The Right Writing Routine

Routine Quote EB White.jpg

I generated this quote image (free to share).  E.B. White wrote Charlotte’s Web and co-wrote The Elements of Style, as well as other books too. 

 

I don’t usually preface a post with quote, but this one is appropriate today because we are talking about writing routines.  M.L.S. Weech, my spirit animal/writer/friend, recently wrote another stellar post about writing.  Specifically, he wrote about his routine.  A routine I’ve seen him practice ever since I’ve known him (many years).  The post is simply titled: My Routine: One Writer’s Habits.  If you don’t read the rest of my post and just read his, you’ll glean some great information.

I‘m cheating today because I’m going to steal a comment I wrote on his post and add it to this posting to explain one of my writing processes.  I’m also going to offer some articles I’ve bookmarked and reference when a writer contacts me and is having trouble with their process.  There are also a few books I found helpful (if you’ve spent any time on my blog you know how I love books on writing).

As writers, many of us thrive on a delicate homeostasis.  Put simply, most of us have our own processes that we refine over the course of our writing life.  However, balance is key.  What worked once doesn’t always work, and to maintain balance we continuously need to tweak conditions.

Dragonspeak.jpgWith that being said, in our craft, there is no way around the actual application.  We must find some way to transfer thoughts from our brain housing unit into another medium.  You can use Dragonspeak or some other transcription tool, but you must get the words down.

This is the method I currently use to hold myself accountable and reach my goals.  It’s successfully propelled me through one book, and I’m using the same technique to draft a novella.

Here is one of my methods.  When I sit down to write I look at the time and make an estimation. How much time can I realistically give to my project today? I look at my current word count, which is stuck to my monitor on a Post It note. I add 500, 1000, 1500, or whatever (depending on the amount of time I have) to the number and write that post it notes.jpgnumber on another Post It note. I then stick the new one next to the old one. That becomes my goal and reason for existing.


T
hen it’s time to put my money where my words are.  I attempt to set myself up for success. I close out everything, put on some music, grab my writing hat, and get to it. I write, without fail, until I at least reach the new Post It note number. Even if what I’m writing makes my skin crawl (usually it’s not as bad as I think it is). If I exceed the number, I one line it at the end of the session and write the new number.  The old word count Post It note gets crumbled into a nice victory ball and chucked into the trashcan.

For me, the idea is every single time I sit down at my computer there is visual cue that says, “Hey Corey, I know you want to watch videos of cats playing keyboards, but you have this book to write. This is how far you are into it. What’s more important to you, cats playing keyboards or writing your book?” Sometimes the answer is cats playing keyboards. But the point is it makes me instantly aware of looming work. You can’t tuck it away and hide it when it’s staring you in the face.

That is my current process.  Like Matt mentioned in his post (assuming you read it) him and I hold each other accountable by “clocking in” and “clocking out” with each other via messenger.  It’s harder to shirk your writing duties when another motivated individual is clocking in every day and telling you about it.  It’s a constant reminder that there is someone out there who is hungry for success.  Are you hungry for it too?  I am.

Resources.jpg

Here are the web resources I spoke about earlier in this post.

7 F***in’ Great Ways to Build Your Writing Routine, by Phile Jourdan.

The Daily Routines of 12 Famous Writers, by James Clear (This is the article where I first found the quote I offered at the beginning of this post.)

11 Successful Writers Share Their Writing Routines, from Product Hunt

34 responses

    • Thanks for sharing your process and for reading. It’s tricky turning everything off and focusing on a single task sometimes. In this day and age multi-tasking is hardwired right into our brains.

      Best of luck to you in your pursuits 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Now, I want to watch cats playing on the piano. Would be sooo cute!

    Also, now I know where all the post-its went 😉

    For me, I have these http://image.rakuten.co.jp/bemagical/cabinet/item24/6604041263671_1.jpg and I use them for research. At the moment, I am reading about Medieval Times and their jousting matches so those post-its are a big help.

    I don’t think in word count, that’s not important. I think about a chapter at a time. However, I do try to think up a synopsis for the chapter and see if it makes sense after writing the chapter. That helps with being organized.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That’s a really cool idea! Is that a bulletin board or a scrapbook? It appeals to me because I thrive on visuals. I have those templates and character sheets I have shared all over the place and create collages in Photoshop and on Prezi. One of my goals with the blog and my Wasteland Wednesday posts is to compile visual information I can refer back on as I write more books in the series.

      I think whether you are going by chapters or by words the underlying concept is still roughly the same: you are setting achievable goals to create small milestones toward success. There are days where I don’t write a single word and instead go on Pinterest and look at photos for inspiration. Or I think about the wasteland and move beyond the areas I currently know and understand. I try to think like a reader might and generate answers to potential questions. Whether it ends up in a book or not, it (hopefully) will make it easier when I talk to people about the book after its published.

