote 3,000 words daily.”  Maria Popova states that “Many authors measured the quality of their output by uncompromisingly quantitative metrics like daily word quotas.”  If you who are reading this post happen to be an author, does her statement apply to you?  If so, how and in what way?

*** Victor Hugo… What a strange case!  Facing a “seemingly impossible deadline” with The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1831, he “practically put himself under house arrest for months.”  The poor guy “locked away his clothes to avoid any temptation of going outside.”  Popova reports that “He finished the book weeks before deadline, using up the whole bottle of ink” he had bought “to write it.”  Talk about dedication!

*** Finally, Friedrich Schiller let apples rot in his desk drawer so the “aroma produced” (probably methane gas) would inspire him to create.  His wife Charlotte said he “could not live or work without it.”

Hey, do NOT try this at home!

****CONTEST ALERT: These are just a few weird, quirky, and bizarre writer habits.  I’m sure there are some even stranger and far beyond Jupiter.  Scribblers, I’ll make you a deal.   If you have any strange, odd, or outlandish writer traits, please send me a comment of 200 words or less describing them either at this website or at my e-mail address, jroseman@cox.net.  I’ll not only PUBLISH the top five I like best, but I’ll send you a FREE E-BOOK of one of my short stories.  This CONTEST will last one week, until February 21, at midnight.  Until then, keep writing weird!****

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I’M A PANTSER, NOT A PLOTTER!

AS A WRITER, I AM A PANTSER, NOT A PLOTTER.

I like to make it up as I go along.  I like to write dangerously without an outline and Roman numeral sub-headings and almost always knowing what comes next.  If I’m surprised, the reader may be too.  It’s exciting and risky to see what my characters and story will do and to write without a safety net. How, as a writer, will I get out of this plot problem when the time comes?

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I’ve gone to writer’s cons where panels featured writers who either carefully plotted their novels in advance with outlines, index cards, character sketches, etc. or essentially winged it on a shoeshine and a smile.  I understand the virtues and strengths of both approaches.  I did write an outline for one of my published novels, Speaker of the Shakk (Mundania Press), but while it was helpful, I found there was so much I couldn’t anticipate or foresee concerning the final story. When I write a novel, I find I’m like a driver of a car in a heavy fog.  I have a sense of where I’m going, but there’s so much about the journey or terrain ahead which is uncertain.

It’s that journey ahead which bothers plotters.  They want guarantees and fear the unpredictable.  For instance, if they don’t plot ahead . . .

images (5)How did THIS get in the story?  Or . . .

images (6)How did their PANTY FETISH get in?  Or . . .

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What’s THAT DOING IN CHAPTER SEVENTEEN?

Yes, it’s always chancy to be a Pantser.  Things may get out of control, the book may fall apart, and they may lose their way.  I certainly don’t recommend it wholesale for everyone.  Different strokes for different folks. Sometimes it’s wise for a writer to try a combination of both approaches for a chapter or two.  If you’re a pantser, try being a plotter for a change.  If you’re a plotter, let your imagination take wing for a spell.  You can always ground it and go back. Both types of writers should experiment a little with the other’s style and orientation. Come to think of it, many writers naturally use a combination of the two approaches anyway.

As for me, please don’t get me wrong.  Though I’m a pantser, I do have some kind of an overall plan when I sit down to write a novel.  And I do admit it’s risky to do it my way.  It’s just I’m not God, and I’m simply not good enough to see in advance all the things which I keep discovering should go into one of my books, which is a major reason I don’t outline in advance.  In addition, this approach often enables me to experience the joy when my muse surprises me by giving me a creative gift.  

For example: just recently, in the sequel to a sequel in progress, Defender of the Flame, I suddenly realized that a bit player in the background was not a bit player at all. Instead, she was a major player and she should kick-start the hero and the plot in a new and more interesting direction.  Man, was I surprised and delighted.  And in Book II, Kingdom of the Jax, Turtan, the hero, foolishly promised young Sky they’d not only defeat the enemy and live, but he’d cheer like a drunken hyena at her graduation. No way I intended he’d do anything with his promise, especially in a major way.  But in Book III, he does!

I guess there are Pantsers and Plotters in all kinds of activities, not just in writing.  Some of us make it up as we go along, just go with the flow and screw up or not.  And some of us carefully plan just about everything in advance. It can apply to the way we dance, make love, live our lives, you name it.  What about you?  Where do you fit in the wheel of life?  Are you a Pantser, a Plotter, or somewhere in-between?

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For one great essay on this subject, read Cindi Myers’ “Plotter or Pantser: The Best of Both Worlds” at  http://www.autocrit.com/editing/library/plotter-or-pantser-the-best-of-both-worlds 

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