You may be wondering why I titled this guest post “Procrastination Station”; pure and simple, it’s because I am a notorious procrastinator, as any of my writing buddies will tell you. That means I can spend hours, days, even weeks not writing what I should be writing, and then power through five, ten, or even twenty thousand words in a day in order to beat a deadline. Yes, I’ve done 20,000 words in 24 hours before.
But this means I have two writing modes: what I call my “casual” mode, where I write what I want when I feel like it, and my “beast” mode, where I pound away at the keys because I’m desperate to meet a deadline. And the way I work in these two modes are very different, as I’ll outline via the tools I use.
I’ve found that writing in “casual” mode helps me churn out stories that require less editing, as my plots tend to have fewer WTF holes (what I call it when I write myself into a corner only a major rewrite can fix) and even my grammar and spelling tend to be better. Unfortunately, I’m also much more open to distractions when I don’t have a deadline looming over me, so books that get written in this mode aren’t always delivered speedily (like my current WIP). Here are my requirements for a writing session in this mode:
Writing Implement of Choice: Pen and Paper, Voice Recorder
Yes, I go really old-school with this! I think it’s the secret to why my writing ends up better, because I write so slowly my words have more time to come together as fully formed thoughts. Then when I transcribe what I’ve written (I used to use yWriter or Evernote, but am a recent recruit into the cult of Scrivener users), I frequently already start implementing edits at that stage.
A new thing I have also recently been doing is dictating a dialogue-heavy scene into a recording app on my phone, then transcribing it. One problem I’ve noticed is that sometimes dialogue can come out stilted when it only exists on paper, so I’ve been making an effort to make this come to life a bit more.
Research Tool: The Internet
Now, this is a very dangerous tool for a writer because sometimes you fall down the rabbit hole of click bait and emerge hours later not having written a word. And I’ve learned a lot from this type of research, often things not relevant to the book I’m writing.
Mood Music: None
I actually work best without a playlist for this kind of writing. Although I frequently do it in coffee shops (or my favorite gelato shop), so I get music whether I like it or not.
Fuel: Coffee and Chocolate
Both sweet (my coffee does not have to have milk in it) and caffeinated, I credit at least half of all the words I’ve ever written to these must-haves!
I’m a total grouch when writing in this mode. “Don’t talk to me” becomes my favorite and most frequently uttered sentence. Distractions are quashed ruthlessly, and I don’t even need Write or Die to hit kamikaze mode. Sadly, typos and plot holes are more likely when I’m writing in this mode, simply because the words go from mind to fingertips to screen with very little delay. I was in writing in this mode while writing Old Enemies Make the Best Lovers. I wrote the first draft (9,000 words) in one night, then after getting my beta readers’ comments come in and having a think about what was wrong with that draft, I ended up rewriting the whole thing in about three days, coming up with just under 22,000 words this time—and only about two pages of those were copied over from the first draft.
Writing Implement of Choice: Any Darned Thing!
I have been known to write on the backs of receipts and my cellphone in this mode (which, let me tell you, was a pain back in the days before smartphones). I much prefer using my computer, though, or my iPad-and-keyboard combo, simply because they let the writing go as fast as I need it to.
Research Tools: None
I don’t research in this mode because I know I’m a fish that likes to chase after click bait rather than a shark who chomps down on prey when it comes to snippets of information. What I do instead is leave a bracketed note to myself like this: [insert: name of exchange student] or [research: types of engagement rings]. Then I’ll go back and fill in the blanks later on.
Mood Music: Earworms and Action-Flick Themes
My default music in this mode tends to be fast-paced, but the actual songs I’ve used in the past have varied, even if they don’t really fit the type of story I’m writing. I usually like to use action-flick theme songs as go-to mood music (the theme song for Pacific Rim is a particular favorite of mine), although when I find myself with an earworm (or LSS, as we call it here in the Philippines), I will ride that baby on repeat ‘til I run out of juice. For Old Enemies Make the Best Lovers, I had four songs that pulled me through 12 chapters (and I wonder if you can recognize which songs were on repeat for which chapters!): “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley and the Wailers, “Zombie” by the Cranberries, “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, and “Timber” by Pitbull featuring Ke$ha.
Fuel: Coffee, Coffee, Coffee!
Honestly, I will very often forget to eat or drink or even go to the bathroom when in beast mode, but when I emerge enough to remember I need hydration, I usually go sniffing for coffee (even though I know that’s terrible for hydration). Fortunately, I have a husband who supports my writing so he will sometimes just randomly put food and drinks in front of me when I’m on full-on beast writing mode.
Does anyone else turn into a different person when a deadline looms close? I’d love to hear how that works out for you! I don’t publish 90% of the books and stories I write, although I have recently been persuaded to revisit old drafts and prep them for publishing once I finish my current WIP. Once I’ve published more novellas and full-on novels, I’ll be curious to know which are better received: the ones written in “beast” mode or my more “casual” stories!
Kate Sebastian has been crafting stories since she was tiny. She spent her childhood reimagining classic fairy tales and inventing new ones, then having her dolls and stuffed toys reenact them in elaborate sets she built by rearranging the furniture in her house.
She earns a good living as a writer, editor, and online content admin but decided to try her hand at writing romance since she reads so much of it.