Writing Quirks! We’ll all be a bit crazy together

3 Jun

by Biljana Likic

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Ah writing quirks! How absolutely quirky they are! Some of us can’t live without them. Well, can’t write, at least. (Isn’t that the same thing? Hah.)

Writing quirks are little things that people need or need to do while writing to get as much out of it as possible. Not everybody has writing quirks, but when they do there’s usually a reason for it; comfort, antsyness, concentration… Next time you write see if you catch yourself making weird faces or muttering to yourself. Some are more conscious, like a favourite pair of Writing Pants (à la Meg Spooner, check out her fantastic post on just this topic), and others are done while you’re totally engrossed in what you’re writing.

Personally I think quirks are hilariously awesome. They make me feel a bit loopy and obsessive (a bit?) but when it comes down to it, if it helps me write, I don’t really care.

For example, here are a few of mine…other than the making faces and the muttering.

The first one concerns that blinky cursor thing you see that tells you where you are when writing. I have a love/hate relationship with it. When writing, I adore it because I feel like it’s encouraging me to go on and that my story’s awesome. When reading, my biggest pet peeve is to have it twitching in the corner of my vision.

Another one is randomly jumping up from my seat, walking briskly to the kitchen, getting nothing (maybe a sip of water), and returning to write without skipping a beat. This can happen during the most exciting scene in the story. Strange, I know. I’m thinking that, with my faces and my muttering, the rest of my body wants in on it too.

But enough about me, even though I’m so cool. Let’s hear what the other ladies have to say:

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Formatting is incredibly important. Some stories I can only write in Garamond, others in Arial. The one I’m working on now is Times New Roman, single-spaced. It just depends on the ‘feel’ of the story.

Also, I can’t write to music, but I like background noise, something I can fade into. My family would get so annoyed because I’d get mad if someone shrieked or changed the channel unexpectedly. If I could have a tape of just normal background noise I’d be a happy little writer all my life. That gives me an idea…

Savannah

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I MUST have a caffeinated drink with me when I’m writing. I’ve been known to down several shots of espresso before charging into a battle scene. Definitely not the healthiest thing to do, but it keeps the words flowing.

Sarah

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I like having lots of papers on my desk when writing. I type up my stories because I prefer the ease of copy&paste, but it feels more authentic having some actual handwritten notes with me. I love the sound of paper shuffling, so sometimes I’ll just flip through my notes without even reading them just to hear it. It’s inspiring to me.

Christina

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I don’t really have one big quirk, so I’ll give you two little ones 🙂

I know so many writers who write with music, but I can’t stand that. If I had my way, I’d write in absolute silence. I need to be able to hear the voices and sounds of whatever scene I’m doing. Also, I don’t separate my work into chapters until the final draft.

Kat

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Oh, I am SO addicted to coffee and tea while I write. And I know, with music, some people have play lists but I tend to listen to one song on repeat for like three chapters, and then another on repeat for another chapter or so and so on.

Also, I totally write my best stuff at 1am. Come to think of it, that may explain the coffee and tea 😀

–Vahini Naidoo (but who could this be?!)

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Like several of my colleagues here, I cannot write with music playing.  I’m a great lover of silence.  As Kat said, the voices in my head are the only sounds I need.  My other quirks have to do with posture when writing versus posture when editing. I cannot write sitting up straight at my desktop computer.  If I’m working on an early draft, I have to be semi-reclined, on the couch or bed, typing on my laptop.  However, the opposite is true with editing!  Since I print out my work and edit with a pen on paper, I can’t seem to make it work unless I’m sitting upright at a desk or at the dining room table.  Because of these quirks, my “writing materials” (outlines, notes, earlier pages) don’t stay in a permanent “writing space.”  The pile sort of follows me as I move around the house.

Julie

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I like it when my 3 year old daughter isn’t shouting at me to help her with her mickey mouse puzzle.

HAHA.

