What’s better than one writer’s routine? You guessed it – eight of them! 😀 As writers we’re naturally curious and, yes, nosy, so today I’m bringing you the routines of eight writers from all stages in their careers. Some of the amazing people below are at the very beginning of their game, while others have published several books already. All of them have published at least one book – which makes this post a great source of information!
For a lot of new writers the routines they’re meant to have elude them. Truth is, there’s no right or wrong way of putting the words to paper/screen, and the eight authors below show just how different a routine can be. I hope this puts your mind at rest if you’re a new writer starting out, and if you’ve already released a book baby into the scary world I hope you get something from this post regardless 🙂
Holly Evans, Author of the Infernal Ties series
I was honoured when Sarina approached me to talk a little bit about my writing routine! Then I realised, with a little awkwardness, that I don’t have much of a routine. I’m one of those writers who only write when they’re inspired. I absolutely refuse to sit down and write unless I’m in the right headspace. Fortunately I write pretty quickly, so I can pull this off. This means that I don’t set aside any set time to write. What I do instead is finish up pretty much everything I have to do in that day, my freelance work, niggly paperwork, errands etc, then I relax and run the story through my head. That means that I rarely sit down and waste time going ‘ssooo… what am I writing next?’ When I sit down, it’s already straight in my head and I get those chapters written as quickly as possible. If I can write, I do so until I can’t any more. If I can’t, I read or watch a movie.
This does get a little bit difficult when I look at my deadlines, because they’re pretty tight. I have a strict publishing schedule that means I have around about 10 weeks to produce one book, from start to finish. About 6 of those weeks, (sometimes more) is then devoted to editing so I do have to write at a reasonable clip. To do this, I do a good amount of character development and world-building, with loose outlines for the plot. I freaked myself out when I tried a truly in depth outline, I need the freedom to play and explore, otherwise I shut down and can’t do it. Knowing my world and characters gives me the space to play in, without taking away that freedom. Oh and I absolutely must have music when I write, Spotify is a godsend! All in all, it’s a bit chaotic, but it works for me.
Kathryn Evans, Author of More of Me
I’m a really busy person– I work full time on our family farm, have two kids and do a lot of volunteering plus I have a couple of time consuming hobbies. I’ve learned to jam my writing in wherever and whenever I can – It’s getting trickier now, with all the book promotion stuff, but it’s the same rules really. I’m lucky that I can work in short, intense bursts of time – give me 40 focussed minutes and I can usually turn around quite a lot! If I can get to writing first thing in the morning, it’s usually the best time, but that’s quite often not possible. Am often writing on trains, in the hairdressers or while waiting to pick up a child from somewhere!
I’m a sort of Plonter or a Plattser…I need to know where I’m going and what the highs and lows of my story are, but then I just write. It does mean a lot of going back and forth but we all have to edit, right? I wish I could plot properly, I think it would save a lot of time – but maybe it wouldn’t, maybe all the time I spend correcting stuff I would have spent plotting!
My goal is to write daily. Whether it’s just a few hundred words or two thousand, I aim to get a little done each day. Now, I write both as a freelancer and as an indie author, and I split my week up accordingly. At the moment, three days a week are dedicated to freelance work, with a set weekly word count decided in advance that I split equally between the three days. Personal work gets three days too, and Sundays are usually my day off.
Both freelance and personal writing days tend to go the same. Before sitting down to write, I go through all my social media, emails, or any other internet distractions so I don’t feel the need to check during my writing stints. Twitter distractions are my biggest struggle!
Once I’ve sorted out my online distractions, I occasionally disconnect the WIFI on my laptop so I won’t be tempted to go clicking around while writing. I then set up my timer (I write in 15 minute stints, then take a break), open my word count app, and confirm what scene I’ll be working on or what word count I need to hit.
Stretching out my wrists is incredibly important—and it should be for you too! Find a little routine that works for you to maintain wrist health. You need those hands to write, after all.
From there, I just go. I write until my timer goes off, maybe a little over, record my word count (yeay accomplishments!) then take my break to avoid burnout. Rinse and repeat this routine until my word count is hit or my designated scene for the day is complete!
When it comes to a writing routine, I’m stretched to pull one together. I’m a pantser and a slap dash drafter; take an idea and run with it. Every draft is a journey of discovery for me. That being said, I do keep notes and snippets of dialogue that may or may not make it into the final cut, but my most important notes are the ones I write specifically for when I get to the editing stage- aspects that need more research, or chapters to add to make the ending plausible etc. Due to family life, I have to write when and where I can. On bad days, I don’t write at all. On good days, I can manage up to 3k words or more. The triumph is getting that first draft under my belt, no matter how I do it.
