what and how do you write?

Over the past couple years, quite a few readers have asked me to talk, er, write more upon my writing process.

There’s really nothing magical about it, I don’t think, but I do promise that I’ll write something more in-depth sometime soon to give you an idea of how I work on both freelancing assignments as well as budding novels.

In the meantime, though, I’ve filled in this writing style meme from Janie’s Colloqium, and if you’re so inspired, please do the same, and let me know you did so in the comments!

1. Do you write fiction or non-fiction? Or both?

Non-fiction to pay the bills right now, but I dabble in fiction on the side. Remember NaNoWriMo? I’ll be doing it again this year. Paul of Crazy Like Whoa has jumped the starting gun by a few months, but won’t you join me in November?

2. Do you keep a journal or a writing notebook?

I have many journals from over the years, dating back to when I was, oh, probably 14 years old or so. I don’t write in my journal nearly as much as I should though.

As for a notebook, I keep a little one in my bag at all times just in case things strike my fancy, but in all honestly, I’m a scrap of paper kind of gal. Mostly backs of bus tickets. Have tons of them. All over the place.

I do, though, use regular-sized notebooks to write down all my research for nonfiction projects–I don’t rip anything out to file it, so I have several notebooks full of research for assignments over the years. Kind of a professional journal, I guess.

3. If you write fiction, do you know your charactersโ€™ goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing? Do you find books on plotting useful or harmful?

I would say I know some of those things some of the time, but never all of those things. I usually have a basic plot in mind, but, as happens with many fiction writers, my characters often surprise me. I find plotting ahead of the time can be helpful, but not necessary and definitely changeable.

4. Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work?

Ooh, I’d have to say procrastinator considering that I’ve started a few novels now and haven’t finished any. Lots of ideas though! In my head, on paper, everywhere but, you know, in the computer.

With my work assignments, I’m much more disciplined. Thank goodness.

5. Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time?

Both have happened, and both are lovely and well-received.

6. Are you a morning or afternoon writer?

I’m much more productive in the morning than in the afternoon, which is why I hate when I have to run errands in the morning. It’s *very* difficult for me to get my concentration back after goingin giro” all morning.

I’m also great later in the evening, from 9 pm on, but since that’s when P and I have time to hang out, I don’t usually write then unless he’s out with the boys or extra tired.

7. Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate?

I usually have the TV or music on, but I can work just as well in silence. Idle chatter, though, annoys me, and I’m not sure I could write in a cafe. I used to have a horrible time trying to study among people in college and law school, if that was any indication.

8. Computer or longhand? (or typewriter?)

Mostly, nearly all computer, but if I’m out and about and the mood strikes, I’ll longhand it.

9. Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One? Or do you let the story evolve as you write?

So far I haven’t known any of the endings, and perhaps that’s part of my problem….

10. Does whatโ€™s selling in the market influence how and what you write?

In my nonfiction writing, of course, because I do a lot of topical stuff. For fiction, I write what I feel like and I figure I’ll let my (as yet to be found) agent sort it all out.

11. Editing/Revision – love it or hate it?

Honestly? Kind of love it. I rather enjoy perfecting things in general, so it’s not surprising to me how much I enjoy perfecting my words. I find it challenging, exhilarating even, to pinpoint exactly the way I want to express what I’m trying to say. The pleasure I find in finding the right word is really indescribable. How’s that for irony?

So, what and how do you write?

17 Beans of Wisdom to “what and how do you write?”
  1. 09.02.2008

    Your reply to the last question is what makes your blog so enjoyable (and probably why you can also pay the bills with your words).

    casalba’s last blog post..Gelato

    Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Great post michelle.

    I write fiction. I do outline. When writing scripts you must be more structured because the medium requires it. My novel’s outline was looser.

    For my scripts I have an ending. It could change but before I start writing I have to know what the characters’ arcs are.

    I cannot write to the TV or people around me talking. I enjoy writing to music. I too am a morning person. When I was going through the residency process, it totally threw my writing schedule off as I had to be at the Comune all morning.

