Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Finding Your Writing Routine

Photo by Civinod, via Flickr

Hello. Look at the date.

Yes, It’s July. Half the year is gone.

What have you done with it? How have you spent those 182 days? That’s right. 182 days. There’s a common simile among writers comparing writing a book to gestating and birthing a baby. A normal pregnancy lasts around 266 days. Think on that for a moment.

I’ll wait.

Now...breathe. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

I’m sure many of you reading this post have been ruthlessly efficient. You may have piles (or files) (or piles of files) - look at that, I channelled Dr. Seuss for a moment - the point is you’ve worked. You’ve accomplished great things. You’ve met your deadlines.

For those of you to whom the foregoing applies, please accept my heartiest congratulations, my admiration, and a slight wish for you to soak your head.

But...there may be some souls reading this post who don’t have piles (or files) (or piles of files) of completed work. These are the souls I’m writing to now. Take heart. You’ve still got time. You’ve got 183 days. If you write only 400 words a day, you’ll be looking at a 73,200 word manuscript on January 1st. 500 words a day will give you a 91,500 word manuscript.

400 words. That’s nothing to be afraid of. That’s doable. Take a moment to imagine how you’ll feel New Year’s Day. Glorious, isn’t it? And that just imagining it. The reality will be even better. When you’re warbling Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve you could change the lyrics to

“I wrote a book, I wrote a book,
 It came out of my own mind! 
I wrote a book, I wrote a book,
 I’m a literary find.”

Yes, I realize those aren’t exactly Grammy-award-winning lyrics, but you get my point.

Find a routine. It’s out there, waiting for you. Write the moment you get up or write at lunch. Write in the bath (carefully). If you can write at the same time every day for a week, it’ll become part of your day. Of course, situations occur. Relatives arrive unexpectedly. Refrigerators explode. (Hopefully not at the same time). But you can find time to write those 400 words. Lock the bathroom door. Do it. Spending time with your characters will make you happier. It’s true. It can also make you frustrated because your characters won’t behave the way you thought they would, but go with it. You’ll be glad you did. You may discover you’re not writing about what you thought you were writing about. That’s always fun. It happens. It happened to me. It might happen to you. Who knows? You don’t know what you’ll discover. And that, my friend, is magical

400 words. It’s the length of this blog post. See? It’s doable.

Elspeth Futcher is an author and playwright. Her murder mystery games A Fatal Fairy Tale, Deadly Ever After and Curiouser and Curiouser are among the top-selling mystery games on the Internet. All thirteen of her murder mystery games and two audience-interactive plays are published by Her newest game, Once Upon a Murder, is about to be published by Red Herring Games. Her 'writing sheep' are a continuing feature in the European writers' magazine Elias. Connect with her on Twitter at @elspethwrites or on Facebook at Elspeth Futcher, Author.


  1. Thanks for this, Elspeth. It's a timely reminder to all of us. I try to work so that the writing gets done first thing and everything else follows. But, in common with the rest of the writing world, I have things that intrude on that precious time slot. One trick I've tried, to keep the creative juices flowing, is to write a poem if I don't have the time to do more. They're not going to win prizes, but they're short and quick to write and they keep up the habit. I can always revisit them later and see if they're any good. The point is that they mean I've done at least 'some' writing. For those in doubt about the value of such habit I can only recommend Dorothea Brande's excellent 'Becoming a Writer'.

    1. Writing muscles must have their daily workout! Thanks for the book recommendation, Stuart.

  2. Gah! Don't remind me!

    I'm still revising the book that was supposed to be out in May :-/ If I revise 400 words per day, I'll be done by 2024, right?

    1. That is one looooong book! But you get to sing the song, Elle; that's not a bad thing. The song itself isn't that great, but the singing of it can be *awesome*.

  3. My process is broken down into 40 scenes. A scene a day means your draft is done in a little over a month. A scene a week and you can have a draft in done in less than a year. Breaking a task down into manageable parts is the best way to tackle it without feeling overwhelmed.

    1. I agree, Diana! I like your idea of 40 scenes. Thanks.

  4. My writing routine is to delete a bunch of emails in the morning, check the rest, check Facebook, walk the dog, then do edits or writing the rest of the day, with breaking for lunch, and finishing around 6pm to relax. Sometimes I have a blog that also needs to be done first. My problem is I like to clear things away before starting writing.

    1. I understand that problem, as I tend to go that way, too. The issue for me was clearing things away could take all day. Hence, now I write *first*. Of course, it helps that I don't have a dog.

    2. Yep, that about sums up my day. LOL.

  5. I like Stuart's comment about flexing those writing muscles daily to keep them in shape. Diana's process of 40 scenes in 40 days also merits consideration. It's a bit surprising to me that I haven't been able to jump 100% into my writing since retiring from fulltime editing. That transition -- much as I want it to happen NOW -- is taking a bit of time. Yes, I'm revising a couple of completed books. Yes, I have worked on my sequel to book #2. Yes, I have added to one of my revisions in ways that bring more compelling drama and cohesiveness to my characters and story. Yes, yes, yes...guess that means I'm on the right road; it just has a few more twists and turns than I originally imagined. Great post, Elspeth.


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