Tuesday 16 January 2018

What's Your Writing Routine? (with guest authors!)

This is my first blog post of 2018, so Happy New Year to you! Three different posts sprang to mind, so like last time, I did a poll on Twitter, and this post received the most votes when I asked what I should blog about.

Back in 2014, I wrote a blog post, How do you write Part II?, where I mentioned a book, Daily Rituals by Mason Currey-a great read if you’re a writer looking for inspiration on how to organise your writing time. In that post, I included quotes about the daily routines of Charles Dickens, Kingsley Amis and Jane Austen, but the book included so many more.

I don’t have much of a writing routine really (but know I should). Since I started working with a mentor last year though, I’ve found that setting a deadline to send off ten thousand words around every month (depending on school hols) has worked well for me, and I no longer get cross with myself on days where I don’t write. The work in progress is moving forwards, and I hope to reach the end of my current draft this spring, then go through it again before submitting to agents.

I’ve got to know quite a few authors in recent years, through my writing and neetsmarketing work; and thought it would be nice to invite some of those authors to send me a quote for this post about their writing routines (as they know so much more than me!). Last week, I emailed a few author friends and clients; and eleven replied with really interesting quotes on how they organise their writing time. Some of these authors write full time, some work full time and some have children at home-so if you struggle to find time to write, you might find ideas on how to organise your writing time amongst the quotes below.

Thank you so much to all the authors involved! Sue Moorcroft, Jules Wake, Alison Morton, Antoine Vanner, Sue Bentley, Anna Belfrage, Donna Ashcroft, Emma Burstall, Clare Flynn, Ruth Brandt, and Alice Peterson. 

Here follow their quotes on writing routines:

“Writing's my full-time job. I'm usually at my desk at about 7.15 a.m. and leave it at 6.00 p.m. I do take an hour or two out of most weekdays, though. On Monday it's a piano lesson, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday I dance and on Wednesday I do yoga. Some of these classes may be followed by a cuppa with my gym buddies! I usually do a bit at weekends too (although that fits around any televised Formula 1 coverage). I generally work fifty or sixty hours a week, more if deadlines dictate.”
Sue Moorcroft, bestselling author of women's contemporary fiction with sometimes unexpected themes. Latest book: Just for the Holidays.

“With a contract for three books, I have to be very disciplined about my writing time, especially as quite often as well as writing, I might be doing revisions for another book and copy edits for another.  I also work three days a week, with a busy family and I volunteer for the RNA as Press Officer. On working days I tend to write once I get home from work from about seven in the evening with a word target of between 500 - 1,000 words. On my days off I aim for between 2-3,000 words, working in bursts of two hours in the morning, afternoon and evening which includes weekends.  I have a weekly target word count of 10,000. As a result I watch very little television and do the bare minimum of housework! I'm very lucky that my husband works from home several days a week too, so he picks up the slack on the washing and the cooking.”
Jules Wake, bestselling author of women’s contemporary fiction. Latest book: Covent Garden in the Snow.

“I pin a target of 1,000 words a day in front of my mind, a figure that sometimes turns into more (and often less!). Unfortunately, a chronic back problem interferes, so I tend to write only in the morning unless I am very behind on my word count. Then I plonk myself back on my chair in the evening. The afternoons are for marketing, a walk, research and emails.  The days and weekends merge into each other as I get lost in my story. My husband blogs nearly full-time so we tap away in quiet harmony except when we go out, starving, to search for food…”
Alison Mortonauthor of Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough heroines. Latest book in Roma Nova Thriller Series: Carina.

“I’m essentially retired, though I still do a little academic work, but my days basically revolve around my writing. I’m currently having a small log-cabin delivered as a writing study separate from the house, though I’ve always had dedicated offices in my homes. I write on average some five days a week – remaining days allocated to other responsibilities. I write my drafts from 1000 to 1300 hrs and this usually gives me around 880 words, though less when I’m starting new chapters. After three hours my creativity drops. My afternoon walks are a key element in the process – I play out in detail in my head what will be written up the following day. I’m in parallel sketching future plots, which will be developed in greater detail later – usually an intense four to six-week process – and carrying on research. Throw in my blogging – normally two 1000-1200 word articles per week – and the occasional free short-story for my mailing list members. Evenings for reading, hobbies and TV etc. and my time is pretty full. It’s giving me a new book of 120000 - 130000 words each year, though I’d like to get this down to nine months.”
Antoine Vanner, author of historical naval fiction. Latest book in The Dawlish Chronicles Series: Britannia’s Gamble.

"I write for a living, so try to write every day. Mornings are my best time, but I write all day when a book's going well. I write straight onto a desktop in my workroom, fuelled by tea and sometimes chocolate peanuts, until hunger forces me to go and make supper. It's rare that I go back to work in the evenings as my eyes need a rest from the computer screen, though they cope fine with TV - which I ration to make time for reading. I also write longhand, using brightly-coloured, propelling pencils in colourful notebooks (I'm addicted to stationery) when sitting in cafes with coffee and a book. I'll jot down ideas, scraps of dialogue, bits of research to type up later. I give the bathroom and kitchen a wipe-around. But I don't notice the other housework until the dust bunnies jump out from beneath my desk and wave at me. And husband hoovers! True."
Sue Bentley, bestselling author of Magic Kitten series for children age 5-8, and dark psychological thriller YA novel, We Other.

