My Writing Routine
My writing routine is not a daily thing. Since I work full-time and I don’t like to put pressure on myself, as that’s a sure way to get burnout, I write quite sporadically.
But still, there is a method to my madness and I suppose you could call it my writing routine in the loosest sense.
How I started writing
I have been writing since I was a child and I wrote full-blown stories – terrible ones – from the age of about seven. It wasn’t until I was 13 that I actually sat and wrote a complete novel.
I had just got my first laptop, without internet but I didn’t need internet. I wrote a Romeo & Juliet re-telling set during the Second World War and, as you can expect from teenage-angst, I wrote a love story. It was dreadful but fun to write.
My second book was much more meaningful to me. It was a speculative fiction about my Great-Grandfather and his brothers during their time in the First World War. I was 16 at this point and fascinated with history and genealogy.
My third book I wrote at 18, whilst at university. It started as a short story I submitted for my end-of-year assignment and my tutor told me to develop it into something more. That story was My Mr Keats, and it very nearly became something. And who knows, maybe one day it will.
My fourth book is probably my most important book to date, it is the book that got me, my Literary Agent. Its current working title is Who Do You Think You Are and it is a contemporary women’s fiction novel. I started writing this book when I was twenty, during my first year in full-time work, but more on this later.
And now, I’m writing my fifth book, aged 24, agented and with the genuine goal of the publication in mind.
How I begin writing a novel
The reason I gave a breakdown of my writing history is to show how it has developed into a routine over time. No writer ever wakes up, sits at a desk with a laptop or pen and paper and creates a writing routine on the first day. It takes time, practice and choices.
I first started writing on my crappy old laptop with word doc from the comfort of my bed, my laptop resting on my knees and me lying down and staring up at my screen. I continued this routine when writing my second novel, but by that point, I was no longer sharing a room with my sister and I had a desk I could use from time to time as well.
The routine was similar in that it always involved me shutting my bedroom door, having a specially created playlist on in the background, with me drinking copious cans of Coca-Cola to sustain my energy and regular trips outside to play Swingball for those moments that I got writer’s block whilst staring at the screen.
That was a very productive method and routine, and one I did almost every evening and weekend for a good year or two.
How my writing routine changed over time
When I moved to University the routine changed again. I used to take my laptop to the university library on weekends and sit for maybe 5-7 hours at a time in a silent room – a soundproofed study space – to write endlessly.
Of course, when I left university that silence and pure alone time was gone. Soon I was commuting to and from London with barely any time in between, and to say I got creatively frustrated would be an understatement.
My cure for this frustration was sitting in a Starbucks on Baker Street in London, every lunch break with a Cath Kidston notebook and my trusty fountain pen (how bougie am I!) and writing a novel.
I wrote Who Do You Think You Are by hand in under three months. That was possibly one of my favourite times in my writing career. It was the first time I had written a book without interruption and with a clear idea in my head throughout.
However, how I write now is very different.
How I write novels now
I’ve written the majority of my latest book during the lockdown, and as such, I’ve been writing using just my computer. I always have a notebook nearby to jot down ideas and plot out the story when I struggle to push through writer’s block. But I write solely via my laptop.
Before this novel, I had never planned out my storylines or my characters. How unbelievable is that! I wrote the story as I went, with a vague idea of where I wanted it to end and some ideas for scenes in between. But the connectivity was done on an off-the-cuff basis.
In my latest book, the story is written in alternate chapters, from two different perspectives. As such I’ve found myself needing to plan in order to make sure I am moving the story forwards without repeating myself or losing part of the plot.
Writing with a Literary Agent
Not only is this book unique to me due to the circumstances I find myself writing it in, but also because it’s the first book I’ve written that I know will go straight to an agent for review.
Being agented makes a lot of difference to a writer. For one thing, I have a rough idea of a deadline, and someone waiting to read the pages I’ve got – and not just out of politeness or as a favour! But having those deadlines/expectations motivates me to keep writing, so I’ve found myself being fairly productive during the lockdown.
Life lesson: if you ever want to get something done give yourself a genuine deadline.
My 2020 Writing Routine
I’m under no impression that my writing routine will remain the way it currently is forever. For one thing, I hope we get out of lockdown in the near future and I can return to traipsing about cafes in London and writing snippets and short stories in between.
My routine regularly changes anyway, and not just because of circumstances but for many reasons.
Sometimes I get sick of writing on my laptop and go back to go old pen and paper. Other times I record myself dictating a portion of the story on my phone, and then type it up later. It depends on my situation, deadlines and mindset. Also, whether or not I know where the story is going or what I want to happen.
I doubt I could ever be one of those writers who set a goal of writing 5,000 words a day. Instead, I find myself often spending days without writing at all, and then spending a whole weekend writing 15,000-20,000 words. I’m much better in bursts than spread out over a long period of time.
No matter what my routine is though, I’m always thinking about my latest novel.
I have a file on my notes app filled with snippets of ideas for stories and book titles. I regularly jot down things I’ve heard or seen, and descriptions that pop into my head to use for inspiration later on. Normally my latest novel or writing project is the last thing I think about before I sleep – not great when you have a brilliant idea just before you fall asleep for 8 hours!
Just because I don’t have a designated place to write, a daily goal for word count or a dedicated time to write doesn’t mean I’m without a writing routine. It just means I’m very flexible.
What’s your writing routine? Do you plot out your books, or are you more of a ‘wing-it’ type of writer? Do you write by hand and type up later, or write straight from a computer?
Let me know in the comments below.