writing routine

A Map of My Writing Day

I've been writing this 'Yours in Writing' blog for many years now, and I would like to thank all of you for the fantastic feedback and regular comments both here and on Facebook and Twitter. It means a lot to me. To say thank you, I'd like to address some topics that YOU have asked me to cover. The first - and yes, probably the easiest - is my writing routine. When do I write? How many words? Computer or long hand?

Over the next few weeks I will tackle the other questions I've recently been asked - on planning books, getting published for teenagers, what editors are looking for right now and other subjects. If there is something that you would like me to cover, you only have to ask.

So - my writing routine. And thanks to Claire Hennessy for the question, a very experienced writer herself.


Here's a map of my writing day:

7am  Rise (groggily) and get the kids to school.

8.30am  Get home and start thinking about what I have to do today.

Potter around the house avoiding work, 'tidying', opening mail, checking emails, Twitter and Facebook (terrible I know but best to get it over with early I find so I can get on with my morning! Twitter and Facebook are big distractions but also great fun and I dip in and out during the afternoon when I'm doing my emails and admin etc).

9.30  Walk - think about my current book while doing so (or that's the idea - it doesn't always work out that way - somametimes I end up chatting to my mum or a friend while walking - which is also nice!).

10.30am  Switch off my mobile and take the phone off the hook - my writing computer does not have the internet - which is a Godsend! Sit down at my desk.

Stare into space for a while.

Stare into space some more.

10.45am  Start writing.

I write straight onto my computer (I'm a fairly fast and accurate touch typist) but I do also write a lot of early plot notes/character notes in yellow notebooks. Yes, always yellow!

1.00pm  Collect my son or if he's in after school, stay writing until 2pm.

I aim to write about 2,000 words a day - that's my natural limit. Anything more than that is a bonus but if I don't reach my target I don't beat myself up about it. I write as often as I can, every day if possible - that way it's easier to jump straight back into the story. Otherwise I have to re-read what I've been writing and it slows the process down. Sometimes I stop writing in the middle of a sentence or a thought - I find it easier to pick up the thread of the story that way. It's probaby a bit nuts, but whatever gets you through, right?

In 15 years of writing (10 of those full time) I have always written something when I've sat down at my desk. Even if I'm not feeling great or am having a horrible day/week/month I still manage to write a page or two. I have NEVER left my desk without getting something down.

In the afternoon I deal with my emails (I hate email but it's a necessary evil), answer phone calls, write my blogs (I have two, this one and one on my Amy Green website and also blog for Girls Heart Books), do my event programming and check in with my Facebook and Twitter friends. I also update my website and write any reviews, articles or other bits of writing I've been asked to do.

I also used to work three or four evenings a week, but recently I have stopped this. I'm not as productive as I used to be but it gives me more time to spend with my family.

And that, my friends, is my writing day! I am very blessed to be able to write full time and I would like to thank my readers for making it possible.

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

Writers' Routines

Writers’ routines – from Patricia to Isabel, and even Jack Kerouac Interesting piece in the Irish Times the other day by Frank McNally about writers and how they start their writing day.

Here’s Isabel Allende on the subject: ‘I light some candles for the spirits and the muses. I meditate for a while. I always have fresh flowers and incense. And I open myself completely to the experience that begins in that moment . . . And slowly the story seems to unfold itself, in spite of me.’

Patricia Scanlan also lights candles before she starts writing, and says a little writing prayer.

Jack Kerouac went about things a little differently. ‘You think about what actually happened, you tell friends long stories about it, you mull it over in your mind, you connect it together at leisure, then when the time comes to pay the rent again, you force yourself to sit at the typewrite, or at the writing notebook and get it over with as fast as you can.’

And Patrick Dennis (no, me neither. Apparently he was a big writer in the 1950’s.) said ‘I always start writing with a clean piece of paper and a dirty mind.’

Gore Vidal: ‘First coffee, then a bowel movement, then the muse joins me.’

And finally, William Styron. 'I like to stay up late at night and get drunk and sleep late. I wish I could break the habit but I can't. The afternoon is the only time I have left and I try to use it to the best advantage, with a hangover.' Lived till 81 all the same.

Just goes to show – every writer is very, very different!

So how do I start my writing day?

Breakfast (with the kids – often with CBEEBies on – I can just about stand it as it doesn’t have an ads, I’ve banned everything else in the morning) I try to read the Sunday papers while eating – this goes on until Friday generally – and zone out the noise. Get the kids to school. Walk – usually for about 30 mins – gets rid of the cobwebs and stretches my neck and back out. Usually down the West pier in Dun Laoghaire. No music, just my own thoughts to amuse me. Ideally I think about the scene I’m about to write – but usually I just worry about the teenager and pipes bursting and the usual stuff. (No, we didn't leave our taps running - honest. Not guilty!) Home. Try to avoid talking to anyone. Sit down at my desk. And here’s my one quirk I guess – switch on the pink fairy lights over my desk. That’s when I know I’m supposed to be writing – when my lights are on. Try not to mess around on the internet. Fail. Check emails, Facebook. Check out the cute kids singing Eye of the Tiger on You Tube. Tell myself to get on with the writing. Start writing. (It can take me a good hour to get to this stage I am ashamed to admit.) Look up two to three hours later and wonder where the time has gone. And if I’m lucky, I’ll get my 2,000 words done in that time. And that’s my writing morning. Afternoon – edit, write other bits and bobs, do my blogs etc. No candles I’m afraid – will fairy lights do?

What's your own routine like?

Yours in writing,

Sarah X

PS I’m going to ask some of my writer friends for their routines and post them for you. I bet Martina Devlin is far more disciplined than I am!!!