A Writer’s habits?

Just recently I’ve been thrust into the world of writing. I’m curious how other writers handle their lives?

18 Replies to “A Writer’s habits?”

  1. Jesse,

    I really feel for you here. I am a third year college student and have been having my own share of writing dilemmas in the past few years. Writing was never one of my strong points, but has increased as of late with all the term papers and writing that has come as school requirements. I see your problem of not knowing what to do as it pertains to time management for writing, I have run into the same problem too. I guess my way of dealing is pretending to move the deadline up a week or two, and that way you scramble to hit the deadline, then have weeks to proof and rewrite. I know this is not always possible becuase we can’t always fool ourselves with fake deadlines, but I thought I would offer up my condolences as well as some assistance for you. If you would like any assistance let me know, I can be a great sounding board. I even have a friend who has an English degree, and is an excellent proofread-editor.

  2. Very cool, thanks for the advice and offer!

    Although my name is Jester, I doubt I could fool myself either. I usually, instead, aim for milestones of which I hope to complete 3 or 4 to complete the project.

    However, with writing, it’s a little different. I’m usually more apt to work in Flash than type in Word, so… I don’t know, it’s just a new way of working for me, and it as of yet, has not meshed with my habits. Not to mention, I’ve never written this much content before, let alone for a book. I’m not scared in the least, but just curious about pitfalls in such an endeavor.

    If I have anything worth previewing, I’ll post.

  3. Just out of curiosity, are you writing a tutorial type project or just reference books? I ask since I have read one book lately on FlashComm and it reads okay but I didn’t love it. I got the book by Kevin Towes, and it seems that it stays strictly on the surface of the actionscript involved. It seems that now most books are aimed strictly at the generic reader, not hardcore swiffers like you and I. So, if it helps any, please try and write stuff that is readable, but not so simple that nothing is learned. Not like this post which probably did nothing but confuse the reader.

  4. My style is one of personification. To me, originally code was this scary, technical world where the beaten nerds would eximplify their superior intellect over you if you asked how to code stuff. Their bitter ways left a bitter taste.

    Also, I never liked math… in fact, almost didn’t graduate high-school because of it. They didn’t have “programmer”, or “Director Authorer” or “Flash Developer” on that little chart that shows what job you would use trig or geometry in. Since I assumed I’d be an exotic dancer or a pilot in the military, I never had a clue I’d actually someday need math.

    So, since the concepts were at first alien, I try to personify the code and have it talk to you. To some people, accepting code being line by line, or a computer crunching on instructions, etc. is just so alien. I spent 2 hours explaining how a hard drive saves data to my late grandmother to no avail. She was sharp as a tack, but just couldn’t grasp the concept.

    Therefore, I try to make allusions or analogies to real-world concepts. They say write about what you know, but I tend to sometimes think too outside the box, and end up with these off-world analogies. Overall, though, I got good comments from the last 2 up and coming scripters from last job in explaining code to them, so I think it works. Not to mention Flashn00bz appreciates it.

    The way I heard it, there are 2 types of books: Reference and Story. I like the story without the bs. Reference is boring and doesn’t apply to the real-world. Combine those styles, and that’s mine.

  5. …oh yeah, proof-reading technical Flash book, writing both, and my article on is on Flash component design theory.

    “Hey Jester, what time is it?”

    “Well, a watch works like this…”

  6. I think you may be working a little too hard, you seem to be talking to yourself. Posting questions and answering them.

    I hope the book doesn’t turn out that way!
    Just kidding

  7. Working to hard… can one truly aspire?

    Naw, I treat each chapter’s title like a question, and then go from there, answering it as thoroughly as possible. You might find a little self-induced schitzo’ish material, but it’s only there it provide shoes in which the reader can comfortably stand in to get a better grasp of the concepts conveyed.

    Like, you decide to create a Flashcom app. Why would you utilize the simple connect component, though? Well, because you know the power that lies within it, saving you hours of work, and offering you the scalability to add components later that utilize it. See?

    …or I could just take your jest for just what it is, and realize I need to relax instead.

  8. Hey Jesse…

    Man, I started to write my first book when I was 14. It is called simply “Flash 5 ActionScripting”, and its language is brazilian portuguese… :)

    Use a web-translator:

    The writing process took about 10 months, and the book hit the shelves when I was 15 years old (Needless to say that nobody believed that me – a little boy – was the author). To my surprise, the book turned out to be very popular (I am not going to say something like ‘best-seller’, because there were some big guns on the market, such as ‘Flash 5 The Bible’ in its portuguese translation).

    It was a great experience, because I learned a lot on how to manage my schedule and books projects. The first thing I learned is that the most important part of a book project, is its TOC. If you have a good, well organized and very detailed table of contents, you’ve finished 20% of the job (because now you know exactly what you’re going to write hehe). Another thing you have to worry about is edition. How you’re gonna put your words into paper. Fortunately, my editors provided me with some very good guidelines and MS-Word templates (which can be converted to other press specific formats later). I know these things can be considered just small details, but they are very important for the writer who is starting his/her career.

