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This Is How I Work

People are constantly asking me, "Scotto, how do you manage such an extremely high level of productivity as a writer on a nearly constant basis?" And I always bite down on my immediate desire to say "By ignoring people like you who constantly interrupt me." Instead, I thought I'd put together this little tour of a typical writing day.

My swank new office is pictured above. Surely you can already see how conducive this environment is to my extremely high level of productivity. Important components:

  • Active disco lights mean my brain is up and running.

  • Active glitter lamps mean my brain is soothed by their glittery goodness.

  • Can of Diet Coke at the ready.

  • The Pioneer XDJ-RX2 controller is fired up and pumping out progressive house beats at absurdly high decibels via the KRK Rokit5 monitors, providing a motivating soundtrack to combat the inherent listlessness of the existential condition.

  • The Justice League of Action Figures stands attentive.

  • Barely visible: the "Fuck This Fucking Shit, Motherfuckers" desk sign to the right of the white monitor speaker, a daily mantra that speaks for itself.

  • Laptop is fired up, with Google Docs open in one of my many tabs to some kind of "manuscript" that will potentially be today's focus, along with Twitter, Tumblr, MeWe, Feedly, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, YouTube, Beatport, Soundcloud, and Google Play Music.

Each day begins with a warmup activity of monitoring incoming feeds to determine every good track that was released in the past 24 hours, all of which are processed into queues for auditioning. Music is auditioned nearly constantly while I'm writing to find the next best thing.

Mornings also require a post to Much Preferred Customers, which delivers music once a day, seven days a week. My other Tumblrs are attended to on an "as inspired" basis.

Then it's time for the first nap of the day.

Afternoons find me starting to actually chip away at the "manuscript." It's funny how there's always a damn "manuscript." Even after I finish one, it's like there's another one just sitting there waiting for me to type at it. This stage is kind of a revving of the engines period, where I'm testing the waters to see how the day is going to go.

I use Google Docs for writing books and Notepad for outlining or brainstorming. I looked at a Scrivener demo once and had a small aneurysm, so that was right out. I use Google Sheets to keep track of my daily word count against targets. I use Fade In when I'm writing screenplays. It's dreamy.

Hmm, somewhere in there I missed the second nap of the day. Sure came up on us fast, didn't it! Yawn, am I right?

At some point along the way, I do household chores like dishes, laundry, paying bills, and so on. I run a tight ship here, when I remember to.

Peak writing hours for me occur as we head into the evening, warming up around 7pm, peaking around 10pm, and concluding around 3am. I'm currently in between day jobs, but I think my body is very trained to operate as though I'm at work until 5pm, I get home for a 6pm rest, and then I write from 7-midnight. While I'm in between day jobs, I can extend that from midnight to 3am and get a real head of steam going. Mind you, I'm not typing continuously for all those hours; I take frequent mind and body breaks to ponder what I'm doing. YouTube videos don't watch themselves either. But that's the main window of time where I'm trying to stay focused.

I used to be a heavy plotter. As a playwright I plotted the heck out of everything, scene by scene. The "Act One/Act Two," two-hour format is very unforgiving.

As a novelist, though, I'm blending light plotting with improvising ("pantsing" as they say, or what I call "agile outlining" when I'm trying to irritate tech people). You outline just enough to get you moving again until you run out of outline, within the broad picture of a known destination or ending, and lather rinse repeat. This way you avoid creating a master outline that rapidly ages out of utility (the story's always in charge, not the outline), at the expense of a certain confidence that you do indeed know how the fuck this story is going to go. Your mileage may vary. Many is the fool who tried to emulate my methods, only to learn... not to, I guess? I don't know what they learned, really. I don't talk to these people, to be honest.

I try to find a good stopping point that's like a little cliffhanger for me to solve when I come at the "manuscript" the next day. It's always nice when Present Me can say to Past Me, "Fuck this fucking shit, motherfucker."

Finally it's time to crawl into bed and medicate myself to sleep. I listen to music as I doze off, nestling in with an ambient or downtempo playlist to try to let the day's mental exertions drift into subconsciousness.

I hope you've enjoyed this little "peek behind the curtains." This blog post doesn't count against my daily word count, unfortunately, and is actually more an example of how I goof off than how I work, but I imagine you get the idea.


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