      I know Heather has a giant box of scrap booking stuff somewhere, maybe I will cannabilize it and make a wasteland portfolio.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I also don’t do word counts. Instead, I have daily goals but in regards to scenes (or chapters if it is a short one.) I also do complete drafts, then go back to rewrite. In this way, it feels like I am accomplishing things even if a project will take a year to complete.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. With my blog posts it’s whenever the inspiration strikes. Usually about thirteen seconds before I shut my eyes to go to sleep, which means I have to write more. With the main work, however, I like to get settled. A desk, a conservatory table, anything. Put some kind of innocuous television on in the background, a ‘so bad it’s good’ film that I’ve seen a million times before, brew up a pot of writer’s coffee (vanilla blend) and get cracking. I don’t think in word counts, is just in when I feel ready to finish.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Funny how the itch comes before we sleep sometimes. I think it’s because that’s sometimes the first chance we give ourselves to detach from the world and the muse was just waiting for our undivided attention.

      Thanks for sharing your process with us and for taking the time to read today.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for sharing. I’m still in the stage of passionate writing after watching the cats play the keyboard. The business side hasn’t smiled at me yet. I may need a husband in a military too! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Another awesome post! I have a routine of sorts. I write solo whenever I grab time. But most of my writing is during word wars.

    I get together with some friends certain nights of the week for these wars. (Usually a virtual get together, but every now and then in person.) Someone sets a timer for 30 minutes. We write for that half hour and compare word counts when we’re done.

    Some of us are sloths, averaging 500 words or less. Others are cheetahs, averaging between 500 and 1000 words per war. If we give out virtual crowns after a night of several wars, we usually have one for top sloth and one for top cheetah.

    Sometimes we stop the wars for brainstorming and such. Sometimes we use the warring period for research or edits. But something about that thirty minute interval really works.

    But not for everyone! One of my best writing buddies prefers to go it alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Word wars! That’s my kind of insanity 😀 I’ve not heard of this, but I’m a hermit so go figure. I love the concept behind it though. I don’t know if I would write better or worse, probably worse. While I do clock in with Matt when I write, we usually don’t talk or really share much about the process. I think we are both pretty tight-lipped and introverted with our WIP’s.

      Thanks for sharing this though. You should do a post on this sometime (if you haven’t already) Maybe word wars are common knowledge, but it seems pretty unique to me.

      Thanks for sharing this and for swinging in to shine some light on your process! I learned something new from you, and that’s the whole reason I have this blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Haha…Routine….haha….*crys a little*
    I balance a lot of life stuff, so when I get the time to physically sit in one place and write (whether its at work on my break, at the lap top when every one else is asleep, on my phone while I wait in line at the post office) I take a breath and try to get the thoughts out, however messed up, jumbled, miss spelled they may be, as long as they get out. There is no perfect time. I try to sit down Monday morning and Friday mornings and clean up and post blog posts, IG posts, etc.

    On what you said:
    “I think it’s very important (especially if you are an aspiring, beginning, or indie author) to be able to do many things well”
    As a person that is trying to balance and grow four different brands right now, along with family time, work time, and such I can vouch for the game being tough haha. The biggest thing I have seen and heard is to “Just keep posting.” Don’t stop, keep going, it may take 4 years, 30 years, or two weeks. Until you start putting it out there, you will never know how long it will take to get your stuff seen.

    Another amazing post as always! I enjoyed the read!
    -Dillon

    Liked by 2 people

    • I feel you on this 100 percent. I can remember a time before baby Thor where I would wake up and say, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with my time today.” Now I wake up and go,”Oh god, there aren’t enough hours to get everything done.” So we are united on this front.

      There is a lot of wisdom in what you shared. It seems to be a simple concept to, “Just keep posting,” but it’s not. Figuring out where your passions merge with other peoples interest and finding a way to channel that is not a simple thing. I think it requires luck, strategy, and the ability to seriously look at what you are doing and figure out how to make it better or more applicable.

      After watching my friends run into the indie arena and be met with varying levels of success has taught me to plan and constantly reevaluate. If something works I try to figure out why it works, and how to make it work better. I don’t believe in the whole if it’s not broken deal. Why settle for a “perfect” wheel when you can have jetpack?

      For me, the hardest part about this process has been figuring out what works on the different platforms. What works on WordPress doesn’t necessarily work on Tumblr. What works on Tumblr may not apply to Twitter. Each one seems to have it’s own current and I’m still throwing bread into the water and watching it get washed downstream. Eventually I’ll start throwing boulders into the bloody thing and divert it’s flow. But for now I’ll just be here skipping rocks and making battle plans.