    Ok, but back to the main subject. Writing is boring! Seriously, you can’t write more than 4 hours a night. I am currently (since the past 6 months) working (alone) on a big (I mean, BIG!) book, which is actually a 3-volume series. All in portuguese of course (I hope someday be able to do such work in english). The idea is simple: v1 covers ‘pure’ ActionScript, v2 covers server integration and v3 covers multi-user development (XMLSocket and FlashComm). Sometimes I think I will end up with CTS, but when I look at how much I’ve done (around 1500 pages currently), I get all excited with the project again… :)

    I HATE deadlines. Specially when I ‘propose’ my own deadlines to the editors, they accept it and then I can’t finish in time. That makes me feel like an a**hole, and my editors are always being so cool and ‘compreensive’ etc… Argh… The solution is simple: think of how much time you need to do something, double it and then you have your deadline.

    Btw, I’m looking forward to see the Flashcom book you’re co-authoring… =)

  9. Thanks manxt! Good info. I’m trying my best to focus the Flashcom stuff on real-world situations since I’ve heard a lot of people either get pissed there is no real-world examples or if there is, they are too small.

  10. Since you’ve helped me enough times on the Flashnewbies mailing list, I thought I would give a shot at helping you in a field I once knew better. (I taught writing at a southern university, and now I just ramble on in public forums.)
    My advice is figure out how you think. Every writer has different methods, some love the outline, some hate it and prefer to charge forward and revise heavily later. I think your form is probably dialogue.
    You say you are uncomfortable in word, but you sure seem comfortable blogging or in email, and, in general, entering into conversations.
    You might try harnessing this comfort during composition. And it is a great way of thinking(Plato and Galileo, for example, used the dialogue as final forms) — anyway, I doubt editors want a dialogue as a chapter (but who knows), but given your penchant for entering into conversations and tring to anticipate people’s questions and frustrations, it seems to me that this is way you might find more energy and speed. You could revise into a more standard format later.
    By the way, I would love to read a technical book in a dialogue form. It allows for a lot more veering.
    Good luck,

  11. I’ve read a few D&D books which I <b>think</b> may be in dialogue format. Is it like when the writer actually talks to the reader or is it where you pose situations in which characters interact? I’ve read Plato in college, and learned an inkling about the Socratic method, but I’m not sure if I could find the exact style.

    I’m not sure if Branden Hall’s and Samuel Wan’s book was dialogue based, but it did seem so in Branden’s chapters.

    Although I have already started, I haven’t gotten the official format as of yet, so I’ll just wait and see…er, pray that my current format is on par with what they want. I’m a later reviser anyway, and work much better diving in, so it feels good to hear positive reinforcement towards my current methods.

    Thanks a lot dude!

  12. I tend to draw a map before I write stuff.

    Topic – Question/Answer, Question/Answer, Question/Answer in brief notes – just an outline of the shtick I want to talk about.

    Normally I drop about a minute for every 2-300 words into just laying out notes on a bit of paper, or in something like mindmapper (handy program).

    So nothing too complex, but the basic details, then I convert my little map of connected ideas and stuff to talk about into a list of elements, and write the elements.

    I don’t necessarily write them in order, but once I have a list of elements, I can just write out each one, and mark them off as I get them completed. And then change the order of display as I need to.

    I do basically the same thing coding. I come up with a list of stuff for my app to do, then I go through and run up bits off the list as inspiration hits me.

    The map really just helps for dependancies in code, you could skip that and go straight to the list if your head’s that organised… but mine isn’t ;> I need the map to see how it all lays out.

    Probably the biggest tip I’ve got for anybody writing anything, code, stories, documents, books, whatever, is that its a process. but nothing requires it to be a linear process. There’s no rule that says start at the beginning and go to the end and do the bits in the middle in order.

    That and like any other creative process, its hard to discipline the process. For example, I’m reading Blogs and email strings when I’ve got two projects on the boil and a good 20 tasks in the to do list for my group. But… I’m ~Really~ undisciplined ;> You’ll always do your best work at 3 am having woken up from a dead sleep with an idea rather then beating your head against the desk in between inhaling coffee and pressure to force it out.

    The trick is just getting that inspiration at 3 am frequently enough to meet your deadlines ;>

  13. Hrm… maybe I’ll try shrooms tonight since I only have 2 more days. That outta wake me up with the belly ache, but I’ll still be trippin’ nuts enough to write about how I’m seeing my computer speakers act as inverse ears for my computer as it asks me to type in the words of power so it can voice them to all via “hearing” it to the world.

    …or, maybe not.

    I like your process tips. I’ll definately try that on my next chapter. So deep into this one, I can’t stop now.

    Thank you very much for the advice!

  14. Having written a book and havig troubles with managing priorities, I know what you’re dealing with. Since I’m married and have two kids, I found that writing at night just didn’t work. In the two or so hours I’d have after everyone was asleep, I would just be getting into the meat of what I wanted to say. I really need 5-8 hours to finish a chapter or section properly. Add another 3-4 hours for rereading and editing that chapter no less than 2 days later (I find the delay useful in preventing me from making corrections that I should make).

    So, what I did was find the library or a cafe (Caribou Coffee in my case) and sit there every Sat for 8-10 hours writing. I got *way* more done than I would have at home and, without the internet connection, I avoided a lot of distractions. Anything I needed off the web I preloaded before leaving and ran a VMWare virtual machine for any tech tests I needed between two computers. It worked really well and it’s how I would do my next book.

    Hope this helps.

  15. er, make that “waiting 2 days to reread my work helped me make corrections I should do and be clear headed about editing in general” (speaking of editing…)

    btw, that’s the Caribou in Roswell. They were real nice about having me there every week for like 3 months.

  16. Thanks! I’ll try that this weekend for my 3rd of 4 chapters since I’ll be heading off to Savannah, and also have a website article due as well. Good insight.

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