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Rules to write and drink by
I love writing. I also love drinking. It’s probably no coincidence that I tend to do my best at both when they’re combined, or that I did that quite a bit on the way to publishing my first book, The Foundation.
But it’s not as simple as drink lots + write lots = good book. There’s rules to live by and different liquor choices for different moments. It’s something I’ve thought about a bit, so the opportunity to write about it for this site made me giddy.
I thought I’d start by sharing with you fine, well-liquored readers my perspective on the ‘other side’ – my rules to write and drink by.
- Don’t write while blind drunk
I love the idea of smashing out words in a fury of creative energy then falling asleep in my own drool. Especially when I wake up rusty the next day, only to be welcomed by Arial size 11 nuggets of gold from the night before, which after some polishing end up being the best scenes in the book.
Though writing when you can barely see the computer can be a lot of fun, and lead to an interesting creative process, it also has some drawbacks. For starters, the output varies. If I don’t produce said nuggets of gold, I’ve probably lost a couple of days of productivity, what with the drinking and the hangover.
Overall, I’m set up well for it: I can touch type like a fiend so don’t need to keep my eyes open, I generally remember to save things, I get an intense focus when I’m well drunk that can be awesome and I don’t get terrible hangovers. On the other hand, I am prone to falling asleep.
- Write the right type of scene while happy drunk or angry drunk
I’m a certain type of writer. I plot things out in detail, have no trouble getting words on a page and don’t really get writer’s block. What I do struggle with is the guy in the back somewhere who likes to scream ‘YOU SUCK VINCENT!’ at the most inconvenient time possible. This is where a stiff drink can help.
Most of the time I’m a happy drunk, with happy creative fuel and a nicer bunch of friends in my head than that other guy. Drinking also making me wittier and more attractive. I like writing in this mood. It’s fun. Though sometimes it does end up as ‘screw you plot plan, we’re going to do THIS instead!’
Angry drunk happens less often, but can still be productive. When it does, I try to embrace the darkness and write the face melting action scenes or brooding super villain scenes. No emotional scenes, though, or my protagonist will pull some jerk move that I’ll just need to fix later.
- Alcohol is a great reward system to avoid distractions
A couple of drinks is usually the best idea. I often make use of a fun little reward system: write 500 words to get a beer, write 500 more for another.
It works, but requires honesty, or else I’d just copy-paste ‘Steve wants a beer’ 250 times then get a couple of beers out of the fridge.
This method also keeps me on track and makes it less likely I’ll go ‘ooh shiny!’ and abandon a frustrating scene to look at YouTube videos of cats.
- Edit sober
Editing is the hardest part of writing a book. Cleaning up the mess requires clarify of thought and a sharpness that you don’t always need when putting the words down.
If dealing with the suggestions of an editor, being sober is critical. They’re smarter than me, often with tough feedback, so I don’t need a depressant on top of that.
It’s tough, though. Editing can be boring and by the time I reach the final read through I just want to dive into a swimming pool of single malt. Must. Resist.
- Pick the right drink for the right scene
Easy, right? Here’s my favourites for each occasion:
- Good for writing thinky scenes and scenes where bad guys are plotting to do bad things. Current favourite is the Lagavulin 16yo single malt. It is beastly.
- Red wine: Good for writing downer scenes. You know, those with emotions and stuff that detract from the plottin’ and the ‘splosions. I’ve got no recommendations, because I don’t know wine beyond what I like.
- Beer: Good for slamming down while writing action scenes. The darker the better, whether it’s a stout, porter, brown or amber. Current favourite is the Hawthorn Brewing Company Amber Ale, brewed in Melbourne, Australia.
- Hot Blackcurrant: Good for a comforting hug when you have just killed off your favourite character. My wife introduced me to this gem. Blackcurrant syrup with hot water is as complicated as it gets.
So there you have it. Rules to live by.