Friday, January 05, 2007

The Three O'Clock Rule

Ack! Today sort of escaped from me. I've just finished proofing the galleys for Damsel Under Stress, and I must say that I had to go get snacks in order to read the next-to-last big climactic chapter. There was a lot of nervous energy. Those who are lucky enough to get the advance copies will have a few "oops" still in there. I caught a couple of ghosts of versions past, where there was still a reference to something that had been deleted. I'm not even sure what draft I'd consider this final version to be. I know I did two near-total rewrites.

I had a big "Hey, get out of my brain!" moment last night while watching The Office. Wednesday night, I wrote a scene about a spontaneous party breaking out in the department where, as Owen puts it, they'll throw a party to celebrate opening a new box of pencils. This party was a luau party. And then guess what kind of party Michael decides to throw on The Office the next night! I have no idea at this point if the scene will even remain in the book (and, really, if the book will ever actually be published), but for the record, I did write it before seeing it on The Office. And I think my luau is better and a little weirder, but then on The Office they can't have gnomes singing Don Ho songs into a karaoke machine while standing on a conference table.

In the past few years of writing full-time, I've discovered what I've started to call "the three o'clock rule." It seems like no matter how hard I try, I can't get started to work on a book until after three. Before then, I can do administrative work, industry reading, dealing with e-mails, marketing, and stuff like that, but doing anything specifically on the book can't seem to take place until three. Yesterday, I was being so efficient on all my administrative stuff that I was sure I'd get an early start, two or two-thirty, even. And then at two FedEx showed up with a payment for a foreign edition, and that meant some record keeping and filing. When that was done, my editor called. Next thing I know, it's three. I generally try to schedule my day with the three o'clock rule in mind, blocking out the time after three for writing. Damsel was a weird book in that it wouldn't happen for me until after ten at night, but otherwise, I seem to be good about getting to work at that point.

I guess that's my writing tip of the day. If you have the luxury of picking the time you write, then work with your natural rhythms and patterns instead of against them. Try to shove everything else into your less-productive hours, and then devote your peak time to writing.

Today I got my schedule all mixed up. I did end up working on those page proofs earlier in the day, and then there was a tea emergency that meant I had to go out, but then I also had to go to the bank, and if I had to do that, I might as well take care of my other errands. Target did fail me this time. They don't sell any loose tea at all. Kroger didn't have the kind I really wanted, but they had something that would do. And then I hit Office Depot, which can be very dangerous for me in general, but which is particularly perilous at this time of year when I'm still pretending to myself that I will get organized. I was excited to find that they had lap desks -- those things with a hard top and a beanbag underneath that you can put on your lap while you lounge around, and it gives you a comfortable desk-like surface. The one I had dates back to my high-school years and the cloth was disintegrating, so beans were spilling out. It's all wrapped up with duct tape at the moment. I hadn't found another one like it anywhere, so I was very surprised to find one in Office Depot (I think mine came from some craft store). A lap desk is essential for doing crossword puzzles or for using my laptop while sitting on the lounge or on the sofa. Now I can get comfortable to write without ending up covered in little styrofoam beads. I was excited enough about the lap desk that I managed to resist all the little organizational items that I know will do me no good, and I was still feeling good enough that when I dropped into Barnes & Noble and they didn't have any copies of any of my books, I didn't get too depressed.

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