Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Black cats, knocking wood, and WIPs

We got attacked by two—count ‘em: two— nasty little hackers two weeks ago. My time on the computer time was limited to trying various fixes and cleans recommended by geek co-workers. Fortunately, I married a geek (WIN) and after he consulted with uber-geeks who speak a language I’m not privy to, our computers are back to their healthy selves.

One positive outcome of this odyssey through hacker hell was lots of old-fashioned longhand writing. I’m a fountain pen addict—I own one for each book I’ve written plus a couple more I couldn’t resist. I start each new book with a new pen. I prefer to think of it as ritual rather than superstition. Hey, it’s my quirk, so I get to name it.

Another positive was more indulgence in manga. When I’m writing a mystery, I can’t read one. Writing is fun but it’s also hard work, so manga is my relaxation of choice. I love the angst, the scenery-chewing, the purple prose. All the things I don’t indulge in when I write. Nowhere else can I find demons with a sense of humor or vampires who preen like beauty pageant contestants.

It’s also a learning experience—sometimes I don’t get the humor. Sometimes I do, but the timing of the joke seems off. And often I learn cultural tidbits that I squirrel away for possible character creation in future books. (Yes, that is the cover of Noah Lukeman’s invaluable The First Five Pages on the far left. It’s one of my essentials.)

So, fellow writers, what’s your new WIP ritual? Pens? A new playlist? (Adam Hurst’s amazing cello music is the soundtrack for the current book.) And as long as I’m being nosy, do you read the genre of the book you’re writing, or do you do a one-eighty like me? I love seeing how everyone else does the process.


Keith Raffel said...

Alice, I'm impressed. I wrote a whole thesis in longhand, but now my fingers seem to be connected to my brain. I couldn't write much more than my signature with a fountain pen. Go get 'em.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

We all have our writing rituals. Not sure a writer can exist without them. After I finish a book, I totally clean off my desk and do writing "housework" on the book I just finished such as updating my character list and timeline for the series. When I start the next book it's like having a clean slate. And I won't move on to the next until the desk is clean. Now that I do 3 series, the clean-up is really meaningful as I move my brain from one sub genre to another. As for reading, I used to not read mysteries while writing, but since I'm now writing all the time, I had to abandon that or I'd never read any mysteries. I do not, however, read any ghost or vampire mysteries at all to keep my vision of those subgenres fresh and untainted.

Cricket McRae said...

Sorry to hear about the hackers -- cleaning up after them is a nasty, scary business. Good choice, marrying a geek. ; )

Love the pretty pens! I'm afraid I write with Bic medium pens you can buy by the box and Mead college ruled notebooks with stiff cardboard backs so I don't need a separate writing surface. They're all over the house (and car and yard).
Hearth Cricket

Darrell James said...

Alice, I'm with Keith on this one. My handwriting is so bad even I can't read it. I write in a near prone position. Thank goodness for laptops.

G.M. Malliet said...

I can only listen to the most bland non-music when I write and then only if I'm forced to listen to it in a coffee shop. I wish they'd play white noise if they feel they have to keep me entertained. (I don't know how to build a playlist. Heck, I can hardly figure out how to use the light switch.)

I go through crazes with pens and with different papers and notebooks. Whenever I come back from England half my baggage seems to be taken up with WH Smith products. Once I special-ordered some of my favorite Pentel pens in Cambridge and I think paid the equivalent of $45 for 12 of them. The clerk thought I was mad.

I don't clean off my desk...I abandon my desk and happily go out to dinner, read a book, etc....all the things I may not have had time for for weeks or months.

Kathleen Ernst said...

I find that occasionally shifting to longhand does wonders for the creative process. Something about putting pen to paper...or perhaps just the different pace? Whatever, it works for me.

And my ritual involves apiral notebooks. I have to choose a new one for each project, and it has to be "right" in some mystical way that I can't always explain.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

WOW - It amazes me how many of you use pens and notebooks. I wish I could get into that habit. I'm with Keith and Darrell. I can barely write my name without a keyboard. When I think of something, I type the notes, text them or even drop myself a voice mail so I don't forget. The only notes I've ever hand written for books were on a napkin in a diner while traveling. Those notes became "Booby Trap."

Alice Loweecey said...

One ritual I dind't mention is my trusty 3-ring binder. I've worn out 5 of them and my newest one is a beautiful zip-up one that has an ipod holder and 3 zip pockets to store fountain pen cartridges, notes, and spare pens in. Because I take my WIP wherever I go when I'm ferrying the kids, getting my hair done, etc., I get lots done in that "found time", even if it's just 15 minutes.

Vicki Doudera said...

It always bugged me to toss the half-used spiral notebooks that my kids ditched at the end of the year, so now I repurpose them, using a different one for each book. I find that the initial stages of plotting and coming up with characters are easier on paper. Any pen works and sometimes I use a pencil, which is kind of fun. Any time works. When I was writing non-fiction books I needed tons of space for all the research material, but now I need only a small surface, so any place works, too.

I love your pen collection, Alice!