I used to have tons of quirks but lately those are sort of a luxury not a must. I love gummy bears + diet coke.

Mandy

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What quirks do you have? Don’t be shy about posting the crazy ones!

~~~

Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She’s in her final year of high school, waiting and waiting to graduate, finish university, and finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here, and check out her work on her FictionPress account.

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45 Responses to “Writing Quirks! We’ll all be a bit crazy together”

  1. Mac_V June 3, 2010 at 11:08 AM #

    I know I have to have some kind of music playing, and if I’m not home alone and can blare my music, I have to have headphones on. It puts me into the mind set of my world because I usually have a playlist for it. I try to avoid music with words because it’s easier to concentrate on the words I’m writing that way, but the music either lets me get the feel for a scene with a specific song, or, if I’m stuck, a certain part of a song can spark an idea with the movement of the instruments.

    I’ve also noticed that when I have a lot of ideas that suddenly came on or just the more intense of a scene I’m writing, I get closer to the screen. Horrible for my eyes, but I do it every time. I do the same while reading intense scenes so I suppose the habit just carried over. 😛

    Mac

    • svonnah June 3, 2010 at 1:18 PM #

      I found wordless music to be very important for setting the mood, but it’s something I’m new to doing so I don’t know if it’s a quirk yet, lol.

    • Biljana June 3, 2010 at 1:25 PM #

      Hahah yes to the leaning forward. After writing for a while my back starts aching and I don’t know why until I realize it’s because of that.

  2. Gabriela da Silva June 3, 2010 at 11:39 AM #

    I can never concentrate at home – either my brother comes in behaving like a ten year old (he’s 22) and we end up playing dodgeball or my dogs come in all happy and we end up playing on the floor…

    …so one of my writing quirks is writing outside. Cafes, tea houses, parks, depends on how much money I’ve got and how safe is the city at the moment (not too safe right now).

    Once I’m out, though, I really hate writing with teen girls going “OMG!! I can’t believe HE did THAAAAT!! And that new DRESS? That was TOTALLY not her!!”
    And I kid you not, that’s an actual conversation I heard.

    So I do listen to music. But I have my playlists – I mostly use soundtracks from videogames and movies, so I choose mostly lyrics-less music that help me feel in the mood. If I need to write a tense scene, I pick music out of thrillers and mysteries, sad scenes have their End-of-Game dramatic music, and so on.

    My final quirk is that, when I do write at home, I barricade myself and have a few drinks. By the end of the night I’m half-drunk and star t tupyng ñike thiss, but nothing that the obligatory editing doesn’t correct!

    • Biljana June 3, 2010 at 1:30 PM #

      I would hate not being able to get away from noise. I’m always yelling at people in my house and it’s another reason why I write late, LATE into the night, early into the morning. Everyone asleep = no noise….until the birds start chirping :P.

      And I find it a little bit hilarious that you get a bit drunk while you write. Must be so much fun to read in the morning 😀

      • Caitlin June 3, 2010 at 4:50 PM #

        this explains why you’re up so late on Twitter sometimes, late night writing and all.

        • Biljana June 3, 2010 at 5:30 PM #

          Hahaha yeah I did that time clock thing where twitter figures out when you sleep according to your tweets (a touch creepy actually) and got from 2AM to 8AM, which was…pretty accurate lol.

      • Gabriela da Silva June 3, 2010 at 5:28 PM #

        Heheheh, I’m not much of a nightowl, so late-night writing is a no go for me!

        In fact, I think my writing would be more incoherent if I wrote in the early morning than it is when I drink XD

        I believe it was Hemmingway who said “Write drunk, edit sober,” or something to that effect?

        Of course, he died of alcoholism. As did Fitzgerald and Poe. Not sayin’ alcohol helps, because Zelda died in a fire. But cheers! 😛

        • Biljana June 3, 2010 at 5:32 PM #

