What's stopping you from writing a book? You've got that great idea and always had a way with words, playing around with sentence strings in your head to form the perfect prose. But for most aspiring writers, the barrier isn't the craft itself; it's finding the time to write and the writing routine.
Building a routine — and sticking to it — can be a game changer for your dreams of becoming an author!
What is a writing routine?
A writing routine is a consistent approach to tackling the task of writing your book so it feels more achievable. Some authors can crank books out quickly.
For example, Catherynne M. Valente wrote “The Labyrinth” in 11 days, while Kazuo Ishiguro spent four weeks completing “The Remains of the Day.” Those are some pretty fast creations! Danielle Steel, the author of over 180 books is also famously known for writing 20 to 22 hours a day!
But for most of us, life happens. And we can't always set aside whole chunks of time to dedicate to writing a book. Instead, we can set up a writing schedule and customize it to our personal creativity.
The aim is to break the project into manageable chunks and commit to completing them.
Your writing routine should focus on your most creative and productive periods, how much time you’re willing to set aside, and choosing an inspiring, distraction-free space to work in.
Who needs a writing routine?
The short answer is: anyone could benefit from a writing routine. Just as a runner wouldn't attempt the New York marathon without months of training, a writer shouldn't expect to complete a literary masterpiece without putting effort into their writing routine.
A writing routine helps if you work full-time
It would be fabulous if writing were your full-time job, and perhaps one day it will be. But a dedicated writing schedule is a must if you need to fit your writing project around full-time employment.
Plot out when you can put pen to paper — perhaps during your lunch hour, on the commute home, or in your favorite coffee shop on a Saturday morning?
If you have small kids, a writing routine is necessary
Spending your whole day with little ones lets you see the world in a different light, which is great for inspiration.
Your mind can buzz with creative ideas, but as any parent knows, it's next to impossible to do anything that resembles concentration when you have little people to look after. Someone always needs either a snack or a potty!
When working from home with small children, you could write during nap times or after they’ve gone to bed at night. If your children are at school, then try to get into a consistent writing routine where you work in sprints throughout the day.
A writing routine also works well for procrastinators
Struggling to knuckle down even if you set aside the time? Having a purpose can knock procrastination firmly on the head. The problem might not be that you don't know how to write consistently but rather that you need more direction.
Instead of turning up to write at your allotted time and staring at the blank page, have a plan. Know what you'll tackle in each session - perhaps hitting a word count, committing to a specific chapter, or polishing last week's work to remove the fluff.
Why you’ll love a writing schedule!
The term "writing schedule" can sound quite restrictive. After all, this is a creative project -- shouldn't you be able to sit down and let the words flow?
But in reality, a writing routine can liberate you. Here's why we think you'll love the structure.
Keeps you motivated
Once you've identified your ideal writing conditions and blocked out some time in your diary, writing will feel less like a chore. In fact, it can become something to look forward to in your week.
Setting that time aside for writing will help keep you motivated and on track to reach your goals.
Prevents writer’s block
Ugh, writer's block - that's a fun one!
Margaret Atwood builds an unusual activity into her writing routine whenever she hits a dry spell: ironing!
She explains, "It's a repetitive manual activity. It's quite conducive to thoughts coming in from the sides, which is what you need when you've hit a block. It's always better to actually do something."
After that, she encourages writers to stick to their schedules and write.
"You become a writer by writing. There is no other way. So do it, do it more, do it again, do it better. Fail, fail better. Sit down at the keyboard.
Pick up the pen rather than brood about the fact that you're not doing it. Do it however crummy you may think the result may be. At least you're moving."
Makes your project more achievable
Dealing with imposter syndrome? You might question whether or not you have what it takes to be a writer, complete a book, and achieve your goal of becoming an author.
When you break down your writing goals into manageable chunks and schedule time in your week to work on them, the project as a whole will feel more achievable. You'll be able to see your progress and how each writing session is taking you closer to the finish line.
Improves your craft
World-famous horror writer Stephen King commits to writing every day, even on vacation or during holidays.
