I’m super excited to be part of the Very Superstitious Blog Tour, hosted by Chapter By Chapter! This anthology was an interesting blend of stories from some authors that I wasn’t very familiar with, and I enjoyed it immensely! You can read my review here. For today’s stop on the tour, I’m happy to welcome author Stephanie Kuehnert to the blog. Stephanie has agreed to share her Top Ten Writing Rituals with us, so sit back, relax, and enjoy her (slightly chaotic!) list:
STEPHANIE KUEHNERT’S TOP TEN WRITING RITUALS:
1. Run. This is where the ideas that have been stewing, sometimes for years, begin to click. A character or a theme that has been gnawing at me will suddenly spring to life in a scene. Sometimes this happens when I’m walking or riding the bus, but there is something about being outside and running that tends to set it off best. Often it has to do with the music I’m listening to, which leads us to…
2. Create a playlist. A song or a band is usually the trigger for what I’m writing. “Bastards of Young” by the Replacements set the tone for my book, Ballads of Suburbia. The song “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” by Sleater-Kinney inspired my book, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, along with “Don’t Take Me For Granted” by Social Distortion. For my short story, “The Road Home” in Very Superstitious, it was “Tones of Home” by Blind Melon. I also checked a bunch of ‘20s music out of the library and built a playlist from that. I used to only listen to my playlists while I was running or going on errands—whenever I wanted to get into the mindset of my story/character—but not while I was writing because it disrupted my concentration. Lately, I’ve been writing with music more often, so my novel playlists have gotten totally out of control and are well over a hundred songs long, often including whole albums by the bands who inspired the book, and then I create mini-playlists for certain emotionally intense scenes. Yeah, playlists are a huge writing ritual for me.
3. Create a Scrivener project file. This is a relatively new ritual for me, only started a book and a half ago, but I am deeply in love with Scrivener. Spending a day organizing my ideas about the book, laying out the chapters, writing up outlines, character bios and importing research and pictures gets me in the mindset of writing. I’ve also found that having all of my information in one place keeps me in that mindset. I’m easily distracted, so jumping around and pulling up different documents of my synopsis or previous versions of a scene can send me down a rabbit hole causing me to lose hours of writing time. When it’s all in Scrivener, I stay focused.
4. Find the right journal for my project. I still write by hand occasionally. (Even more now that I work full-time and do writing on my lunch break!) And I never feel like I’m completely in the groove with my project until it has the right notebook. I’m very picky about these things. I’ve started project notebooks and had to tear the pages out of them when the story doesn’t seem to “fit” there. (That is probably me superstitiously blaming the notebook, but whatever. If it works, it works.) People buy me journals as gifts all the time and since my friends have awesome taste, they usually become a project notebook. Every once in a while I end up buying one because it’s so perfect for the story I’m working on. Getting a new notebook can often get me out of a rut.
These are the journals for my current, brand new projects. Both are gifts from friends. The one of the left is for my fiction project, and the one on the right is for an essay collection/zine-style memoir project I have in mind.
5. I break my book. This ALWAYS happens to me. ALWAYS! I have a breakdown roughly half or three-quarters of the way through my book when the plot and the characters have completely spiraled out of control and I have no idea how to rein them in, tie up loose ends and finish. This quickly devolves into me questioning how I thought this idea/these characters/this plot could ever work as a story. The book is BROKEN. My idea seems moronic OR I’m too much of an untalented moron to write it. I cry a lot during this phase.
6. Send obsessive emails to my critique partners and chatter endlessly about the book to my husband. I’ve never given up on a book. Sometimes it takes longer than other times for me to get back on track. Sometimes I need a whole month or summer of playing video games and generally lazing around to work past it. Most of the times I just need to stew and I do my best stewing by talking about my plot and the problems with the story over and over and over to anyone I trust who is willing to listen. This means sending a lot of emails to my critique partners. It means following my husband around the house and asking him questions or sharing ideas and usually trailing off into silence as my brain begins to move too fast for my mouth. I have a love/hate relationship with this phase of the process.
7. Clean all of the things. During the ruminating on how to fix the broken book, my house becomes spotless. This is part procrastination, part my own messed-up need to make something super orderly when my brain is in pure chaos, and part preparation for what comes next…
8. Let everything else fall into total chaos. Once I get past the block, I begin to live and breathe the book. Nothing but the book. I tear my office apart looking for research materials and leave it there. Tea mugs pile up. Laundry and dishes are neglected. Aside from making sure my cats are cared for, I cannot be counted on for much. So cleaning the house while I’m thinking about my book proves essential because it will get beyond dirty in the weeks or month that follows.
9. Become so obsessed with the story that I lose sleep thinking about it and probably have dreams about it. After struggling with insomnia for more than fifteen years of my life, I usually work very hard to practice good sleep habits and I get upset when there are disturbances in my sleep. I get a sick sort of enjoyment out of the end-of-a-draft sleep deprived phase. I stay up super late binge writing through scenes. I lay in bed, eyes wide, thinking about what happens next. And I especially love it when I dream about the story or an ah-ha moment wakes me up and sends me sprinting to the bathroom with a notebook and pen so as not to disturb my husband.
10. I decompress. If this is round one and now my draft is going to my agent and critique partners, I take a very long shower. (Umm, bathing also tends to fall to the wayside toward the end.) I spend as much time as I can watching TV or reading. Then I begin to catch up on things like the email I neglected and the housework. As it gets closer to getting my notes back, I start listening to my playlist (if I ever stopped) and getting excited to go through steps 8 and 9 again (hopefully not steps 5 and 6 but that can happen too.) If what I’ve completed is the revised version my agent will be putting on sub, I do all of these things, especially the soundtrack listening and then I get pretty sad. I’ve gotten so close to my characters. I will miss hanging out in their world. Slowly, I try to discover new songs, new ideas (or revisit ones I’ve had for a while) and start the whole thing over from the beginning with the next project!
STEPHANIE KUEHNERT got her start writing bad poetry about unrequited love and razor blades in eighth grade. In high school, she discovered punk rock and produced several D.I.Y. feminist ‘zines. After short stints in Ohio and Wisconsin, Stephanie ultimately returned home and received her MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago. She currently resides in Forest Park, IL.
Big thanks to Stephanie for stopping by today! I loved her list, how about you?
About Very Superstitious:
Title: Very Superstitious: Myths, Legends, and Tales of Superstition (Anthology)
Publication date: October 15, 2013
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
ISBN eBook: 978-1-939765-75-8
Authors: Delany, Jackie Morse Kessler, Stephanie Kuehnert, Jennifer Knight,
Marianne Mancusi, Michelle E. Reed, Dianne Salerni and Pab Sungenis
The stories are based on urban legends, myths, tribal tales and superstitions from around the world. A charity anthology to benefit SPCA International with stories by Shannon Delany, Jackie Morse Kessler, Stephanie Kuehnert, Jennifer Knight, Marianne Mancusi, Michelle E. Reed, Dianne Salerni and Pab Sungenis.
Check out the rest of the Very Superstitious Tour Schedule here!
And now for the Giveaway! Two winners, one international and one U.S., will receive ebooks of all the authors’ work (INT) or a physical copy of Very Superstitious (US)! Ready to enter? Simply click the Rafflecopter button below (Ends November 7th):
Big thanks to Chapter by Chapter for hosting this blog tour!