“I work full time which means time management is a challenge – especially as being an author entails so much more than writing books. I try and set aside my weekends for “real” writing (and the occasional blog post) and spend weekday evenings doing all the other stuff like promotional work, accounting and what have you. I have recently started to dictate ideas as they pop up into my phone and I find this really useful, especially as I like taking very long and lonely walks which seem to nudge my very own muse, Ms Inspiration, into overdrive.”
Anna Belfrage, award-winning author of 17th century time-travel series, The Graham Saga and Medieval series, The King’s Greatest Enemy. Latest book in The Graham Saga Series: There is Always a Tomorrow.

“I have two teenage children and work part time. I get up at six each morning and write for forty minutes before the children get up, and then I write in the evening, usually as early as possible depending on whether I have to ferry the children anywhere. I have a goal of 1,000 words a day and make myself write for as long as it takes, sometimes half an hour is enough, but sometimes it can take hours! I won’t let myself have a glass of wine until the words are written which is an extra incentive to get it done.”
Donna Ashcroft, RNA Katie Fforde Bursary recipient 2017. Summer at the Castle Café will be published by Bookouture in May 2018.

“I write full-time and at the moment my routine is loosely based around my teenage son’s school day. He leaves home at about eight a.m., and quite often I’ll go for a walk or run with a group of friends before getting to my desk by about ten a.m. I’ll work through until four-ish, with a short break for lunch, then usually stop to make supper. If my deadline’s looming, however, my long-suffering family has to put up with something simple like pasta and I’ll go back to work in the evening. This might sound disciplined, and I certainly can be, but I can also be the queen of procrastination. I’m easily distracted by phone calls, emails, internet shopping and coffee or lunch invitations, so recently I’ve taken to switching off my mobile and banning Google, except for research purposes, of course.
As a general rule, I'll start a book quite slowly and up the pace as time goes by. Right now, I’m working pretty manically as my next deadline’s in three weeks. Needless to say, the house is a bit of a mess and the family’s feeling neglected, but I’ll make it up to them!”
Emma Burstall, author of Tremarnock Cornish series, set in a fictional seaside fishing village. Latest book: Tremarnock Summer.

“Routine? What routine? I have none. I do have discipline though, and while I may write in different places, at different times of the day, I try to make sure I write something every day. My experience in successfully completing NaNoWriMo three years in a row (requirement - write 50k words during the 30 days of November) has shown me that if you HAVE to do it the words will come, even if you THINK you're stuck. Sometimes I go for a walk and sit in a café with a pen and a notebook and don’t move until I’ve filled several pages. I used to think I had to sit in my study in front of my computer but now I like moving around and these days tend to write on my MacBook more – even in bed – but most often curled up on a sofa. Using Scrivener also helps - it’s amazing how quickly that little word counter tots up the totals!”
Clare Flynn, award-winning author of historical fiction. Latest book: The Alien Corn.

“I was a single mum, working part time and also studying when I wrote my last novel. Each day had different commitments, so to set a routine would never have worked. Instead I set myself targets. My first draft I wrote 1,000 words a day for 100 days. I had a plan I was following, which really helped. Sometimes I wrote first thing, sometimes last thing. Frequently in ten and twenty minute slots where I had time. But I got my first draft of 100,000 words done on time. The editing was harder to set targets for as losing 1,000 words was often a sign of success! So I have an hour hour-glass which I set going, and I worked until the last grain of sand dropped. Small steps which all added up. When I'm not working on a novel, I still set targets - write a short story a day for a week, send a story off to a competition or magazine a month, that sort of thing. All of those keep me on track as it's so easy to stop writing and getting back to it becomes a massive challenge. My writing is always shoe-horned in.”
Ruth Brandt, published short story writer and creative writing tutor.

“Writing routines are so personal that it’s hard to give advice, it has to be what works for you. However one piece of advice I was given recently as I am about to launch into a new project, was not to get too hung up on word counts or how many hours a day I can squeeze in, but to make sure that when I do find the time to write, I put all my *energy* into it. No distraction if possible, no social media, just all my heart, soul, emotion and focus during that time. And then just build on that and keep on going… I’m going to try it… :)”
Alice Peterson, author of the bestseller, Monday to Friday Man and other novels that celebrate triumph over adversity. Latest book: A Song for Tomorrow.

Thanks again to all the authors involved! It’s been lovely having you as my guests, and I'm feeling so motivated by your quotes.

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I am also a Freelance Social Media Manager with clients in the world of books, working 1-2-1 with authors to do training and write social media plans; and I run one day courses in London and York (plus ten week courses at Richmond and Hillcroft Adult and Community College-Surrey, UK). Next London courses, 19 May and 6 October 2018 (York course is fully booked). Find out more and book via my website.

Recent neetsmarketing blog posts on social media for writers:


  1. What a fascinating post! It' so interesting to see how other authors organise their time and I'm really envious of those who can find time to write despite having a lot of other commitments. My own commitments revolve mainly around my animals but my New Year's resolution is to be more organised, and finsish novel no. 4! I have a similar experience to Clare as far as NaNo goes ('won' four times) so I know I can do it if I have to - I just have to learn to make my writing my first priority rather than trying to get everything else done first!

    1. If you've "won" four times you can definitely do it - well done, Hywela. It's so easy to allow our writing to get pushed into second (or third) place - we need to carve out the time and not feel guilty about doing so! Best of luck