          Oh man if I tried to write drunk I would get SO CONFUSED lol. I’m already grappling with my rewrite while it’s squirming away, and I’m just on the edge of losing control and getting severely confused.

          Yeah I’m…I’m working on that haha.

          • Gabriela da Silva June 3, 2010 at 9:57 PM #

            Who knows! Maybe you’ll write awesome drunk stream of consciousness. Have you ever tried to read Finnegan’s Wake? I’m sure that was written under the influence of alcohol 😛

            • Biljana June 4, 2010 at 10:26 AM #

              I haven’t read it but now I kind of want to 😛

  3. Renee June 3, 2010 at 11:47 AM #

    I have SO MANY quirks, but I’ll name just a few:

    If I’m writing during the day, usually my light HAS to be on. At dusk, however, I prefer it off. My bedroom door HAS to be closed. If my music is on, it has to fit the tempo of the scene. And I always need a full water bottle nearby. 😀

    • svonnah June 3, 2010 at 1:19 PM #

      I loved closed doors too when I lived at home! Now that I live on my own it can be open because there’s nothing to interfere, lol.

  4. Joan June 3, 2010 at 11:57 AM #

    My writing quirk is that I HAVE to eat something, just keep munching on snacks or candies… It’s my fuel of some sort… They keep the ideas flowing x)
    And when I’m writing and I can’t remember a word or I’m trying to turn my visual scene into a written scene, I sort of… act it out… I wave my hands and talk to my computer until it hits me and I feel pretty satisfied.

    • Vanessa June 3, 2010 at 12:57 PM #

      I am ALWAYS snacking when I write as well!

      And acting things out is something I do all the time. I’ll even get up and walk around my room while I do it!

      • svonnah June 3, 2010 at 1:20 PM #

        I’m trying to start acting out stuff again; I feel like I did a lot of play acting when I was younger but got away from it because I started thinking ‘wow I must be ridiculous’. Now that I live on my own though, why not?

  5. Vanessa June 3, 2010 at 12:57 PM #

    I know I can’t write while listening to music for the most part (unless it’s instrumental music – lyrics just throw me off!)

  6. Moira June 3, 2010 at 1:47 PM #

    Ugh, I can’t write with music either. I do listen to music, however, if I feel like a paragraph or a certain section is lacking emotion, and I always use music to get the mood going for whatever chapter I’m writing. Quiet is also really important. I get rabid if I don’t get my quiet.
    Pictures. I’m a VERY visual person, so I really rely on pictures “of” my characters and places. Even pictures that are totally unrelated to my story sometimes get shuffled into my “story inspiration” folder.
    As for where I write…my desk. I think I’ve tried other places, but it just doesn’t work for me. At my desk I feel like an onlooker, not really a reporter of my story, but a recorder.
    Last but not least: coffee.

    • Biljana June 3, 2010 at 5:52 PM #

      I actually agree about music to set the initial mood. I’ll play something sad if I’m about to write something heartbreaking and I’m in a happy mood.

      And yeah, I’m the same with the desk thing… Everywhere else feels pretty foreign and I don’t have the same…trust, lol for lack of better word.

  7. Liza June 3, 2010 at 3:13 PM #

    I absolutely cannot write without music, even if it’s a serious essay I’m working on. Also, the music has to be instrumental only. No words. Classical pieces, movie scores, flute sonatas, I don’t care what it is as long as it lacks lyrics.

    And Vahini Naidoo? Possibly a new contributor? I love the diversity and variety of opinions that comes with a dozen writers, but I miss the close-knit feel of the group of when it first started. It seems now that the popularity is catching like wildfire and that there is at least 1 new contributor every month. It’s almost like ANYONE can be a part of the LTWF staff now, and it shouldn’t be that way. I wish it could go back to the old days, when there were only 6 of you. Being a contributor should be special, not something handed out like cheap candy on Halloween. I’m sure everyone new is a capable writer, but there are still things nagging at me about the whole new situation.

    My complains aside, this was a very interesting and engaging idea for a post!

    • Biljana June 3, 2010 at 4:10 PM #

