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My Daily Writing Routine

My daily routine has changed a lot over the years. I used to work full time AND write at night, which was pretty exhausting. Now that our family schedule and needs have changed - the kids are older, my husband's job is calmer - I've settled into something a little more comfortable.

7 a.m Wake up. I am a morning person, whereas most of the people in my family… the kindest way I can put it is, “are not.” So I wake up first, check my emails, check the kids’ school web site to make sure that school isn’t cancelled. (We live in Michigan, where the weather can sneak up on you and close roads.) I wake up the kids as gently as possible. They’re pretty self-sufficient, so gone are the days that I had to wrestle them into school clothes. Launch the kids out the door, wish David a good day teaching.

8 a.m. Debate whether I have time to work out or if whatever project I have going needs my attention right now. At any given time, I could I working on 2-3 projects in different genres, simultaneously. I could be drafting one project while doing revisions on something I’ve already submitted to my editor, and then copy edits on something else. It involves a lot of prioritizing and time management. I try to work out whenever I don’t feel pressured to get stuff done because I’m one of the many writers/people who struggle with balancing a sedentary job with being active. If you’re building your writing routine now, I would suggest building those healthy lifestyle choices in the early stages.

8:30 a.m. Try to remember if I have dinner planned. If I do, figure out when I need to throw ingredients into a Crock Pot.

Settle in. I have a really nice writing office and I try to work there as often as possible, particularly when it’s snowing because the view is beautiful. But most of the time I end up on a couch with my feet up. I wrote my first ten or so books from a couch and I think it’s where I’m most comfortable and get the most done.

9 a.m. Find something to “fill the room.” I really admire people who can work in total silence, but I just can’t. I think it’s because of my background as a newspaper reporter. In a newsroom, nothing is ever quiet – people talking - possibly yelling - TV news, multiple police scanners. It’s how my brain learned how to work, so I have to have something audible happening. It’s usually carefully selected playlists customized to the mood of each book/series. Or I have to have TV on in the background…. Which is a problem when I start watching Dr. Phil or Below Deck because I get distracted by Dr. Phil yelling at people. If I really need to focus and zone out, I turn on old episodes of The Office. I find that series to be so soothing, and it puts me in the right frame of mind to write comedy for large casts of characters.

Finish up any pending emails or communications with my agent/editors. If I have social media/giveaways stuff planned for the day, I try to get it done early, so I’m not distracted by that all day. This is also the time to order any promotional materials for upcoming conferences/events, check status of those orders, etc. Basically, I’m trying to work through all the proper “business” parts of being a writer, but honestly, given the nature of that business, I may continue these communications throughout the day.

Check in via text with friends to see how they’re doing. Working from home in a town where I don’t know a lot of people, it’s pretty important to maintain friendships with fellow writers that live all across the country. Generally speaking, a writer feeling isolated in an old house in a snowy environment doesn’t work out great. Shades of every horror novel ever.

But if I’m under extreme deadline pressure, I’ll turn off notifications when I’m done with “text time” so I don’t get distracted all day.

9:30 a.m. – OK, writing time. When I wrap up writing for a day, I try to have a plan regarding what I’ll do the next day, so I know where to start. I write in “patches.” I’m neither a plotter, nor a pantser. I’m sort of in between. I have a general plot outline based on Alexandra Sokoloff’s SCREENWRITING TRICKS FOR AUTHORS, but it’s subject to a LOT of changes. Most of the time, I’ll start a book with the first chapter, and then remember that second and third chapters are really hard, so I skip to the parts of the book I know I need to advance my plot – the meet-cute, a sex scene, a confrontation. Or sometimes I just start writing just a bit of conversation I think would be funny, and then shape a scene/chapter/plot point around it – which is a TERRIBLY IRRESPONSIBLE way to write and you should not get into this habit.

I try to write at least 2,000 words a day. My goal is to write at least 1,000 words before lunch. And I always stop for lunch because writers don’t make good word choices when they’re hangry.

Noonish – Lunch, while checking emails, checking in with friends, checking in with my daughter, who is having lunch at school. If David’s teaching, I try not to text him during class, because that seems rude. No matter how funny he might find the GIFs.

1ish – Back to work, try to write another 1,000 words before it’s time to get the kids from school.

Pause for school pickup, errands, and the thousand other things adults have to do to keep their household afloat.

5ish – Dinner. TGFCP. (Thank God For Crock Pots.)

Help kids with homework.

Realize, once again, that my daughter is smarter than me and I can’t ever let her know that if I want to maintain control of the household.

7ish – if I don’t feel I’ve written enough that day, spend more time writing. This is rarer these days as I seem to managing my time a little better in the mornings. But I do often find myself working on weekends when I’m drafting because I’m completely neurotic about deadlines.

Over the years, I’ve learned that what works for me, probably won’t work for everybody. Some people are everyday writers and can work on a very regimented schedule. Others are binge writers, who can write an entire book in three weeks. The main thing is to find a routine that works for you, produces quality work, and makes you happy.

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