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Where do you write? Do you have a set place? Or can you write anywhere?
My desk. I can't write anywhere else. Back when I was a shitty teenager, I'd sometimes have those flashes of inspiration where I'd need to write something down on whatever was nearby, but I've never been able to do any sustained writing in public. I'm sure there are writers who benefit from not being alone, but I'm not one of them. And, often, working on your novel in a coffee shop looks a lot like performance. Personally, though, I'm just easily distracted. Has to be in a private space.
What time of day do you like to write?
My brain gives out and starts wandering around 4:00/5:00, so I try to start before noon.
Do you set yourself a time limit? Or do you try to reach a specific word count?
Nah. I trust my brain. When it's done, it's done.
Do you need quiet to write? Or do you need music? What kind of music?
I've always written to music. I'm very impressionable, so I do make some effort to tailor what I'm writing to it. Growing up, when I was trying to write more literary stuff, I'd listen to ambient mostly—Labradford, Aix Em Klemm, Pan American. For my first published book, Night Terrors, I wrote the entire thing to one playlist of the first few waves of punk—thanks to iTunes, I can even give you them alphabetically—The Buzzcocks, The Damned, The Misfits, Sex Pistols, Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones and, especially, The Vibrators. There's Wire and Suicide and a little power pop on there, too. It's probably why I wrote such an emotionally immature book, in retrospect.
What is your number one procrastination tool? Just kidding! It's the Internet, right? Of course it is. So, specifically, what on the Internet is your own personal black hole?
Oh god, the internet distracts me from life, not work. I'm really prone to Wikipedia spirals—I'll start by looking up some terrible catastrophe, a major ship wreck for example, and from there I'll follow a link to some obscure form of dying I'd never heard of and eventually I'll just be on a serial killer database, looking up their last meals. I'm a monster.
What do you do to break out of a bout of writer's block? Please share any and all tricks.
Again, I'm super impressionable—if I'm trying to start my day and it's just not happening, I will read something in my category, to kind of remind myself what funny looks like on a page. For Night Terrors, the book I read over and over was The Time Machine Did It by John Swartzwelder, who wrote like 60 episodes of Golden Years Simpsons. He's responsible for some of the greatest jokes in the show's history. His book is a bunch of canny one-liners and technically flawless garden path jokes—I'd read it as if to say, "See, Brain? This is how it looks."
Who is the first person you share your writing with and why do you turn to her or him?
I'm a pretty ruthless critic when it comes to my own stuff, and I'm a perfectionist, so no one sees anything until I consider it mostly done. I do, however, have a few very close friends who are naturally inclined toward editing, so before I delivered my manuscript to my actual editor, I gave it to them. One of them, Dave, line edited the whole thing, and I knew I could trust him because his notes all went like this: "Not funny. You can do better."
What is one "rule" that you follow as a writer? Writers always seem to be coming up with lists of rules. Or are you not into rules? Maybe you're not into lists? What's the deal?
I don't have any actually! Which is not to suggest I'm some free-associating writer-hero-poet—I'm so neurotic that it's actually kind of surprising I don't have a huge list of rules. But apparently I don't think of it in those terms.
Do you compulsively edit as you write? Or do you write a lot and go back and then cringe at how many times you repeat the same word over and over? Which, what is that word?
I worked as an editor for long enough that I've come to view myself as much as an editor as a writer—though maybe I just don't like thinking of myself as writer, and 'editor' seems like a vastly more respectable occupation. My usual method is to sit down and write in four or five hour bursts, try to get to some kind of end. Then stay away from it for a week or something, go back and gut it. I'm a vicious editor. I'll hem it down seven or eight times before it sees the light of day.
What is the best advice you've ever received about writing? And, no, it doesn't need to have come from another writer.
Stop using so many fucking adjectives.