    I started carrying a little notebook because I kept losing the scraps of paper I would write dialogue or scenes on. Boh.

    Writing is rewriting. I love getting to work after I’ve finished the torturous first draft

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..McCain could have avoided all this drama if he had actually vetted his VP.

    Ooh, you should definitely do this meme…you’ve partially done it here, but I’d love to read all the answers ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Gil

    The last time I saw a keyboard like that was about 5-10 years ago in a store window on I believe York Street nearby Toad’s Place on the Yale campus in New Haven, CT. It was a typewriter repair shop and I believe it no longer occupies a ground floor storefront and has moved to smaller quarters upstairs due to the downturn in typewriter repairs.

    Not much of a writer. When I have to write something, in my retirement, I use my computer so my editors, wife & daughter, have a chance to edit my writing.

    I used to *love* typing on one of those old-fashioned typewriters when I was a little girl…that click, click, click was so addictive…always left me wanting more. The laptop keyboard I have now is actually kind of annoying in its clicking ๐Ÿ™

  4. Diana

    I have two novels going, one is historically based and I have about 170 pages written, and the other has the outline and first two chapters. The other thing is the notes I keep which parallel the blogging, for one day if I want to try to publish about the experience we have had doing what we have done but I am not even sure I want to make any kind of publication out of it. I don’t know what I want from my writing, but I try to use the blog (not enough) to just hone any skills I might have. I usually get frustrated but sometimes the thing I wrote says what I want it to say. It is very hard for me to write during the season because of fatigue and burn out. I ordered a juicer and vitamins to counter this and am waiting for my Ebay delivery as I write. With so much to do — design, construction, the art work for the new room, making pots and other ceramic pieces, running the B&B, the gardening, making bread and baking and the dog –writing sometimes gets thrown off of the priority list but if I am honest with myself, I would like to spend more time hacking away at the writing process.

    Which is why religiously read your blog, Michelle — because it inspires me to be a better and more consistent writer.

    Oh Diana, *please* keep writing..and sharing. And thank you *so* much for such kind words. Truly.

  5. I’ll be doing the meme, but let me just state here and now that no guns have been jumped… I’ll just be starting my second novel in November – hah.

    And, in celebration of the central image of this blog, I just have to give a big shout out to the beans of the Coffea arabica without which none of this would be possible…

    paul of crazy like whoa’s last blog post..Day 16: Half the way there! (25,880 words)

    OK slow down there…you’re giving lazy writers a very bad name. And yes, excellent idea to praise the bean!

  6. I have one of those old typewriters! It’s an old Royal from the forties that I inherited. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?

    Great post! I’m always interested to hear about other writers’ processes. I do most of my food writing either really early in the morning or really late at night. I like to work when there are no distractions.

    I haven’t written fiction in a long time. Poetry was always my big thing. My inspiration for a poem often comes from something I see or do as I’m running around during the day. I’ve always carried a little notebook with me, but recently I got a nifty little voice recorder and I love it.

    I am also an obsessive editor! I rewrite several times and agonize over every word. It takes me forever to finish a post!

    Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy’s last blog post..Daring Bakers Bake Eclairs

    I’ve never been any good at poetry…I’d love to read some ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. 09.02.2008

    In college I wrote a lot of fiction, but after that, I let it go by the wayside. I thought about blogging for a long time before I actually started to do it about a year ago. Now I try to write every day and I find that I do a fair amount of editing. Some day I would like to write a book, but I don’t have anything in mind at this point. I think the act of writing on a daily basis is a great exercise for my brain!

    Absolutely Janie; writing every day definitely gets those creative juices flowing…looking forward to reading your book ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. 09.03.2008

    I always love to read about other writers’ process. We’re similar in a lot of ways. (Here via saraarts)

    patry’s last blog post..THE HORRIBLE AND THE MISERABLE

    Nice to see you Patry! I’d love to see your writing style meme ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. 09.03.2008

    I co-wrote the stories for two episodes of Star Trek (one for The Next Generation and one for Voyager) and served as the script coordinator (proofreader/editor/office manager) on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I also co-wrote the story for a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel (“The 34th Rule”). I was also the script coordinator and associate producer on the TV series The Dead Zone (based on the Stephen King novel).

