Welcome to a new feature, in which local authors tell us how they write, live and play! First of all, we have a day in the life of Denver-based Todd Fahnestock. Todd is the author of Bookies YA favorite, Fairmist and his latest book, The Wishing World, comes out from Tor’s Starscape Books on Tuesday 25th October. We’re delighted to be part of the launch for Todd’s new book – visit our website to find out how you could get a signed poster for The Wishing World! (NB Entry is open to all, but postage will be added if you are unable to pick up your book and poster at The Bookies bookstore at 4315 E Mississippi Avenue, Denver CO 80246.)
I’ve been writing since I was 18 years old, and the last 13 years with a full-time+ day job. I write in the mornings and on weekends, sometimes for as little as ten minutes at a stretch. I have a schedule I try to stick to, but no two days are the same. Most days, however, my routine looks like this:
5:00 a.m. – I get up. I’m effervescent in the morning. The world looks bright and shiny. I’m like that annoying brother in Four Weddings and a Funeral that pops out of bed with a smile on his face. I always want to talk in the morning. My wife never wants to talk in the morning. Lara can’t form a coherent sentence before coffee, so she mumbles platitudes and strives to keep from strangling me; the woman has amazing self-restraint. She is a night person; she always wants to talk at night. I often mumble platitudes to her as I fall asleep.
5:05 a.m. – I write. The muse sings. I create optimistic, diamond-studded rough draft dung that I believe is fantastico. I will later chop it to bits in the hope of harvesting a diamond or two. The Wishing World II: Loremaster was written in a month (during NaNoWriMo). I deleted 90% of it between that draft and the current draft. Side note: I’m a huge fan of writing the crappy novel. If you’re thinking of writing a novel, please please please write a crappy novel. Write and don’t judge. That comes later.
5:45 a.m. – I run. Maybe. If I’m feeling out of shape, I go for a run between three and eight miles long. If I’m feeling fit, I stay home and write more. Side note: How I feel about being in shape has no bearing on whether or not I’m actually in shape. I’m a moody sucker. If I’m in a deflated mood, I will often think I’m out of shape and go running. Luckily, running always puts me in a better mood and I therefore feel like I’m in better shape. So there is, apparently, logic behind my moodiness.
6:30 a.m. – It’s time to get into the shower…except I’m still writing because I have just ONE MORE IDEA I have to finish. The character is talking; I have to let him/her finish, right? Side note: 30 minutes of writing every morning may not seem like a lot of time, but it is. Over the course of a year, that’s five 40-hour work weeks. I wrote Fairmist and The Wishing World this way. 6:45 a.m. – I clickety clack my iMac to sleep amidst a furious bout of rough-drafting, wishing I could stay and follow my muse’s dulcet voice for just one more hour.
7:00 a.m. – Somewhere between the shower and my closet, I note that I should be in the car right now, leaving for work.
7:08 a.m. – I have a Sonicare. It makes you brush your teeth for 2 minutes. At this point I blame being late on Sonicare because it won’t let me cut my teeth-brushing short by 60 seconds. I could just turn it off, and I did that once. But then I felt guilty for the whole day and kept checking my teeth with my tongue. Who knew I’d be a guilt-ridden slave of my Sonicare? I remind myself to beware of these technological advances we let into our lives. Then I remind myself to cease my internal pontificating and get my butt to work.
7:20 a.m. – I drive to work. I usually call my mom during the drive. She doesn’t have my crazy schedule, but she still gets up at 5:00 a.m. We talk about the Universe and inspiration and about my crazy schedule. My mom keeps me going. My early teen years were a tap-dance on a tightrope over poverty. My Mom kept us out of that chasm. She’s magic.
7:45 a.m. – I go to work at Rose Community Foundation. I assist amazing community leaders who have chosen to spend their lives and their brilliance helping people who are not as fortunate get a leg up. I create documents, print papers, set meetings. At lunch and during breaks, I will answer writing emails, check facebook, set meetings with writing contacts. Sometimes during lunch, I will meet with booksellers, educators or other writing contacts. Two years ago I left a lucrative career as Director of Development at the American Diabetes Association to take this job, specifically to keep my day schedule to forty hours a week minimum, with no working weekends and almost no nights. Rose Community Foundation has been a wonderful cocoon for me, protecting those writing hours and supporting my writing career in innumerable ways.
5 :30 p.m. – On Wednesdays and Fridays, during times when my schedule is not overwhelming me, I leave work early to go to Tae Kwon Do, where I’m working on my deputy black belt. During insane schedule times, like now before my book launch, I don’t go at all.
5:45 p.m. – I get home. I help Dash with homework. I try to help Elo with homework (“Daddy, I got it covered. You don’t even know how to do lattice math.”). If something in my writing world is pressing, I break away to spend time at the computer answering emails, reaching out to teachers about The Doolivanti Diary Contest, or getting back to my publicist or editor at Tor. I sometimes edit a manuscript. I sometimes update my website.
6:30 p.m. – I have dinner with the family. We will often play cards. On Fridays, we have movie night.
7:30 p.m. – If I’m in the throes of a rough draft, I’ll go write until I fall over. If not, I’ll goof around with the family some more.
8:30 p.m. – I give hugs to kids. Dash always wants to cuddle, talk about Monster Legends, or inform me of a new science fact he read (“Dad, did you know that in a fight between a wasp and a hornet, the wasp would win?”). Elo, like her mother, is a night person. She will always keep me talking so she can stay up later. “Hey Dad, I have this new story idea for Sealace (her novel in progress).” Or, the one that always works: “Hey Dad, how are things going with Wishing World II?”. She knows I can’t resist hearing the stories she’s concocting, and she knows I can resist even less talking about the stories I’m concocting.
9:00 p.m. – Into bed. If I’m experiencing a bout of willpower, like now, I do not watch Netflix on my iPad. If I’m weak, I will watch whatever I’m bingeing on. I’m currently watching The West Wing. Again. Damn, that Aaron Sorkin can write dialogue. Before that it was the phenomenal Stranger Things (If you haven’t seen it, WOW. Do. But keep your snugglebunny close by or you will have to leave the light on when you go to sleep). Before that I read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen for the first time.
9:30 p.m. – Lara comes to bed. She’s a night person. She wants to talk about her day. I show almost no self-restraint as I…fall asleep.
Weekends vary with every week. If I’m rough drafting, I will write at least four hours on Saturday and again on Sunday. My career best is 45,000 words on a three-day weekend. Average is more like 7,000 a weekend. Some weekends I attend a conference or convention. Some weekends are for family vacations. This past weekend, I spent most of Saturday updating my website with the upcoming book signings, The Wishing World official blog tour, and adding a half-dozen advance reviews of The Wishing World by my daughter’s 12-year-old friends. On Sunday, I cleaned house and, in the afternoon, hosted The Sparkling Hammers writers group, which is usually the first Sunday of every month.