      The selection process for being a contributor is actually a lot longer than you would imagine. The new contributors, after sending us samples of their writing, first have to go through a month of email correspondence with us all in a GoogleGroup, and it isn’t until after we decide if they mesh well with us that they can post their intro post and be fully integrated into the group. It’s turning into a larger community because we felt that we needed the diversity you mentioned. We aren’t the only ones that have been on FP that are on the way to publication, so if there is a potential member out there, we don’t want to automatically shut them down by cutting off new members. We’ve reached a point in our popularity that we don’t have to look for possible contributors on our own, and people that are interested are approaching us. This is still a very young blog, and there are a bunch of kinks we’re sorting out, and why not take a few more people for the ride? Nothing is ever set in stone.

      Also, if there weren’t so many of us, there would be no /way/ we could post six days a week. At the beginning it was just three days a week and even that was a little problematic sometimes. This way, we cover so many more things with so many different voices and there is more for the readers to read and learn from. The way we’re doing things now is in attempt to get as much useful information and as many great articles to you guys as we can.

      But we do realize that so many new members can be overwhelming. Another reason we have the month-long process before first post is so that we as a group can get to know them. For example, Kat Zhang was with us from the beginning of April, but her first article as a contributor wasn’t until May 17, and even that was a month after she did a trial guest post. Unfortunately, you guys don’t get the same experience of getting to know new contributors in the way that we do, so we were talking about slowing it down.

      I think you’ll be happy to know that Vahini will actually be our last new member for a long time, so that everyone can get the chance to catch up with the contributors. Vahini’s very talented, and really cool. We’re putting on a sort of freeze for everything to settle, for the nature of the blog to become firm, and for everything, including a new layout (!), to be figured out, so you won’t be seeing new contributors anytime soon. However we will always offer guest posts if we think they suit our blog.

      If you have any suggestions on how we can make ourselves less spread out and more intimate, or on ways we can improve the relationship with the readers if you think it’s spreading thin, please let us know, because we’d love to hear /any/ ideas.

      And I’m sorry this message was so formal sounding :P. I’m glad you liked the post (I, too, am totally sidetracked by any lyrics when I’m writing) and I hope this cleared things up :).

    • svonnah June 3, 2010 at 4:59 PM #

      Hi Liza,

      As Billy said, we miss the close-knit feel of the blog, too. In our internal communications we’re all pretty close, but we can understand how hard it is for readers to get to know us all individually, especially with so many new contributors coming on.

      However, the purpose of this blog was to provide a source/outlet for previous FictionPress writers entering the publishing industry, and we’ve been thrilled to death to welcome new professionals. As Billy says, please be assured that our induction process is fairly strict, and we have self-imposed a joining freeze for a few months until things settle down with our new members.

      Thank you so much for telling us how you feel!

  8. Myra June 3, 2010 at 3:50 PM #

    Okay, so, my habits may be not-so-weird habits. I need caffeine in my system. Coffee is preferred, though also I like tea and pepsi (…but Dr. Pepper sounds marvelous right now). There’s just something writerly about having a cup of coffee on hand, you know? ;p

    I need music to overlap the sounds of my house–the general brouhaha that goes on on daily basis is very, very distracting. To this end, I usually zone out and don’t realise someone is calling my name until they yell into my ear. Writing is all-absorbing…

    I have a tendency to hunch over my computer and look the screen in the eye and it’s, uh, not good for my posture at all. I’m doing this right now, actually, and need to curb this habit. 😡 Or I recline totally into my chair so that I’m nearly falling off. Not very good either!

