Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I’m trying very hard to establish a writing routine without getting rigid about it.

I heard some advice years ago at a writer’s conference (I think it was from Wendelin Van Draanen, but the memory is hazy): “Some people say they don’t want to get into a rut. I say you do—you want to get yourself into a rut so deep you can’t get out of it.”

Well, I can see that. I can see writing being a learned response like anything else: you sit down at a certain place at a certain time, and your brain says Writing time!

So far I’m not focused like that, but I’m working on it. I work out three days a week, so on those days I sit down to write as soon as I get home. (I go to the gym first thing in the morning, or I’d think of a thousand reasons why I can’t go.) On the days I don’t work out, I write in the morning and do writing-related things—answering emails, setting up speaking engagements, etc.—in the afternoon.

And I’ve become strict about taking one day a week off writing. For various reasons, I settled on Tuesdays. This was difficult yesterday, as on Sunday and Monday I received terrific revision notes on two different manuscripts, and I was itching to get to work on both. But I restrained myself. Instead of leaping in, I read the Science Times—my favorite New York Times supplement—and finished a novel (Code Name Verity—highly recommended). I tried to tweet but left defeated, as usual. I watched some stupid TV. I clicked on links to interesting articles in friends’ Facebook postings that had looked intriguing but that I hadn’t had time to check out before. I went through my notes from the SCBWI-Midsouth conference and requested books at the library that the speakers had mentioned.

All this time, what I had read in the revision notes percolated in my brain. I jotted down some thoughts (my rule is that I can do that as long as I write no more than what can fit on a standard Post-it note). I evaluated ideas, rejecting some, filing others away to think about some more. The result is that I can address the revisions much more efficiently than I would have if I had leaped right in.

So the Tuesday-off idea seems to be working. As I said, I’m not rigid about it—I’m taking a few days off at the end of next week for travel, so next week I’ll be working on Tuesday and taking Thursday and Friday off instead.

Next up: figuring out a daily schedule. Any advice? What works for you? What doesn’t work?


  1. I had a pretty decent schedule for a while--write for a few hours, do yoga, then back to writing for a few hours more. But this all went kaput when we got a new puppy. So far I've stopped fifteen times this morning to pull something out of her mouth, or let her out, etc., and forget yoga (she wants to lick me) Oh well, we are figuring out a new schedule together.

    1. I had to quit doing yoga at home because of the little black noses that would line up in the crack under the door and the whines that meant, "Whatcha doing? Can we play too?"

  2. John Scalzi says he aims for 2,000 words or noon each working day.

    1. Word count doesn't work for me; sometimes revising what I've already written is much more productive than creating something new, and that usually results in fewer words, not more! Also, sometimes 100 excellent words advance the story more tnan 2,000.

      Time might be better for me (it's different for every writer, composter, sculptor, etc.), but there are lots of productive ways to spend working time--see the excellent post at