Kristin Billerbeck on Writing Rituals

The most important part of my writing rituals include consuming massive amounts of espresso and clearing my mind of outside stuff.  Not easy.  Today I wrote at one of these ADD-style bowling alleys with 100 blaring TV screens and and my four kids.  They bowled and ate expensive hamburgers.  I wore noise-silencing headphones and wrote.  This is far from perfect, but the hardest thing for me is when someone talks to me, when my head is already talking to me, so the busier I can keep the kids (especially during summer!), the better.

I write seat-of-the-pants, but I know my theme and my main characters starting out.  After chapter one, all of it changes, and I’m left to follow.  So my rituals include staying in the book for a very long time, wondering what my characters will decide.  Sometimes, just like if I have to make a big decision, I have to learn about their struggles from books, websites, interviews and find out what they’d decide.  (I’ve read three books on demons and two on faith for this one!) That’s what slows me down the most.  I also try to immerse myself in great reading when I’m in a book.  When I’m not writing, it’s People Magazine, Us, and other mind-numbing fare like that.  But during the book, I love to read about four books at a time (one in the car, one in the bathtub, one in bed, one on the back deck.)  Research books do not enter the bathtub.  That is sacred.

If I get off-track and lose the character, I start from the last two chapters and edit, edit, until I know why I’m stuck.  Right now, I’m stuck because I’m not sure how the ending should play out.  What’s the setting of it?  Who is there in the scene?  How do all the characters play into the final scene?  If I still am lost, I waste time until it comes to me.  This is the hardest thing about deadlines, I’m stressed about the deadline, but the perfectionist in me, can’t let it go.  I’ll often go to Angela’s recommendation here and look over my “Writing the Breakout Novel”.  Here’s just a few of the recent time-wasters while I’m waiting for my Kelsey to come back to me:

  • I plastered the ugly lava rocks on my fireplace and painted them to look like river rocks (it looks better than it sounds.)
  • I sold old furniture on Craigslist.
  • I downloaded eleven 80’s tunes on iTunes.
  • I wondered if the guy on “Flipping Out” is really all that strange.
  • I ripped out my pantry shelves and installed new ones.
  • I played with my new Cutco knife set.
  • I fought the dog in the yard for one of my vacuum cleaner attachments.

My, how I wish I could plot.  But I never, ever, ever stick to a synopsis.  I figure if I know how it will ends, so does the reader.  This is not a cost-effective measure for a full-time writer. The espresso bill alone will kill ya!

Kristin Billerbeck graduated San Jose State University with a degree in Journalism & Mass Communications (emphasis in Advertising), gave her life to Jesus during college and found her true love in a Christian Singles’ Group. She’ll be giving away a copy of her upcoming book, Back to Life: A Trophy Wives Club Novel. You can visit Kristin on the web at

13 thoughts on “Kristin Billerbeck on Writing Rituals

  1. I don’t do a synopsis (still learning how to write a proper one), but I do plot everything out, but the ending. I alway leave room for changes though, because nothing is set in concrete.

    Those headphones, do they really work? If so I really need some, because my children can be rather loud.

    Great post.

  2. Thanks for your posting, Kristin. Very honest and humorous. Do you ever experience guilt when writing in the vicinity of your children? “Should I be interacting with them when they bowl? Am I neglecting them?”

  3. Kristin,

    You are hilarious as usual and all too true. Though you may think your process is inefficient, it works and gives us great books, so keep going to the bowling alley with the headphones! LOL I may have to join you. Starbucks is too small here. A bowling alley would sound just like home. LOL Thanks for the blog.


  4. Wow, I can not stick to a synopsis and I thought ‘no organization’ is what’s holding me back but you and Miss Marilyn have given me a lot of hope.

    I’m going to get it together so I can get my book ‘out there’, instead of ‘in me.’ Only God knows how many books are ‘in me.’

  5. Now that’s a laugh I needed!

    Never fails that my 3 yo wants to climb into my lap when I’m writing and interrupt in some form or fashion. Today it was drawing happy faces–one per page–in my notebook, including on the page where I was writing.

    I feel badly and have to force myself to take time out for them, since I’m not with them most of the day anyway.

    So it’s good to know how many writers struggle, and in so many different ways.

  6. I’d like to know more about those headphones too! I’ve got a 3-year-old in my lap right now, so it’s good that she doesn’t know how to read just yet, but she’s on the way. 🙂

    I started out as a seat-of-the-pants writer, resisting the advice of my writer friends to do character charts and an outline, but all that did was keep me on the same book for years. I still do write scenes by inspiration, but I need the structure to keep me focused.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Kristen’s books are on my mental ‘to read’ shelf. My sister read one of her books and really enjoyed it (she’s picky about what she reads). Now she’s begging me to get some other books from Kristen. Interesting post.

  8. Hi gals, first of all, you will never be a writer/mother and be without guilt. It’s impossible. Actually, I think take off writer, being a mother invites guilt. We’re doing everything wrong, they’ll grow up to harm puppies, etc. My boys have grown up with me writing, so they are very accustomed to mommy holding up “the hand” and they know to walk away. I come find them when my brain is back, and I really do try to shut down when I need to spend time with them. They know the deadlines are when I’m weird.

    I got the headphones at Fry’s (do y’all have those everywhere?) It’s a Silicon Valley mainstay and you have to hit it once a month to wander. They’re JVC, but they hurt my head. My DH was too cheap to buy me the Bose that I wanted. They are lighter and better made, if I had to do it again… They turn on and have a white noise that blocks out excess noise, but you can hear people talk to you, it’s meant to get rid of background noise. : )

  9. So I forgot to add I have a daughter too, and she talks constantly. So it’s not the same as the boys. I can get thru their giggles, fights and bathroom noises, but she’s just a constant stream of verbiage. I also write in my church’s coffee shop and the headphones tell people I’m working. Rude, perhaps, but it works.

  10. A big thanks from me to you for participating, Kristin! I’ll have to have you over again since you’re such a great guest.

    Now don’t be sad if I tell all my other guests the same thing!

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