Bring Me Another Goddamn Daiquiri: Writing In The Summer

I think this is supposed to help you see a laptop screen in the sun. Or minimize distractions. Or let you see through time. One of those.

At least half the writers I know do no actual writing in the summer. Too hot, they say. Or too nice outside. Or too many pina coladas to slam down before Labour Day.

If that’s your jam, fine. But if there are any of you out there who–because of looming deadlines, because you’re developing the habit of consistency, because you’re just in the middle of a damn good story–want to write your heart out this summer, come with me. I can show you the way.

The first novel that I’m willing to call by the name* was written in the middle of a scorcher, with 40 degree days and no air conditioning. And I’ve written every summer since. So, with that track record behind me, here are my best tips for putting brain to page during the dog days.

1) Get Up Earlier. The sun’s up. You should be, too. I love getting up at 5:30 in the summer. It’s still cool but the sun’s out, the streets are quiet (a bonus if you run like I do in the morning), and it generally gets things off to a good start. The day unfolds before you, leaving you with so much time to get the words down. Plus your laptop has not yet become a crotch-scorching brick of fire.

2) Trail of Bread Crumbs. Make some notes for yourself the night before to remind you where you have to go the following day. Make at least one of them a really good thing: that scene you really want to write, the character you want to play with, the submission you really want to get away. Something to look forward to. Something that makes you excited, god damn it. If nothing excites you…maybe you need to think long and hard about your project.

3) Learn to make iced coffee. Cold brew, baby. Or pour espresso over ice.

4) Get Out From Under The Laptop. No one likes baked writer junk. No one. I use a standing desk pretty much year round, which keeps the Aluminum Fire Brick off my lap, an especially valuable option when the mercury rises.

Other options: start using a notebook for pre-work, getting on the computer only to do actual writing; stop dicking around online so much so you can finish faster; place the laptop on a block of ice.** Or, best yet, take your work outside. No reason to miss out on the beach because you want to write. Take a notebook and a pen with your sunscreen and you’re good to go.

Go forth and write, my sweltering word badgers. By the fall, you’ll have something interesting, even if it is covered in sweat stains.

*My second finished manuscript. The first is best not spoke of.

**I was going to write DO NOT ATTEMPT, but I think if you do this, you deserve exactly what happens to you.


Never Let You Go: Staying Connected To Your Story While Travelling

By eating your computer, you ensure that you are never far away from your story.

By the time you read this, I’ll probably be…mm, depending on the time difference, hung over somewhere in Australia. Or maybe sleeping. Or trying to figure out Australian Rules Football. Or…kangaroo boxing? Whatever. I’m not here, by which I mean wherever you imagine me writing all this dubious advice.* I am on “vacation”.

Yes, sarcastic quotes. Because, while I’m not at my desk/in my lair, I am still writing.

I don’t like to take breaks from a novel while it’s in a particular stage: drafting, rewriting, editing. I’ve had to, but I don’t like it. I get disconnected from the heartline of the story and it always takes a while to get back to it.

But I’m not going to spend my whole “vacation” plonked in front of a computer, either. I need to stay connected to the story, not fucking hog-tied to it. Here are my compromises:

1) The Notebook. I always carry one as a matter of course, but while on vacation I started a new one and loaded it up with questions that need to be answered about the story: what happened to that guy’s parents? Why does she love her so much? What’s the deal with that thing’s face? All stuff that needs to be answered, all stuff that might get pushed aside in favour of actual writing on a normal day. Besides, long plane rides are excellent places to have a good long think.

2) The iPad. Technically on loan from my husband, I’ll be using this as my primary computing device. That’s what I’ve (hopefully) been using to moderate comments and respond to the more urgent emails while I’m away. I won’t be doing any hardcore writing on it while I’m travelling between bars, but I will dump most of my daily notes on the above questions into my files and take a look to see what else needs to be answered. I’ll also back everything up because notebooks get fucking lost, yo. And, if the urge hits me at five in the morning, I can always crank out a thousand words to scratch the itch.

3) The Sketch-A-Ma-Bob. Technically, all drawing is done in my notebook as well (another reason why I prefer blank paper). These are mostly characters. Drawing them helps me visualize them completely. Also, it’s fun and yet another activity that can be done sitting on a plane or in an airport with no internet connection. Other possibilities include maps, settings, tattoos, sigils, and graffiti found in the public toilets of my imaginary world.

So, if you’re jarred out of your regular schedule in the middle of a story, how do you stay connected to it?

*I’m not going to say it’s a volcano-based lair surrounded by my loyal robot centipedes, but I’m not going to say it’s not, either.