Sunday, January 27, 2013

Setting Writing Routines - by the Day or by the Deadline?

I'm sitting here on Sunday morning, with my first-thing-in-the-morning beverages (fresh-squeezed lemon in water and turmeric tea, if you're interested) and writing my Word Whores blog post. This is what I do pretty much every Sunday morning.

This is less because I'm a creature of habit - because I'm really not - but because this is part of my writing routine. I've deliberately ritualized my writing process, to ensure that I produce work on a regular basis.

So in answer to this week's question, do our writing routines hinge off of what day it is or where we are in a story, I say: Yes.

I'm really tempted to just stop there.


Okay, so here's my deal. And this has changed somewhat over the last year or so.

The What Day It Is Part

I write every day except Saturday (caveat to follow). I write in the morning, which is part of making sure nothing else gets in the way of it. I hit the gym first thing and am usually at my desk by 7am. I write blog posts - either for my blog or guest posts - or fill out interviews - by way of warming up. Then I turn on Freedom and write. I used to write for one hour, then 90 minutes. Now I write for 2.5 hours.

After I finish my writing time - which I'll extend if I have to, to hit my word-count goal, I switch to the day job. I work for an environmental consulting firm and put in 8-9 hours/day on that. Sometimes I have early conference calls or have to talk to junior staff about tasks for the day, so they can get going, but I prefer to concentrate on one thing at a time. Once I switch to day job work, I'm all about that.

The Where I Am in the Story Part

My normal thing, for quite a long time now, has been to write 1,000 words/day. On this relatively lazy (for me) schedule, I'd write every day. All of my tracking spreadsheets are set up for a minimum of 7,000 words each week. There are times (holidays with family, vacations, the occasional sick day) when I don't get this, but usually I do. I've started tracking my monthly word counts. In December, I put in only just-over 12K words. However, I'd deliberately given myself a break after finishing several large projects to enjoy the holidays and I was going back and forth with my editors and agent doing edits on a couple of projects. Edits are word-count killers, alas.

However - and a lot of you who read my personal blog know this - I've been "training" to increase my daily wordcount. So, when I have a deadline to meet, I go for much more. Thus the increase to 2.5 hours in the morning, which lets me get in 2,300-3,000 words per day. With Saturdays off.

I'm on that schedule right now because the 90K e-serial is due at the end of March. I'm also hoping to write an 18-30K novella for an anthology, which is due March 1. My bargain with myself is, if I can hit a certain wordcount on the e-serial by a certain date in February, I can switch off (and likely send what I have so far to the CPs for crazy-check) and write that novella. All of this is with an eye to finishing the e-serial by mid-March, to allow for revision time.

I hold Saturdays in reserve, if I need to ratchet up.

One thing I've discovered is that, if I have a full day to write - a weekend or something like the Martin Luther King holiday - I can get 5,000 words in. That can make up for sick days or blown-to-hell-by-the-day-job days. As Word Whore Linda mentioned last week, padding the schedule and factoring in wiggle-room in case of disruption can make all the difference in meeting those deadlines.

And, with that, I shall publish this post, make my coffee and breakfast and clock in for those 2.5 hours.

See you all on the flip side!


  1. Yeah, it's so much better if you can pad the beginning of goal than try to play catch-up at the end. Sadly, even though I know this is the best way, I'm really bad at it. I love your new scheduling idea, though, Jeffe. Good luck hitting those word count goals (even though I know you don't need luck - cuz you've got skillz.) =o)

  2. maybe I'm lucky to have the skillz? but thanks, sweetie - I'll try!

  3. Yup, I totally agree with frontloading as much as possible, and building in time for the unexpected. I like to do my first 1K of the day first thing in the morning on what I call my "Primary Project" and then switch, throughout the day, between projects per price and deadline. No matter how crazy my day gets, I've always got the security of that first 1K done.

    However, if the deadline calls for it, sometimes I have to up it, especially if I want more revision time in the schedule before it goes off.

    I also find that the days that are sometimes the toughest to put butt in chair and get it done are the most rewarding, once I just do it.

    Devon Ellington
    Ink in My Coffee:

  4. Isn't that interesting, Devon? I find the same thing about those "don't wanna" days.

  5. Really nice photo, Nonny J. Is that red sky at night, or in the morning? Sailors and shepherds hang on your reply.

  6. Thank you! That would be a sailor's delight right there.