Editing is where routine features more highly on my agenda. I always redraft using my notes, and more often than not, I redraft my redraft. Being a pantser, I have to sift through the ramblings a fair bit. Once the redraft is complete, I comb through the manuscript for spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes. A rough deadline helps me to get through the edits in time to send the manuscript to my proof reader. I’m not an editing fan, so deadlines help me to slog through it.
My best advice is to do what suits your goals, lifestyle, and your sanity. Right and wrong is subjective when it comes to creativity. Do whatever it is that helps you get that first draft written.
I know there are writers out there who plan every last line and detail of their books. Flowcharts, post-it notes pinned to the wall and joined to one another with a web of cotton like some serial killer’s crime scene investigation, but that’s not for me. I think too much micro-management can lead to dull writing. Your characters need room to breathe and express themselves. (within SOME kind of framework of course)
I like to initially split a novel into three ‘Acts’, as though it were a movie or a play. The Setup, the ‘Meat’ and the Conclusion. I have to know exactly what needs to happen in each of these three chunks to move the story forward and control pacing well. Once I’ve rolled the tale around in my head for a few weeks, and I’m sure of the shape of it, I’ll then usually break each of these three acts down into working chapter titles (even if these don’t make it into the final book)
It’s at this point you have to trust your characters to get you from A to Z. You’ve drawn the map as best you can, now it’s time to hand over the wheel to them and trust them to drive it forward. Hopefully, if your characters are strong and well realised, you can trust them to do all the work. It’s always surprising to me what back lanes, unexpected turn offs and occasional dead ends they take you down along the way, but it’s the absolute joy of writing just to fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride.
Beverley Lee, author of The Making of Gabriel Davenport
I don’t have what I deem a ‘normal’ routine, as in sitting down at a certain time of day to write, but it tends to be the afternoon most recently. I like to get the real life things out of the way first as I find I can concentrate more. When I am in writing mode (as opposed to editing mode, which seems to be my default right now!) I usually have a word count for the day that I like to complete. There’s something so satisfying about seeing that number creep up daily. I rarely plan what I want to write in any session, I always just listen to what my characters tell me and where they want to go.
With all my drafts I write from beginning to end, even if I know what certain scenes will be further along. I find it helps keep me focussed more than jumping about. As far as rituals are concerned I write in silence and I have to have tea on my desk and be comfortable. Writing in lounging wear somehow makes the words flow much sweeter 😉
A. Morgan, author of The Siblings
My writing can be varied. I can write pretty much anywhere, but mostly use my phone (as I have done for this) using the Werdsmith app. My favourite place to write is in bed. Nice and chilled. When I was writing my first novel The Siblings, I was writing a minimum of a thousand words a day, everyday. After a few months I had a draft but it was brutal. It can be hard to keep up a schedule like that with full time work commitments, a busy home life with visiting new places and other things I like to dabble in.
I have now changed it up and write to a less strict word count. I am a pantser at heart but have been known to make notes and outlines where necessary, to ensure that certain stories do not get out of hand. I have so many ideas rattling around right now in my mind that it’s hard to stick to one. But my main focus soon will be The Siblings Two in the new year.
G. R. Thomas, author of The Avean Chronicles
Initially I had zero routine when I began writing. I was quite literally free-range. Many a post-it-note was plastered to my walls; yellow, pink and blue ones with scrawled ideas. My plotting to this day still relies heavily on voice memos and those little coloured squares. Often though I still just write off the cuff and let the story take me where it wants to go. Characters in particular, seem to develop themselves, despite what I may actually want for them.
I developed an effective daily routine for the writing of my second book as my life is chaotic. Three kids and a farm to run, I needed a dedicated writing time. I began visiting my local coffee shop after dropping the kids to school. I now dedicate at least 2 hours to solid writing. Whether that is plotting, editing or putting down new words.
So, what did I discover when I treated my writing as a job? It worked! Surrounded by the smell of coffee wafting through the air, punctuated with the white noise of the chatter-chatter in the back ground, I actually zone out and achieve more than I did previously. I would often look up and the hours had melted away as the cups and saucers piled up.
This is what works for me and I love every second of it.
How do you fit writing (photography, sculpting, painting, marketing, etc.) into your daily routine? Get a cookie and a tea – believe me, you’ve earned the break! – and let me know in the comments!
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