    Stranger quirks are that I’m usually wrapped in a blanket (or sweater), since my desk can get very cold. And I also like to have my two porcelain elephants and glass slipper with me, situated to the left of the computer, when I write. Call them muses, writing totems, what have you, but since I’ve put them on my desk they haven’t moved.

    (Copy and pasted for absolute laziness in the face of exams and piles of homework and the last day of school being tomorrow. :D)

    • Biljana June 3, 2010 at 5:50 PM #

      That’s so cute that you have elephants and a glass slipper! I have the funniest, most endearing picture in my head of the two put together :P.

  9. Caitlin June 3, 2010 at 5:43 PM #

    most of what I write nowadays are essays for my Film Studies minor. When I’m writing about a film or films (or television computer) I have to be listening to the soundtrack. Last time I was writing about the stylistic differences between “new sci-fi” shows like BSG and Firefly and the old sci-fi television and I just marathoned BSG soundtrack play-lists on youtube.

    • Biljana June 3, 2010 at 5:53 PM #

      The problem I have with playing full scores is that if I know the movie well then all I think about is the movie, and then I start remembering how great it was, and start comparing my plot, and then continue to convince myself that it sucks lol. So even when I do listen to music (which isn’t that often at all) I generally stay away from them and keep to non-affiliated pieces hehe.

  10. Cassie June 3, 2010 at 6:33 PM #

    I’m not exactly sure if these count as quirks, but here goes anyway.

    I don’t actually separate my story into chapters, instead I use asterisks (*) when I want to switch between scenes. And I NEED music when I write because (ironically enough) the sound of my fingers against a keyboard drives me nuts. And I always wind up subconsciously doing whatever it is I’m making my character do. Like, for instance, I’ll write that someone sighed or blinked absently or worried at their lip or something along those lines, and then I’ll find myself doing that exact thing. Embarrassingly enough, the only reason why I know this is because my mom walked in on me screwing my face up in order to gnaw at the inside of my cheek, and asked me, “What the hell is THAT face for?” So, I lied and said I was using Skype =D

    • Kat Zhang June 3, 2010 at 6:40 PM #

      “I don’t actually separate my story into chapters, instead I use asterisks (*) when I want to switch between scenes.”

      I do the EXACT same! 😀 It’s actually biting me in the butt now, because I agonize over how many scenes should go in a chapter, etc, etc, and end up with a lot of really short chapters and such.

      “And I always wind up subconsciously doing whatever it is I’m making my character do.”

      I do that when I’m drawing 🙂

    • Biljana June 3, 2010 at 7:04 PM #

      Same! It screwed me over SO hardcore though when I tried to separate it into chapters. The first one was like 20 pages, the next was 5 lol. The worst part is I’m probably going to continue doing it :P.

  11. A. Barone June 3, 2010 at 7:51 PM #

    Quirk? I have a couple.

    First I aboslutely HAVE to listen to music to do writing. It doesn’t matter what kind of music, or even if it matches the feel of the story, but SOMETHING has to be on in the background so I can focus.

    Second, finishing drafts is REALLY hard for me. I will have an idea, be inspiried for a little while but when something gets in the way of writing, it is quite possible that I never go back to that story– no matter how much fun I was having while writing it. There have been a couple exceptions to this which is why I have to stick to writing one story at a time. If I have two projects on the go, one of them eventually gets put to the side while I finish the other and then I may or may not get back to the one that was put aside.

    Third, I do my best writing when my laptop is balancing on my knees. Sitting a desktop just feels to formal for me. I like getting all curled up around my story–and while I would love to do this with a notbook and pen, I can type a hell of a lot faster than I can write so I stick to my mini netbook laptop computer.

    I’m sure I have MORE quirks but those are the three big ones that are on the top of my head right now.

    • svonnah June 3, 2010 at 8:39 PM #

      I love how the physical position of the writer while writing is unique to each person.