He insists that sticking to regular writing improves your relationship with the characters and plot.
"If I don't write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind — they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale's narrative edge starts to rust, and I begin to lose my hold on the story's plot and pace.
Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new begins to fade. The work starts to feel like work, and for most writers, that is the smooch of death."
Best tips on how to write consistently
So, you're convinced that developing a writing routine is for you. But knowing how to write consistently is another story, even if you have great intentions.
Follow these tips to help turn writing from a chore into a habit.
Choose the right time of day
A common question crops up when we ask successful authors about their writing habits. When is the best time to write? And of course, it depends.
Mornings aren't everyone's favorite, so don't worry if your best work comes later in the day or even at night. If you're not a natural early riser, don't force yourself to write first thing in the morning just because you've heard that's when all the successful writers do it.
The key is to identify the time of day when you're feeling most creative and productive and make that the time for your writing sessions. If you are only able to commit to writing for 30 minutes a day, that's fine.
Just be consistent with when you sit down to write. But once you're in the flow, don't be afraid to keep writing as long as your schedule allows.
For example, Nobel Prize in Literature winner William Faulkner once wrote to his mother to discuss the incredible pace of writing he worked to, completing up to 10,000 words each day and working from 10 am until midnight in some sittings.
He explained, "I write when the spirit moves me, and the spirit moves me every day."
Plan which piece of writing to tackle
Having a plan and understanding what you want to achieve in each writing session will help to keep you motivated and focused.
If you're writing a novel, break down each chapter into smaller goals so you can track your progress. If you're writing non-fiction, decide which sections or chapters you want to work on and list the points you want to cover.
Creating an outline before you begin your writing can also be helpful as it gives you a road map to follow.
You can always change the plan if you get inspired to write something different, but it's essential to have an idea of where you're going.
Use your writing routine to hit a word count
American author Justin Cronin is famous for his best-selling vampire trilogy, which includes "The Passage," "The Twelve," and "The City of Mirrors." He wrote the first book in the series when he was working at Rice University as an English Professor, along with raising his family at home.
He describes how committing to a small word count daily helped him hit his goal!
"Whether it's 1,000 words a day, 500 words a day, 250 if that's the time you have. But if you write 1,000 words a day, in 100 days, you'll have a novel. Until you get to the end, you don't have anything. To write a novel is to finish one, not start one."
Work in a productive space (that inspires you!)
Ideally, you want to find a writing spot that makes you feel good and allows you to focus. It could be a cozy café with great coffee or a bright, airy room in your house with a view.
Some people prefer complete silence when they write, while others love listening to music or white noise in the background.
There's no right or wrong answer – it's all about finding what works for you and ensuring your writing space is somewhere you enjoy spending time.
Try writing morning pages as part of your routine
Ernest Hemingway preferred to write in the mornings. "I wake up in the morning, and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."
Another fan of early creativity is Julia Cameron, who introduced the world to "morning pages" in her book, The Artist's Way.
Cameron's morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, stream-of-consciousness style, completed first thing in the morning. The point is not to edit or judge what you write but to get it out of your head so you can start the day with a clear mind.
The only question is: will you have a cup of coffee first?
Participate in NaNoWriMo
NaNoWriMo is a shorter way to say National Novel Writing Month, and it takes place every November – the challenge is to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. NaNoWriMo has fielded some impressive results.
Some people love the pressure of writing against the clock and the sense of camaraderie that comes from being part of a writing challenge. If you love this idea, check out NaNoWriMo.
Related posts about writing a book
Are you in the process of writing your book? Check out these additional articles for support.
- 10 Key Tips For Productive Writing Sessions
- How To Create Writing Goals When Writing A Book
- 12 Key Book Writing Tips For First Time Authors
Start planning your writing routine today!
No matter your writing goals, having a consistent writing routine will help you achieve them. By planning ahead, setting a word count, and finding a productive space to work in, you'll be on your way to writing success.
The main takeaway: never put writing off. The sooner you begin the process, the sooner you'll be able to call yourself an author! Who knows, maybe beginner writers will want to know all the details of your writing routine one day.