      Thanks for taking the time to write this comment and share a slice of your life. If anything, know you aren’t alone! Oh, and as you say, we’ve got this.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Cats on keyboards are hard to ignore.

    I usually save my writing for right before I go to bed, so I could have thought about writing all day, plus has given myself a chance to goof off online for a bit. Each night is a goal of 1000 words. I’d say it usually takes between 45 minutes to an hour.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s interesting to me because you are the second of third person to point out they wait until before bed to write. I’m beginning to wonder if the muse is a nocturnal creature…

      I like the 1000 word goal, and goal setting in general. Whether it’s a chapter or a number of words, having some way to hold ourselves accountable keeps us from watching ridiculous videos on the internet until our brains fully transform into primordial ooze.

      Thanks for sharing you process! Happy writing and good luck 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting view into what works for writing and you! I found this very intriguing. You are smart to do the post it note thing. If it’s looking you in the face, you are right, it is quite hard to ignore it away.

    As far as my process goes (not sure I actually have one but that’s neither here nor there) I basically write every Monday through Saturday. It doesn’t matter if I’m super stressed out that day, or I’m having a day (quite like yesterday) where I’m unsure if what I’m writing is cohesive in any way or I even like it at all…just write no matter what!

    I know that isn’t exactly the wonder kind of magical process (if it even is a process) that most people would like to have but being brutally honest here, (more at myself) this is how I’ve always written. I free write, and quite often the voices in my head tell me everything. I don’t know, it happens quite a bit. It is actually hard to explain without sounding absolutely crazy (which I probably am psych issues aside).

    Now that everyone is likely thinking my writing makes much more sense being I’m a mental case according to what I said, maybe that is the process by gosh! Just be a total head case that could be committed for all the things he says or believes, and you’ll soon be writing just like me! 😉

    Whether I’m literally possessed or a voice in my head is simply tearing at me to share their story, I write always. So there you have it, commit me now, but alas, then I wouldn’t be able to share Black Winter and its stories with all of you.

    I’d just be a mental case in a straight jacket swearing up and down the voices in my head share with me all these things.

    Thank you for listening to my insane ramblings.

    Cheers! ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel my life would somehow be incomplete without Black Winter’s dark presence. I love the world you are creating there and like to visit it often (with caution of course).

      As for your process, I don’t think it’s crazy. The important thing is it has become routine for you. The best part is you didn’t have to read 276 self-help books to make it happen. I think once you commit to writing every day, no matter what the medium, the ability to produce becomes easier and also therapeutic. In this way, you could say your daily dark rantings are the best medicine any doctor could prescribe, and you write your own script (double entendre…oooh yeah).

      You’re lucky in a way to be able to tap into the part of your psyche that allows you to pull emotions and ideas out. It shines through in your poems.

      I like to think of the writing routine as a jaunt through the jungle. When you first start your trek (writing habit) you have to work and hack your way through with a machete. You get mauled by animals, attacked by headhunters, and fall victim to disease. In those beginning weeks, months, and years you have to retreat each day back to the edge of the jungle and recuperate. But each day you venture back into it the path has become clearer and you make it farther because you’ve spilled sweat, blood, and tears to hack away the path.

      Eventually you look like Robin Williams in Jumanji and people fear you as you crawl out of your writing cave. That doesn’t matter though. You’re on a solo expedition and their jeers only motivate you to continue exploring. Every now and then a anaconda or R.O.U.S. comes around and swallows you up and you have to hack your way out of it’s belly (life throws you a curve). That just makes you stronger and wiser in the ways of the wilderness.

      The good news is there are hidden treasures in the jungle. We just need to have the courage (and a strong machete arm) to find them.

      Hahaha! Crazy Corey side rant concluded. Thanks for taking the time to read and leave your thoughts today. Your work always keeps me entertained so I like to try to reciprocate when I can.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No worries! Your replies are endlessly entertaining! ^_^ I actually like your analogy. It is that way I suppose. You are right, in the beginning writing can be a lot like that. Thanks for understanding the insanity of my mind.

        I sure don’t always understand it but I love it nonetheless. Xp It still helps and is endlessly entertaining to read your insights and thoughts as well as your educational posts! I always learn something new both in your posts and your replies. I’m honored that you feel that Black Winter is the kind of place that makes you feel your life is incomplete if you don’t know of it. (Better watch out, that is what it does, your already being drawn in.) 😉

        Thank you for the crazy side rant. It was educational and entertaining and I truly appreciate that you think that part of my psyche shows in my poetry and stories. I do my best, or whatever they tell me to. 😉

        Then again, there is always my muse. She is still around (I just haven’t mentioned her as of late). Always there, whispering in my ear, when the other voices (very rarely) are silent.

