When I was creating Badass Writers Bootcamp, I decided to interview a few bestselling authors to get a peak into their worlds, their writing processes and how they keep their creativity flowing.
I was determined to find the link between all of these writers and their successes. I wanted to know if there was some connection between them, some food or lifestyle habit they had in their bag of tricks that made them a success.
What I found instead, was the only thing they had in common is they all do what works best for them. Genius. And this “golden nugget” became the foundation of Badass Writers Bootcamp.
Now I want to share some of these interviews with you, so you can see for yourself how the pros do it.
I was extremely honored to be able to interview Larry Brooks of StoryFix.com. I have so damn much respect for this guy and for the work he does. His blog, and most importantly his book, Story Engineering, have changed my life and my creative writing process.
I am no longer a pantser, I am a planner, and I am so grateful to Larry for being willing to share his world with me and my InkyBites readers.
So here we go… an interview with the story master, Larry Brooks:
1. How do you sustain your creativity/creative flow?
I think my situation is a little unique, in that I write full time, all day, everyday. But I’m working on completely different things –- blog posts, freelance projects, emails, marketing stuff, manuscript coaching, and three different book projects at completely different stages and in completely different categories… it makes sustaining a constant creative flow hard.
I need to proactively choose to focus on one thing, then complete it (or at least a daily goal, quantitatively), and then take a break before I come back to pick up the next ball. Some days are better than others in this regard.
My best strategy is to realize that this is probably all I can do out there in the real world, so the alternatives are pretty depressing. And once I get into it, time flies, it’s pure bliss.
2. How often do you write? How many words/pages a day do you write?
Daily. At least 340 out of the available 365 days a year.
Not all day, every day, some days are pretty slim. Some have me at the keyboard for 12 or more hours. That’s what I like about this work, versus being “employed,” I can make my own priorities and schedule.
As for pages… it depends what I’m working on, and often my goal isn’t measured in pages.
3. Do you have a pre-writing ritual? What is it?
I think I’m too old and crusty to have a pre-writing ritual. Every moment I’m not writing is, in some way, my pre-writing ritual.
When I walk into my home office (which I often take with me to work mobile), I immediately click into writing mode. I try to do emails first, get that handled, then settle into the longer stuff.
Sometimes I play music (I try to match the energy to the nature of what I’m writing… I listen to a lot of hard rock, to be honest), sometimes I need quiet. It’s the lack of a routine that keeps me from getting completely bored and burned out, I try to mix it up.
4. What are your daily/weekly meals like?
They’re all over the map. About half are moderately healthy, the other half is comfort food.
Breakfast is light, usually a protein drink before the gym, where I spend two hours every day. Lunch is a sandwich, a few chips, some diet soda. Dinner is in, at least four to five nights a week, usually meat and a salad. Light snacks later In the evening to wind down in front of a dumbed-down television show. No desserts, to speak of, but I love ‘em.
That’s my nod to a disciplined diet. The gym compensates for my lackluster eating.
5. What foods do you eat regularly?
Protein drinks, peanut butter sandwiches, chicken, seafood, some pasta, salads, some nuts, a little cereal, a low cal fudge bar. When I eat out its nachos and hamburgers, and at lunch, more healthy sandwiches.
I don’t really connect my diet to my work, to be honest (I should, and I appreciate your messages on this count), but I am mindful from a fitness standpoint. I work too hard in the gym to wipe it away with dumb food choices.
6. How often do you exercise? What kind do you do?
30 to 60 minutes of hard cardio on machines, and when the weather isn’t too hot (I live in Arizona), we power walk from one to two hours every morning we’re not hiking in the hills, trying to avoid snakes.
Never a day off. I’m a total gym rat, too.
I lift weights, dividing muscle groups on specific days, and combining it with core work using all the latest stuff (balls, ropes, bands, etc.). I’ve been doing this for, well, longer than most of your readers have been breathing, so its all second nature.
I’m addicted. It’s the most disciplined thing I do in my life.
7.. How do you capture/organize your ideas?
I quickly juxtapose creative story ideas against the criteria-based story building tools that I write about in my books and on my blog. As for other ideas, I try to vet them and optimize them.
Ideas are like gifts, you can never take them for granted, and they must be unwrapped and properly used to have value. Within that box, I strive to be as spontaneous as possible in all things. I bore easily.
8. What’s your writing process like?
Again, it depends on what I’m working on. Each form has a different process.
With fiction, I plan every story beat down to a succinct understanding of purpose and content, and constantly allow that flow to evolve as new ideas surface and others shift and merge. I love the feeling of having created a story outline that works, in context to principles I know are effective, then submitting to other sources of creative inspiration that evolve the story to a higher level.
9. Anything else you’d like to add that I didn’t ask about?
I’d like to offer a perspective.
Writing is an avocation available to everybody. And because of the new world of digital publishing, our work is something that can be easily shared, more so than ever before.
But some things haven’t changed.
Like any other avocation, there are standards and criteria for excellence at a professional level, which is suddenly watered down. These truths are based on things that are natural and proven, you can’t mess with them.
And yet, because writing doesn’t require a membership card, some writers don’t consider them, they just write.
In fact, they advocate doing just that, above and beyond anything else. Just write. Which is about as informed as suggesting that, to be healthy, you should “just eat, anything you want, however you want it, when you want it. There are no rules.”
The word “rules” is a nasty chunk of rhetoric.
Call it what you will, there are indeed forces and principles and guidelines and criteria that define good writing in any form, and especially in fiction writing. Growth in this field is as much an assimilation of this understanding as it is the practice of the craft.
In fact, the word “craft” is defined by these principles. The more you know about them, the more you notice it in published work and even in unpublished work, the clearer it becomes, the more valid the principles are, because they are the very things that are defining what you read as either good, or not. This leads to better writing, because you can’t un-see those things.
For me, writing from an informed base of knowledge is so much more fun than shooting at a moving target and making up my own “rules.” The mystery and fun of creative writing remains, while the risks are minimized and defined.
To write with blinders on is like doing anything else from a context of ignorance or the defiance of what has been proven to be valid and true… it’s a certainty that you’ll keep running into walls.
To learn more about Larry and his books, visit StoryFix.com.
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