For books, I actually start out in Scrivener. I like it because early on, when writing a book, there are so many moving parts and large organizational changes and Scrivener allows you to move massive chunks of text between chapters and sections very quickly and easily. But once the book is organized and maybe the first draft is finished, I move things over to Microsoft Word. It’s just easier and the file formats are universal, so I can send it to friends, my agent or editor, etc.
For blog articles, I write in Google Docs. My assistant has access to the files and ports them over to WordPress for me.
Yes, I need to write with music. Loud and intense music. Electronic or heavy metal.
Most stuff I do at home in my office. But I’m finding that writing a book at home is difficult. Too many distractions. So I’ve been going to some co-working spaces or even the library some days.
Lots of caffeine.
It varies widely. A really good day will be 2,000 or 3,000 words. A really bad day will be zero or a couple hundred. I try not to focus too much on word count though. I’ve learned over the years that the right 500 words can be worth far more than 5,000 mediocre words. So I try not get too attached to measuring my progress and just focus on making sure I’m intelligently adding value to whatever I’m working on. Sometimes that means writing 2,000 words in a day. Sometimes that means deleting 2,000 words in a day.
I’d say about 50% of what makes it into a first draft of anything is still there when it gets published.
I’m a big outliner. I’ll even do simple outlines for small sections or even paragraphs I want to write. Nothing fancy, just a quick bullet point list of what I want to say and what order it should be said in. I find it helps direct me before I get started.
Once I start writing, I try to clear my head as much as possible. I try to eliminate any barrier between whatever comes into my head and what comes out on the keyboard.
You learn to ask “Why?” when you see data. Why did this happen? Why does it matter (if it even does)? I think an important lesson in marketing (or anything, I suppose) is that big numbers aren’t necessarily always better. An article can get a million views in a week, but if those views are coming from a crappy traffic source and none of them are sticking around or engaging with my ideas, then whatever I did to get that traffic actually probably wasn’t that valuable.
My philosophy with writing is: write for yourself, edit/revise for others. So I never choose to write something because I think it’ll get me a ton of attention. I try to write something because it feels important and profound to me. But once it’s written, then I put my marketing cap on and say, “OK, is there a way to play with the language here so that more people respond to it?” And that’s where the data analysis stuff comes in.
I stop. And I try not to beat myself up about it. I learned many years ago that writing 1,000 crappy words can actually create more work and headaches than writing no words. So if I feel stuck or nothing comes out, I stop, take the day off, or go back to my outline/research and make sure I know what I’m talking about. Writing is like anything else. Athletes have bad games. Politicians give bad speeches. Writers have days where everything they write sucks. It’s normal.
Not really. I usually just try to write the exact way I would try to sound if I was speaking.
The process between writing articles is very different from writing books. But the process for writing each of my books has been more or less the same (including the one I’m working on now) — that is, long and torturous.
It’s been weird, to be honest. Far less has changed than I would have suspected if you told me this was all going to happen a year ago. In many ways, it doesn’t even feel like a transition, as having all the attention on my blog for so many years kind of prepped me for it. Like, my agent and editor get so stoked when I go to a reading and 150 people show up. And for me, this kind of stuff was happening long before I signed on with them. I think the only thing that’s really changed is I get more interviews.
Writer’s block is just another name for anxiety. People always have something else to say. It’s not like you ever run out of ideas. There’s just a filter in our brains where we decide what is “worthy” of being put down on paper, and when that filter gets too strong (due to high expectations or fear of being judged or whatever), few ideas will get through it. This happens to me at times and I just have to remind myself to chill out (or “not give a fuck” as it were), get over myself (or my ego) and trust the process to take care of everything.
I read a bunch of books on writing before I wrote my first book and the two that stuck with me were Stephen King’s book and “On Writing Well” by Zinsser (which is a bit on the technical side). I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic.”