        Lucky me and glad you enjoy the insanity!

        Cheers! ^_^

        Like

  9. I’ve always felt the best part of your blog is how packed with resources they are. I’m SUPER glad you posted your process on this blog. I’m honored for the re-blog. You’re right. Having you there is a huge motivator. It’s just so nice knowing that I have someone in the metaphorical office with me. It’s working privately without isolation. I love the resources, and that is reason alone people should flock to this site. Even if they don’t read your thoughts, which would be a loss on their part, they still get information in other formats.

    Just know how much I appreciate your online presence and information. Even when I don’t have the time I want to comment or read more thoroughly, a five-minute scan of your block and a few carefully placed bookmarks gives me a LOT to work with when I have more time to sit down and think.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m really glad the blog has proven useful for you Matt. It’s the least I can do for my literary battle buddy. Even though we aren’t shooting guns, living in tents, eating MRE’s, and preparing to march into unknown – we are still fighting battles of different kind. With that being said, I prefer to wage war with trusted warriors along side me.

      I’m going to stop reminiscing on our past glories now and focus on my chessboard and the horizon ahead. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, but at least now we aren’t wearing 50+ pounds of gear anymore 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • I tried using Dragonspeak years ago when I was cutting my teeth as a journalist in the military. Perhaps the technology was still lacking back then, but I spent more time trying to get the bloody program trying to understand my voice (reading endless lists) than actually getting to use it for work. I thought it would be a handy thing to use to quickly transcribe interview notes. I abandoned all hope after a couple weeks (the younger version of me wasn’t very patient).

      I do remember being sad there was no dragon included though…

      Like

      • The program is MUCH better now… so I DO use it to transcribe notes and when I have more of the free form blog posts. I’ve just had trouble getting it to work for the novels, but I know I need to because I hurt my hand in the Army (Infantry Combative Training) and if I’m not careful I’ll end up with the dreaded carpel tunnel syndrome.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’d give it a try again but unless it can distinguish my voice from the babbling of baby Thor, the transcripts might get a little…interesting 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  10. You wrote that you would be interested to know some of our techniques and practices when it comes to writing. I am happy to share mine. As I used to tell my students: “I want you to think your own thoughts but you are free to borrow mine in the meantime.”
    The practices I use for writing fiction are similar to the ones I used for writing curriculum. That is, I set a goal to write a certain amount in a finite interval of time. However, before I begin the actual writing I do a great deal of preliminary work.
    “People do not buy what you do; they buy why you do it” Simon Sinek
    I always define the “why” of my writing. Until I know why I write, I do not write. If it takes a while for the universe to reveal it to me, then I am content to sit with a project and wait in holy silence.
    Once I know the overarching goal, I identify the essential questions I want to address. There are usually three or four. For each question, I write possible answers. Then I determine how the questions and answers would be incorporated into an interesting story. This is my overview.
    Once I have the overview, I set a goal of one chapter per week for 15 to 18 weeks, each chapter averaging 8 pages long.
    H. L. Mencken (a most prolific writer) said that most writers have at most two hours of writing in them per day; that is true for me. I would like to follow the practice described by C. S. Lewis in “Surprised by Joy” but I don’t have a servant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you wrote this comment. I know I only shared the Post It note version of what I do, but my pre-process is very similar to the one you just described. (Mine also involves doodles and other “visual” things.)

      I really enjoy how analytical your process is. You take the time to address the fundamental questions of the chapter first. It cuts deeper than, “I’m going to write X number of words.” It’s also more exacting than creating an outline once (typically at the start of the project) and just letting it guide you. Combining outlining and doing this pre-planning you are describing would be formidable for those writers who are planners.

      While you do incorporate milestones into your work (chapter per week) you aren’t swimming in murky water. In the way of rewrites after the first draft, I imagine your manuscripts meander less than some because of the time and care you take when you approach the work. It’s a very smart process.

      I really appreciate you taking the time to break down how you make the craft work for you. One thing I love about writing is that each writer approached the task in different ways. This blog has really allowed me to understand not just how to shape words, but how different people accomplish this feat. To me, that’s priceless.

      Thanks again and best of luck to you in your writing!

      Like

    • I totally forgot to mention this, but I absolutely love C.S. Lewis. Not just his fiction, but his non-fiction work as well. In the way of apologetics, you can’t do much better than Lewis (in my opinion). Whether you are religious or not, there are some powerful lessons to be found in his words.

      Like

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