NaNoWriMo: Develop A Writing Routine... or Adopt One of These

Category: Writing

“Novelists do not write as birds sing, by the push of nature. It is part of the job that there should be much routine and some daily stuff on the level of carpentry.”

William G. Golding

Although creative types don't generally like the idea of order and organisation, a writing routine will help you make the most of your day and ensure that you achieve that all important NaNoWriMo word count.

Perhaps if you don't have a routine yet, you could adopt one of the following (please note, that some of them do come with an SBT health warning):


Stephen King:

“There are certain things I do if I sit down to write... I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning... I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon." 


Will Self: 

First drafts [I do] as early in the morning as possible, then second, then third (retyping, I work on a manual). Once the first draft is 80% completed I start on the second, so that there's a conveyor belt of drafts in progress: this helps me to grasp the totality of the book. I accelerate towards the end, usually because I'm on or past my deadline.

Rituals. Smoking--pipes, cigars, special brands, accessories.... Coffee, tea, strange infusions--I have a stove on my desk. Fetishising typewriters, pens, etc. Overall, though, I have a healthy appetite for solitude. If you don't, you have no business being a writer.


Haruki Murakami:

"When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity."


Toni Morrison:

"...eventually I realized that I was clearer-headed, more confident and generally more intelligent in the morning. The habit of getting up early, which I had formed when the children were young, now became my choice. I am not very bright or very witty or very inventive after the sun goes down... I, at first, thought I didn't have a ritual, but then I remembered that I always get up and make a cup of coffee and watch the light come."


Perhaps none of these routines suit (maybe because you don't do well in the early hours of the morning). But you do need to know when you are at your best creatively. If you don't know this, ask yourself questions- What time of day do you work best? Do you prefer space to write in, or a crammed dark room? To work in isolation or surrounded by people? With music or not? Then go about ensuring you write in these conditions so your imagination can run free. 


Megan Primrose is the Writer Development Intern

Megan Primrose

Megan Primrose is the Writer Development Intern.