  12. Cari June 3, 2010 at 8:16 PM #

    I have obsessive privacy issues while I’m writing. I can writing anywhere as long as I don’t think anyone can look over my shoulder and see my rough draft. I also have a quirk (or problem?) or physically acting out my stories. I do it without even thinking about it. I talk in my characters’ voices, I fall off furniture (because mountains are scarce in my room). I experience the story with them. =)

    • svonnah June 3, 2010 at 8:39 PM #

      Lol I love your mountain quirk!!!

    • Biljana June 3, 2010 at 10:14 PM #

      That’s so cute that you fall off furniture for mountains. Shows how much an imagination can amplify things :D.

  13. Victoria Dixon June 3, 2010 at 9:12 PM #

    Writing to music varies for me. If what I’ve got in front of me requires concentration and thought, I turn the music off. If I’m writing something like a battle scene, self reflection or something equally emotive, I turn on “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” or “Henry V” or maybe “Conan.” Do NOT underestimate the power of a good Basil Pouledouris soundtrack – Conan or otherwise. The music helps me tap into the needed emotions.

    • Biljana June 4, 2010 at 10:20 AM #

      Mhm, good point about concentration. When I’m writing something that’s just pouring out I can usually have something playing.

  14. Aurora Blackguard June 4, 2010 at 4:50 AM #

    For some reason, I MUST have a storybook beside me when I write. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s like a prompt going, GO! THAT BOOK OVER THERE IS WHAT YOU’RE TRYING TO ACHIEVE!
    Well, I think so. And I MUST have like a box of chocolate beside me or something to chew on, especially during tense scenes. And a hundred post-it notes on my computer 🙂

    • Biljana June 4, 2010 at 10:21 AM #

      That’s great! So what book’s there now?

  15. Link June 4, 2010 at 7:57 AM #

    I have five quirks, all of them very easy to do so I can’t use them as an excuse to procrastinate.
    1) a Caffinated drink. Preferably a hot one, so I don’t have to get up and grab another one quickly. During summer, however, Diet Coke becomes my best friend.
    2) I must have my black notebook with me; it’s the one I write all my character, setting and plot notes in. Juggling a massive trilogy is hard enough without having to worry about where I put my book.
    3) I must have videos of author interviews/discussions/ranting to act as inspiration. Sort of like me looking at them and saying, “that’ll be me one day.”
    4) Music. I don’t care whether it’s film scores or Owl City, so long as there is music. It changes with my moods.
    5) (and finally) I must shut my bedroom door and attach the sign that reads:
    LINCOLN IS WRITING:
    IF YOU DISTURB LINCOLN WHILE HE IS WRITING,
    HE WILL DISTURB YOU WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING.

    • Biljana June 4, 2010 at 10:23 AM #

      HAHA that sign is kind of amazing 😀

      • Link June 4, 2010 at 8:50 PM #

        Thanks. It was the only thing I could do to stop my crazy brothers from trying to disturb me, because they know I’ll go through with it.

  16. Vahini June 4, 2010 at 10:01 AM #

    Oh hey! It’s me. On the post! Totally wasn’t expecting that, but thanks for putting my answer up Billy 🙂

    • Biljana June 4, 2010 at 10:25 AM #

      No problem :).

  17. Meagan Spooner June 4, 2010 at 4:28 PM #

    Oooh yay! I got really excited when you said you were going to do a writing quirks post, and this did not disappoint. And, of course, thanks for the shout-out. Some day my writin’ pants will be famous. (Not me, apparently, just my pants.)

    One thing I do that I didn’t mention in my own post is that I have to have my hair down. (“Have to” is loosely used here, of course–I can write anywhere/anyhow, but as Mandy says, the quirks are fun luxuries.) Though I often stick my hair in a ponytail if it’s not behaving, I have to take the ponytail and any clips back out when I write, and I have to brush all the tangles out. For some reason, distressing hair is too distracting to me.

    • Biljana June 6, 2010 at 10:20 PM #

      Glad you enjoyed it :D. And yeah hair can be super annoying. I hate it when it’s all in my face and shit. I always feel so much more fresh when I have it pulled or pinned back.

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