    Now that I’m “retired” from Hollywood — I write stuff for the University of Oregon — in the office of Government and Community Relations.

    I would LOVE to write a political blog, but ironically, working in government and community relations means I have to be non-partisan and very careful about expressing my personal views and opinions.

    In the meantime, Star Trek is the gift that keeps on giving. My wife and I will be coming to Italy next March as guests of a small science fiction convention that takes place in a small hill town (Fiuggi) about 60 kilometers southeast of Rome. This will mark our third trip to Fiuggi since 2004. We love every opportunity to come over and visit with the Italian sci fi fans!

    Who knew Star Trek would be so giving?! Sounds like great fun in Fiuggi ๐Ÿ™‚

    I wonder if you could do a political blog anonymously…too risky perhaps, but I know what you mean. I’m about ready to do a political post myself, which strays a bit from the main topics here, but I can’t stop myself….

  10. 09.03.2008

    great post! like you, i write everywhere – journals, ticket stubs, scraps of paper here and there. its always exciting to find scribbles that i’ve written months ago. i write mostly poetry and prose and i get most of my writing done late at night, which is not a good thing because i work at the schools and have to wake up early. walking around and watching people helps me with my writing. especially walking, its my main inspiration for catching words.

    Walking is fabulous for my writing as well…so long as I remember what I was thinking by the time I get home ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. Great meme, Michelle and very interesting. I think it is good for writers to think about their writing process from time to time and see what’s working and what’s, well … not. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Cherrye at My Bella Vita’s last blog post..Southern Italian Nicknames โ€ฆ and a Contest

    I should actually do something like this more often in fact…so easy to get into ruts with writing!

  12. 09.03.2008

    Lots of good insight here. My fiction ms is currently undergoing revision, while I always have something small cooking on the nonfiction burner. They’re easier to get out there into the world of journals, etc. and keep me motivated!

    Joanne’s last blog post..Distractions

  13. 09.03.2008

    Interesting to read another’s experience and process — especially someone who also *occasionally* procrastinates, can’t concentrate with idle chattering and actually likes the editing process! I’ve been trying much harder to write every day and usually after 9 p.m., but with 2 school age kids and a full-time non-writing job (and a new beau, who also likes to talk on the phone or hang out 9 p.m. on!) it’s been difficult lately. I sometimes sketch out an idea on paper, but usually just type it in. I type much faster than I can write and much easier to move things around.

    Way to go on doing the non-fiction gigs to help pay for the fiction writing and fun stuff!

    Susan’s last blog post..I only got the sunny hours

  14. 09.03.2008

    So many of the folks I read have been playing with this meme. It’s fascinating to see everyone’s different process styles. I’m pretty in sync with yours, except I finish my novels… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..What’s Cooking Wednesday: End-of-Summer Gratin

  15. This is a riveting read Michelle as are all the comments.

    I totally agree with you about the editing process. It can be really theraputic, I love the cutting and pruning part, parring a sentence down to it’s purest form. Like you, I love words and often talk to myself while I write to see how the words feel when spoken and what they sound like. I really enjoy the research aspect too. There are so many aspects of writing I would love to find out more about and this is a great starting place.

    I greatly admire your fluid writing style, full of insight and humour and I would love to read some of your fiction, any extracts or short stories?

    Amanda@A Tuscan View…’s last blog post..Ferragosto

    Thanks Amanda; you know I enjoy your writing as well. I’ve put up a short story on here a long time ago: Seeds of Truth. I think that might be the only fiction I’ve put up actually. I really need to write more….

  16. 09.16.2008

    I actually just posted this very meme today. I love how you described your love of editing. It makes perfect sense to me.

    Karina’s last blog post..Monday Morning Meme

    Looking forward to seeing your meme, Karina!

  1. [...] the blogosphere, what better month than November to share this “What and How I Write” meme I... my-bellavita.com/2008/11/08/writing-meme-what-and-how-i-write
Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake