The Process Monkey Asks: What Is Your Writing Process?


Let me say this up front: if you’re a writer of any age or experience level, you need to be looking at your writing process. Always. Yesterday, today, tomorrow. You gaze into it to see if there’s anything you do to change it. Anything you can do to understand it better. You’re looking for bolts to tighten, widgets to wax, hedgehogs to tickle. Anything to fully weaponize your writing process.

You don’t do this to become some kind of CRASS FICTION FACTORY. This isn’t (necessarily) about becoming faster. It’s about getting better. Why wouldn’t you want to tell better stories? Why wouldn’t you want to refine your process and make the thing that you do easier, more fun, and more awesome? WHY DON’T YOU LIKE AWESOME THINGS.

*clears throat*

Anyway.

My process is this, roughly:

At 6AM, I get up. Like a vampire rising from death into monstrous revivification.

I make myself some coffee. Pourover, because there’s something meditative about it. And the coffee is fucking amazing — I don’t just drink coffee for the kick. I drink it because it’s delicious.

I also drink it black as a mirror at night.

I put the coffee in a carafe — this one, actually — to keep it warm all day.

THEN I GO TO THE SHED.

I get quick shit out of the way — any outstanding ASAP emails or tweets or silly stuff like that. Sam Sykes may be tweeting at me from the end of his day and the start of mine.

And then by 7AM, I get my ass to work.

I write in Microsoft Word. I’ve tried Scrivener, because people love it. It’s not my thing (though I am pleased if it is yours). Learning curve is too steep, it’s ugly as bad wallpaper, and I’m comfortable with a draft in Word going all the way through to the Track Changes stages of editing.

One small ritual ritual I have is, I have to make sure the font is right on the story.

Just a thing I gotta do. Probably the only “quirky” ritual component.

(That and the “bathing in goat’s blood” at 11:11AM every day.)

Eventually my son will be awake, and when he is, I am summoned by text message and then I head inside to do the whole breakfast thing, where he eats whatever it is that he wants to eat — pancakes or eggs or maybe he just wants to gnaw on the table like a nibbly bunny.

Then I walk with the dog every day and some days, run.

Then it’s back to the keyboard.

I write until I’m finished for the day, which is — nngh? Bare minimum, 2000 words in the day, but ideally I go above 3000. Like, for me, 2k is a barely passing grade. A D+ or something.

I write roughly 1000 words an hour. The first 1000 words is a bit sluggish, but the second 1000 words is where I usually move at a brisker, more limber pace.

I generally write for an hour, then take 15 minutes off to, y’know, fuck off in and around the Internet. I get on Twitter and TWEET THINGS. I get on Facebook and BOOK FACES. The usual.

I’m done writing new content by early afternoon, usually.

Then it’s onto lunch and whatever administrative or extraneous stuff needs a-doing. Outlines, emails, spreadsheets, finances, remembering where I put my pants.

I tend to do blog posts on weekends, though sometimes throughout the week too if there’s something that chafes my pee-hole enough that I have no choice but to write about it ASAFP.

Again, everything gets written right into MS Word.

And everything gets edited there, too.

First drafts get a look ideally from my agent, and then an another edit/polish (again: perfect world) before it gets catapulted into my editor’s eyeballs.

I track my day’s writing with a spreadsheet. I know if I’m over or under my daily goals. And I also know where I’m at according to my overall writing plan.

I tend to write a new novel ever one to four months. That’s first draft. Edits take longer.

And I think that’s it. That’s the process.

But now, I turn the question around to you. What is your process? How do you do it? How much time per day? Do you write every day? Whatever you feel like telling us about your writing process, I’m all ears. Like I said, I’m always a process monkey and it’s interesting to hear how everyone does it — no writer has the same writing process as the next. Some are similar; others are wildly different. Hell, just the quest to discover one’s writing process (similar to the quest to discover one’s voice) can be epic. Where are you at in this quest?


121 responses to “The Process Monkey Asks: What Is Your Writing Process?”

  1. I love hearing about this, but I’m more curious what your outlining process is like? How complicated and deep do you go to let you hit your 2K-a-Day minimum?

    • I agree. This is your writing routine, not your writing process. For example, do you outline, or write by the seat of your pants? Do you worry about plot points and pinch points and inciting incident and all that? Do you figure that stuff out ahead of time? Do you start at the beginning, write to the end, and then stop, or do you start with an ending and work towards it?

      When you write a first draft, is it so good that it just has to be edited, or do you go through rewrites?

      To what extent do you plan characters?

      Do you plan the scenes/sequels in detail, or do you just let it happen?

      This is the kind of thing we want to know, Lord Chuck.

      • Having read Lord Chuck’s writing about, er, writing … I can tell you that Mr Wendig is a pantser by nature but a plotter by necessity. One of my favourite quotes of his is something like: “This is novel, Godammit, not some interpretive dance. Make notes.”

      • Routine and process are pretty interchangeable for me — process being “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.” Mechanical operations, as another definition suggests. Process is to me the means of stuffing the sausage rather than the vagaries of the recipe. These are the mechanisms by which I write.

        As to all the other questions — I could do those again, but those are pretty well answered throughout the blog, I think. I’ll only say that for me, outlines and all that jazz change from story to story, because every story needs something different. There exists little consistency in exactly how a story is born for me — they’re all their own weird, fucked-up little critters.

        • Yes, right, I forgot to mention in my post that I reckoned those questions were answered somewhere in this blog, or in those masterful books on writing, all of which I own. I was just sayin’, I saw a distinction between routine and process.

    • Seconded. Super curious to know how you organise the editing and outlining parts, not just the wordcount. You mention “tracked changes stage of editing,” which is tantalising. TANTALISING. I’M ALL TANTALISED HERE

  2. I’m a time juggler when it comes to writing. I work a 40 hour normal office job but I have a two breaks in the day that I write novels in – long hand in a notebook because its easy to carry and gets me away from a computer. I write about 1500-2000 words a day this way. When I get home at about 4-4:30 I run the dog and then its emails, social media, publishing stats check, ghost blogs for a Book Cover Design company and work on a degree that I am doing by correspondence (so I can still work). Weekends I take my notebook of novel word spew and decipher it into Scrivener, filling in the blanks and giving it a bonus edit. I generally will take Sunday off as a firm rule to read amazing books and hang out with my dogs.

  3. Fascinating. We must be on the same brainlength, that is, wavelength of brains or whatever. I just wrote the post about the same stuff today. Thank you for sharing your process. I admire your ability to break and tweet. I can’t. I wake up at 8, sit down to write at 9, and write till about 2-3, depending on the day, and only AFTER I’m done writing I do Twitter and such. And same word goals, 2K at least (usually more) on first draft, and if editing, then at least 4 hours daily (I don’t take breaks for weekends or holidays or anything) which usually yields 1-1.6K words. And after tweeting I read every day for 2-3 hours which is part of my writing routine. Well, lookie, I’ll be writing a whole essay here for you. Geez. See what you did??

  4. I start out with brain maps. Used to be on paper with colored pencil, but I use Scapple these days. I turn an idea over in my head forever and add little bits to it. Then, finally, I force myself to write (or a deadline does) and I write a crazy amount per day (5,000-10,000 words). I sit on that for a week and revise. If it’s a contract job, I send it to the client. If it’s a novel, I fiddle with it too long, get an editor’s interest, and then decide it needs a whole rewrite. So, yeah, that’s my “process.” I write fast or I don’t write at all. Last year I pulled a lot of words from the mine. Don’t know how many. I keep track of projects individually and toss out the records later. Generally, I find if I sit down and write, the muse comes. I rewrite fast as well. I recently realized I do better with a vague outline. I do that with my paid work. need to start doing it with on spec work.

    I also wear a beret. It may or may not be raspberry in color.

  5. I write when I can. Sometimes that is not at all due to full time job/kids/husband/tomato-garden-from-hell-because-i-hate-tomatos-and-they-need-constant-work. Ahem. Anyways, I write when I can and I must put on my ‘writing music’ which is usually trailer music a la Two Steps from Hell or Audiomachine. I tend to try to write after my kids go to bed, but before I have to because of my early morning job. So I write for about an hour a day give or take. How much I write is irrelevant. I just write. I’ve got two books published, a third heading to an editor in September, a fourth out in October as part of an anthology and I think I’m doing just fine. Just… don’t be like me and burn 4 fingers while cooking because that kinda messed up my writing this weekend. Sigh.

  6. I actually started on my first ever first draft in mid-March, and I just reached the 55k word mark last week. (Woot!) I’ve actually been using your 350-words-per-day plan, but most days I end up writing more. I work full-time, so I usually write on my lunch break. Although my office is really slow in the summer, so lately I’ve been able to squeeze more writing time in, which has been really nice!

    The biggest thing I’ve learned this draft is how to make my planning process better. I’ve realized that I spent way too much time on some things, and then skipped others that turned out to be pretty important that I’m now playing catch-up on. So hopefully that will help when I’m planning my next novel! Now when it comes to revisions… I have no idea. That’ll definitely be interesting!

  7. Get up, check…coffee in carafe…check… then I go through email, read news…find I’m awake enough to cook safely and go get something to eat. Refreshed, fed and with a full cup of coffee, I sit down to write. I go until I’ve done about 1500-2000 words. Sometimes I get lunch in there, sometimes I wait and just grab food after. Then I read over it and decide if I’m keeping it all or tossing chunks of it away.
    Some housework…a bit of reading of stuff not mine…and then maybe more writing. If the muse is actually speaking with me, I can write all night long, only pausing when I realize the second pot of coffee is gone and people are up and moving about outside.
    In between things, dogs need to go out…phones get answered…but those things generally don’t interrupt the flow, just give me a reason to stand up and not let my rear grow into the chair.

  8. Since reading that book 2k-10k by Rachel Aaron I always write in brief how I’m going to tackle the next scene – what happens in it, who wants what and how each person will succeed or fail. Usually for about ten minutes.

    I do all my writing on Google Docs. Means I can write anywhere, as I’m usually all over the place. Then once it’s all done I move to Word. I like Scrivener but it’s annoying me at the moment…

    I work a job 8-5pm three days a week, so I usually do some editing on the tram to and from work.
    On the other days I get up 5am, go gym, walk dog, eat brekkie, drink coffee and then go down to the basement, plug in the headphones, blast trance music and write for three to four hours. Then when my other half finally joins the living I work on our business for the rest of the day. I don’t get as much writing done as I’d like to, but I’m getting there with a stricter regime and learning more about productivity.

  9. My writing process (which happens exclusively at the weekends) basically goes like this:

    I wake up as late as it’s humanly possible to do so, without being divorced.

    I roll out of bed, grab a coffee and surf the internet or argue on social media for the next couple of hours.

    I’ll then open my work in progress, stare at it for twenty seconds in terror and then shut it down again.

    The cycle of inane internet dispersed with 20 second stares at my WIP continue until Holy Mother of God O’clock in the morning, at which point, I open my WIP and frantically scribble a paragraph or two, before retiring to bed exhausted.

    As processes go, it could probably use a little optimization.

  10. Because my old job irreversibly damaged my body clock, I wake around 4 or 5 am, muck around on FB, Twitter and such for an hour or so, work on my own projects then start work on the latest draft for hire. I ghost write, so there are a bunch of words to do each day on a tight deadline. I use Scrivener because, well, I cheat. I have different size templates I created for the different kinds of books I write, each one set up with scenes and word counts for each scene of each chapter. Not that I keep to them strictly, and I know this is heresy for some writers, but it just makes it so much easier to see, yes I filled the word count for that chapter–next! It makes for very structured writing. But in writing this way you become so much more aware of the rhythm and flow of a chapter and you zero in on constructing a chapter in a very efficient way. Two thousand words is an unproductive day, six thousand the most I can do without getting toasty brain, and the average output is four thousand per day.

    I get in a thousand or so words before breakfast, eat, mess around, do laundry, and dishes (because I don’t have a spouse to do these things) and drag myself back to the ‘puter to sling out some more words. If I’m very good and don’t get distracted I’ll knock off at four and go to the gym. Lately I’ve been bad.

    That’s the process.

  11. I have a process, but right now, I’m so burned out (130 hour work weeks last week and next two weeks. Do.Not. Ask.) that I couldn’t describe it if I tried. But (probably related to said work load) am totally curious – how long does that thermos keep things warm? I keep looking for one that will do better than like 2 hours before coffee/tea/cocoa turns into blood-temp sludge –
    And it’s really cool to read your process btw.

  12. Mine looks a lot like yours. Without the shed. Or the kid (do two cats count who want breakfast every morning at seven?). And without the editor/agent. Otherwise. I get up. Do coffee. Feed cats. Eat breaky. Do the Twitter/FB/Pinterest/Tumblr things. Write for a time. I don’t write every day and I don’t do word count, I write a chapter at a time. I tend to write fast (pantser) and edit slow. In between writing I do house stuff/driving/errands stuff. I write in mid-afternoon and again after dinner. I do blog stuff on weekends. If it’s not a writing day I do research or read or brainstorm with a CP if I’m stuck on plot. I don’t watch TV (no cable) but will do Netflix if I feel a need. And that’s my process.

    Thanks for yours.

  13. Thanks for sharing your process. Yes. Very different for each writer. I am flexible. Since I live in Arizona I like to take care of my garden in the morning before the sun burns everything to a crisp. Exercise is also in that narrow window. I generally write in the afternoon when hubby naps and mother is on her computer playing games and listening to 40 year old movies.

    That doesn’t always happen. I volunteer, a lot! So, if I have an hour in the morning with a busy afternoon, I’ll sit down and write a thousand words. If it’s a light day, I’ll do my “chores” in the morning and while everyone else in the house is otherwise occupied, I’ll get in 2 – 3k over 2 or more hours.

    When I get up in the morning is when I tackle the email deluge. I fit in my 2 blog posts per week in the writing schedule, mindful that my Flash Fiction Friday post means I actually have to write a 1K piece every week! That’s in addition to any short story or novel I’m working on.

    I use the November NaNo and 2 CampNaNo’s to draft novels.

    Somewhere in all of that creative drafting I find time to edit. It takes me 3X as long to edit as to draft. So, I PRINT my manuscript after the draft (in word because like Chuck, the nuances of Scrivener have escaped me) and edit on the paper. Typing in gives me a 2nd edit because I always find more stuff to change then. I’ve recently hired an editor so then I send the work to him. And there can be 1 – 4 more edits. At times I use alpha and beta readers when I haven’t boxed myself in too tightly with the time to publishing.

    So to clarify, I can write any time I sit down and clear my mind and if there’s a draft, read it through and get back into the story. If it’s a first time thing, I usually have scene cards. Yes, I loosely outline. Sometimes very loose (like my current WIP where there’s a bare outline) and sometimes more tight (where I have my scene cards in order, one scene following another).

    Every book and short story is different for me. I do not have a stable, tried and true writing environment. It’s loose and chaotic and maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. I have 12 books out and still my name isn’t circulating. Is it the work? Is it the marketing? Don’t know. I just keep writing.

  14. I’m a Scrivener kind of gal. 🙂 I’m a pantster, but I love using Scrivener to write up “mile-markers” that are basically my version of the Save the Cat! beat sheet. (Scrivener also saves my ass with series, because I can keep all the notes and character info right there for quick reference.) My publisher does edit rounds in Word, but for my initial drafts I prefer Scrivener, especially since I tend to not write linearly, but whichever scenes are strongest in my head and fill in from there.

    When I wake up (which is usually sometime after the sun has crested and before noon, depending on when the cats, dogs, husband, etc manage to disturb me) I get up, Hubby hands me coffee, and I plod into my office. (Or back to the bed, or the couch, depending on my pain levels.) I get my morning e-mails and crap out of the way. I do not write on a desktop, and haven’t for years, strictly a laptop. (Or for emails or web stuff, my iPad sometimes.)

    Depending on whether I’m in a writing or editing cycle, I get busy doing that once my morning stuff’s out of the way. If I’m in a writing cycle, I’m usually not happy with anything under 5k for the day. (Caffeine-addicted speed touch-typist, I should add.)

    I must have music while writing. I have tinnitus, and no music means I’m not happy. (If I’m editing, I can have the TV on for background noise.) I also have a white noise generator on my phone. It stays docked on my desk during the day, so I can plug my headphones into that if I need the extra sound buffering.

    I am a night owl, so I’m usually up until at least 1-2 am, sometimes later. There aren’t many days a month where I take off the whole day. I feel guilty if I’m not “working.” Also, if I’m not “working” that leaves my brain waaaaay too much free time to think and come up with new ideas. LOL I do take some recharge time every week, to catch up on my fun reading or binge-watching TV, or whatever it is.

    I keep track of my daily word count (or editing) in my journal. Another reason I love Scrivener for writing, because of the tracking. (Love making that progress bar turn green. LOL)

    Lather, rinse, repeat. 🙂

  15. I write almost every day, seven days a week and have a similar process to you, Chuck – similar but different of course. I get up around sevenish, I go to my shed and have a huge cup of tea, half a dozen smokes and read a book for around two hours. Then I make another cuppa and sit and go through emails, comments on FB, check my sales and my bank accounts and then it’s time to work. With another cup of tea of course. Open Word – never did understand how to use any other program, especially when Word is fine. The first thing I do is go over the previous day’s work – today for example I added another 1000 words to the chapter I wrote yesterday, simply because the tweaks made it flow better. I then start writing new stuff. I usually try and write 3000 words everyday – sometimes its more, sometimes less. I tend to write in scenes/chapters and I try and keep writing until the scene is finished. I am usually finished by fiveish, depending on who has interrupted me during the day.

    Once my book is finished, I do one more complete once-over, from start to finish, editing as I go. Then I send it off to three beta readers who do minor edits for me or let me know if I haven’t clarified anything. While they are doing that, I get on with my cover, my blurb and all those other exciting things that self-publishers have to do for themselves. Then I publish it, get my formatting for sites other than Amazon done on Fiverr (I have met some jewel people on there who do the work perfectly although they are expensive). I promote my new book for five days on Facebook, in the meantime getting on with the next story. Occasionally I do paid promotions, and I also try and keep up with my own blog, but when I am in the middle of a story, I tend to forget.

    Every now and again I will take a week off, usually when a book is published. I tend to forget things like getting the car serviced and things like that when I am in the middle of a book, so I keep a list of them on my phone, and get them done when I have a bit of free time. I also fit in the gym usually three times a week, and three times a month I volunteer at a local museum – that’s my bid at being sociable, lol. Books (reading), cups of tea and cigarettes, along with chocolate buttons are all necessities to my writing process – along with my shed. Without those things, I know it would be a lot harder to write as much as I do. Oh and Verdana, 14 – all of my books are written in that font as it is easier for me to read on the screen 🙂

  16. This is where I fall flat on my butt. Having a routine feels impossible right now, because I work from home and live beside two kids who spend their days screaming until they choke. I can’t play music loud enough to drown it out, let alone work through the pain.

    So my system is wake up early, and if I can’t find somewhere else to work for the day, try and cram as much as possible into the quiet moments, and try and find my Zen about it all in the majority of the day. Housemate gets home and needs attention, but eventually everyone goes to bed and I get maybe an hour of work time before I pass out from exhaustion, ready to rinse and repeat in the morning. In that time, I have articles and reviews to write for mags, so creative writing takes a major backseat lately.

    Any parents with advice on how to survive the whole writing around kids thing?

    • Really good noise cancelling headphones if they don’t belong to you. I set up a playlist of songs that have something to do with my story and then write to it. If lyrics bother you, try instrumentals.

    • Chuck mentioned that he has a shed. As another person with a small baby and working from home, I wish I had a shed. I have serious shed envy. Sometimes I like to sit in my Isuzu Trooper just across the street from my house, in the passenger seat with my laptop and pretend I’m in a shed.

      Cafes and a partner (to inflict the mini person on) are a must.

  17. Process:
    November, April, and July with the NaNoWriMo & their Camps, I write 3,000 words a day for 30 days. Basically puking on paper. This gives me about 340 pages to work with by the end of each of these months, so three novels. During these months I buy household chores with word counts. Dishes done = 1000 words. Dinner 1500, etc.

    December, May, August I think. I do no writing or editing. I zone out. I nibble at new stories. I research. I watch tv. Do Christmas, birthdays, summer stuff.

    January, June, September I do my first major edit on the novel before written before this last one. By now it has been sitting there untouched and unread for five-six months. So, Sept 1 I will start editing the novel I wrote in April.

    Feb, March: Second draft. Send it to my readers.

    October: research and outline and more edits.

    Time: I get the kids off to school, sleep all day and when the kids go bed I edit. Since I have a sleepwalker in my family, this helps keep him safe.

    Platform: Google drive. I like that I don’t have to think about saving, but I save to a thumb drive anyway and email a copy to myself.

    Also yes to pour over in my Hario #2 cone coffee maker thingy with Peruvian fto, hot heavy whipping cream and sugar.

  18. As to my routine, we give walking tours of Venice, so some days I have to write when that’s finished, which means I’m tired and hot and don’t do a lot of writing. Otherwise: I get up between 7 and 8, make coffee, drink it black, then jack around doing stuff like this. Then I start to write. After a while I get hungry and eat something. My goal is 2,000 words per day. I find my brain cooks after much more than that.

    As to the process, I struggle with that every day. I have a template in Scrivener with all the plot points and pinch points marked out, and what they mean. I’ve found, though, that I have a hell of a time plotting out the novel in advance. I would love to. But as I tell people, I love order, I just don’t generate it. I’ve wasted days sitting and staring at an outline unable to continue.

    But there has to be some form of compass. So, I’m a hybrid. I generally start a novel with an idea for how it begins, and how it ends. I know it has to have the requisite structure in the end, so I think about that as I go. But outside of that, I suppose I’m a pantser (I prefer the term “pantster” because “pantser” sounds too much like a German tank.)

    I start writing using Atlantis word processor because I like the typewriter sounds, and it has decent functionality, although it’s not perfect, and there is no change tracking. For that I use Open Office. But it does not accurately count words. For example, “. . . ” is counted as three words. I’ve never used Word. When I practiced law, we used Wordperfect, which is vastly superior. But now, they want too much money for it when there are excellent alternatives for free, or very cheap.

    Once I get to a certain level, which is some point where I feel like I need a bird’s eye view, I import into Scrivener. Scrivener is great for keeping track of research and notes and old versions, and all that. It’s also a great way to actually see what’s going on structurally. (come on, the learning curve is not that bad)

    I then write using Scrivener for a while. But then I start to feel boxed in, so I compile and do more in Atlantis, where I try to finish the story. Then back to Scrivener, where it’s easier to see the thing structurally, and easier to move things around. This is actually a rewrite. Sometimes in the rewrite I will just start typing the whole thing over.

    As to structure, I try to follow the one put out by Larry Brooks in “Story Engineering.” It essentially has four acts of equal length, with plot/turning points at 25%, 50%, and 75%, and “pinch points” at 37.5% and 60%. Climax at around 90-99%.

    That sounds all clinical, and I suppose it is, and for novelists we have some leeway, but this structure, or something like it, has to be there.

    Then I’ll import it into Scrivener if it’s not already there, compile it, print it, read it, fix any boogers I find, give it to my wife to read, do what she says, then give it to a few beta readers. Shine it all up, then submit.

    Oh yeah, for the planning process, to the extent I plan, I use Freemind. I’m noodling around with Scapple, and it’s cool, but I may prefer Freemind.

  19. If I had a process, I would be too busy finishing my novel(s) to be reading blog posts like this.

    Say what you will Chuck, but I would give my left nut to become a Creative Writing machine.

  20. The only process that works for me (as a Canadian I say ‘prowcess’ not ‘prawcess’) is to sit my butt in that chair and write. Everything else is just frills, gravy or perfume on the pig.

    Though I will say this. I teach writers how to use social media and the thing I tell them most often, when they report wasting whole days on Facebook, social media is not the most important thing you do in the day, so don’t make it the first thing you do, especially if you get sucked in easily. Get the important stuff done first.

  21. I’m usually up by about 7:30. I’d love to be up earlier, but I have terrible trouble sleeping :/ The first hour or so is for things like emails, answering questions on book forums, dealing with Wattpad messages, that sort of thing. Then I usually read for an hour. I don’t like to start any day without having disappeared into a book first.

    Once all that is out of the way, I can get started on the real work. I spend a couple of hours writing and then take a half hour break for lunch. I might also sneak a few more minutes of reading in before I go back to the computer, especially if it’s a good book.

    I work for another few hours before taking a break to stretch my legs and give my brain a chance to rest. Then it’s back to the computer until dinnertime. I usually take about an hour off for dinner, and then get back to work until about 10 in the evening when I finally shut the computer down.

    I like to have a daily word-count of about 5,000 words. On a bad day I might only manage 1,000. On a really good day I can turn out more than 9,000.

    When I finish a novel, I put it aside for a couple of months before I even think about editing it. I like to distance myself from it so I can come back to it with a more clinical eye. During those couple of months I usually write another book.

    It can be demanding but there’s really nothing else I love doing so much 🙂

    • Heh. I just started ME3 for another playthrough… Means I won’t be writing until the galaxy is safe again. The Mass Effect games are addictive, but I love them. (Well, not the ME3 ending, but everything up to that is great, except driving the Mako…) Maybe we can justify it by saying that we’re studying world-building and character creation? No? Hey, it was worth a shot:)

      • I didn’t think the ending did the series justice… but THEN I watched a video on the Indoctrination Theory, that means simple that Shephard is being indoctrinated into the Reaver’s mind control program thing, and… well, the ending suddenly seemed so much smarter and fulfilling than I gave it credit for… presuming such a theory is what they were going for. Worth a watch, definitely.

  22. My process?
    Well… from the moment I wake up (before I put oon my maake-uppp) I get in front of my PC. It’s a full on gaming rig, so firing up MS word is a bit like heading to the office in a tank. This is happening at anywhere from 6am to 8am, depending on degree of hangover.

    First I check my emails to see if any of the Day Job projects I’m working on have killed anybody (hasn’t happened thus far. WINNING), and then I get a giant R2D2 mug of tea with two teabags.

    If I’m currently writing I aim for a word count of 400 words.

    If editing I try to tackle one scene, defined as GOAL>CONFLICT>DISASTER, or one sequel, defined as REACTION>DILEMMA>DECISION.

    If I need to work on outlining because something no longer makes sense I do that instead, taking my notes by pen, MS Word comment function, or in a file entitled CHANGES.

    If I’ve got a nicely edited second draft I write a long synopsis dividing the whole thing into scenes, and use this exercise to work out what gets cut, changed or abbreviated.

    After all that I inflict it on mum. Repeat previous steps until this low hurdle is cleared, then planning to seek beta readers.

    This whole elephant gets eaten in tiny bites, as my ten month old baby gemul (monster in Korean) might wake up any time crying for food, nappies and hugs. The onslaught of cute ends when she nods off and by that time I need to heed the call of the Day Job…

  23. My divorce from WORD is final. I use WORD to type singular words in and look them up in WORD’s handy Thesaurus. Still better than the .com one IMHO.

    Otherwise, I’m a Scrivener gal and that’s with PC version, but I love it. Here’s why. I can move chapters around. I can duplicate chapters and write out a title like this one: chapter xxx This is OLD but has a new sex scene I might use Save it. (that can be the title by the way.) Then, I press the trash button and it’s there for me forever. So if I need to resuscitate I can. Do you see the power in that? It’s AWESOME. Man up, Chuck, and learn Scrivener. Just sayin’. And if you have a Mac and don’t use Scrivener, I can’t even talk to you.

    Plus!! Scrivener backs my work up every two seconds whereas WORD manages to shut down and recover my work only sometimes. That’s why we got divorced, in fact. I just got so f*ck*ng tired of WORD failing me that I have never looked back.

    As for process, I’ll take Michael E. Henderson’s post above for $100, Alex, as his post covers most of what I do pretty much verbatim except for the use of Scrapple and Atlantis and Freemind. I stay in Scrivener and feel the confines of it a little more than halfway through.

    I have tried to find discipline with an outline. I’ve read them all. I harken back to Larry Brooks, Story Engineering on a semi-regular basis or watch Dan Well’s Seven Point Story Structure videos over and over again to remind myself of the hero’s journey and ensure I’m covering the important plot points in all the right places.

    If I didn’t have such a big ego and this misguided need to impress people with my dark, twisty plots, I could produce more than a novel a year. Yeah, and I do this full-time. I have numerous starts with my sixth novel. EIGHT starting chapters. Eight different twists just to start. I have three different drafts at 50,000 words each. I’ve vaguely promised my readers a finished novel by the end of the summer so I’m working like mad right now. I am mad, don’t kid yourself. I’m putting about sixteen hours a day in right now. Yesterday, I had 55K usable words. Today, I have 75K. I woke up this morning and decided someone had to go and that opened the flood works for my progress on this day. A plot point that I’ve been resisting for the ten months was finally out into play and that made all the difference.

    Yes! It’s finally coming together like a sweater I’ve knitted and finally gotten right. I don’t knit. I hate knitting, but that’s what it feels like in doing the work. It’s the good old fashioned “bob and weave” and finding just the right groove. It seems to happen this time of year, around this same time each year, three years running.

    It’s not a pretty process. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. (Well, anyone I like.) It’s twisted and ugly, but it’s my process. It’s hard to believe that I’m almost finished with this book and I will still not be able to identify how it came together and how it works. That’s the tragic part.

    A few weeks from now, I’ll start a new draft on another WIP and still not know how to get to the end of it all. I’ll probably reread the outlining books all over again but in the end the best work by me gets done by doing the work, finding my groove, and lasering in on the story with true focus all at the same time, some weird ass magic trick I’m unable to identify until it’s over. I appear to be a Pantster as Michael E Henderson’s notes above. I guess I’ll own that.

    I drink copious amounts of coffee. Caffe Umbria. One caffeinated. The rest are decaffeinated. Dollops of cream. Shoot me. My cholesterol is at 170, give or take, year in, year out, despite the cream habit.

    When I get serious, I write up to 10K a day, although, as you can see by post; I broke the record today. Average daily word count is 3K-5K when everything comes together which is about six months in. I’m seeing some New Year’s Resolutions in those numbers. Must write faster. Must keep it together, consecutively, and for longer.

    I don’t garden. I don’t cook if I can help it. I read when I can although there’s a point in the WIP where I can’t any longer until I’m done. I do laundry only sometimes, and take five-minute breaks about twenty times a day. I don’t know what I do except stare into space and resent interruptions by the family when I’m thinking and dwelling in the story, in other words, ‘working’. What’s that called? Plotting?

  24. Tried Scrivener, didn’t like it. I do it all in Word and keep track of stuff on Excel.
    I wake up and get one hour of writing done before work, every single day. I could probably wake up an hour earlier and do 2 hours in the morning but it’s SO HARD.
    When I write my first draft, I keep track of how many words I write. Then, when I go back and have to edit, revise, fix the structure, etc., I just make sure I work an hour.
    But seriously, you can do one draft, one revision, and send it in to your editor? Ugh. I’m on draft 4…

  25. My routine is like this: my day job is a night job and I’m a night owl by nature, so I don’t usually get up until mid afternoon. I drink coffee, eat breakfast, stare at the TV (which might or might not be on) and make grumbling sort of noises for a half hour/hour.

    Second cup of coffee, Scrivener and iTunes. For 1-3 hours I write original stuff, depending on my schedule and what I am working on. I generally can write about a thousand words an hour.

    After writing, I take a break. When I come back I do marketing, blogging or editing depending on what tasks need to done when. I am definitely a planner and definitely ADHD so I do planning and plotting on the next project during the second session as well. I answer emails and take care of all the business crap, but writing original stuff always takes first priority.

  26. My writing process….

    I write in MS Word. Period. However, I also use Evernote, which I blogged about the other day. I also don’t always do everything in order. Well, I do, in the main manuscript, but I also have another .doc that’s titled (BOOK TITLE HERE) Scenes.doc, and that’s where I throw bits that show up in my head. For instance right now I’ve got a scene where the hero of the tale shows up at his lady’s house and her brother meets him at the door with a nine millimeter because the family’s been running hot ever since said ladylove returned from overseas after a traumatic experience. And baby brother has never met Our Hero. Ergo, strange dude is at the front door, he’s going hot.

    Yeah, that’s my family right there. If you can’t shoot it or curse it or burn it, blow it up.

    Anyway, while I didn’t actually use the EXACT scene from the extraneous document, I did use a variation of it in the manuscript. And that’s what that’s for — it’s the hall closet where you know, you’ve got board games and winter coats and spare air filters for the HVAC and JESUS THAT’S A BIG SPIDER and stuff.

    Evernote is how I write all the time. If I’m waiting in line at the school for my daughter to get out, if I have a flash of brilliance at the Mart of Wal, if I’m in the bathroom (don’t JUDGE me), if I’m waiting for my husband to play his Bluestacks games on my computer, I can write stuff in Evernote and it flashes to three different places, my phone, my iPod Touch, and my computer. Again, it’s extraneous — I may use those scenes, those bits, and I may not. I may rewrite them into the actual manuscript, and I may trash them, and I may look at them later and wonder how in the world I thought that was a good idea oh yeah it was three in the morning and I hadn’t slept yet.

    I’m a pantser. That tends to lead to lots of editing later on, but it’s me, and it’s what I do.

    So, get up at 4 in the morning, coffee, play my OWN games, blog, Tweet out the blog links. Get kids up and out the door to school. Write for about an hour or so before #dayjob has to happen. Take breaks from #dayjob to play with the draft. Get daughter from school, go back to #dayjob. Make dinner. Write until bedtime at 11 or so.

  27. Routine: get up, check social media, check KDP page for sales, fire up Scrivener and start procrastinating. Target is always 5000 words per day minimum. The routine is often interrupted/hijacked by doing house chores, preparing lunch/dinner etc.
    Process: I get a general idea, outline the ideal plot, do some research and documentation, start writing a first draft. During revision, I check the story structure to see what needs to be expanded, cut or moved somewhere else. During revision I also do the in-depth research for details and tasty bits that could spice up my story. I can occasionally mind-map complicated situations or storyboard action scenes.

  28. I get up, do breakfast for the kids, when they have left i fire up my computer check my sales, Facebook, emails. Then I procastinate. Then I start writing. My goal are 1000 words per day. Usually I write four or five days in a row, then I take a break, letting the story cook inside me. Then it’s another four or five days of writing.
    Works for me :9

  29. I’ve tried y-Writer, which I’ve heard is similar to Scrivener, and found it was far too much trouble for what I got out of it. If anyone has used both, I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts as to how they compare. As to process, I outline in great detail, after finally realizing (with Chuck’s help) that an unoutlined first draft is just a really long, messy outline.

  30. I escape the mayhem that is my home life (two toddlers and a bookdealing business) for two hours every day. I walk down to our local bakery/restaurant and drink a double shot latté while I write my heart out. I keep my wifi off. I aim for 750 – 1000 (good) words a day.

    I keep to an ambitious writing schedule which keeps me forever anxious to finish. That nervous energy, along with the caffeine, keeps the words ticking over like some glorious golden steampunkin’ clock. I use Scrivener (mostly). I keep a tally of my daily word count in my trusty Moleskine which also contains my project notes. Life is pretty goddamn great when you write every day.

  31. I work a full time job, so most of my work is done at nights and weekends. My wife belongs to the early to bed/early to rise cult, so I start writing at 8pm and stop around 10. I may get at least 1000 words done. On weekends, I write in the morning while my wife sleeps in, or steal an hour here or there if there’s no pressing business. I take Wednesday off as a burnout buffer.

    However, I have different modes. If I’m writing for a spoken word event, I will spend the previous weekend concentrating on one piece. Also, I’ve doing personal challenges like “One original piece a day, every day.” I do this to brainstorm new ideas and create works that I can hopefully sell. Right now, I’m editing aforementioned pieces and attempting to find a fool to pay me for them.

    • As for tech, I use MS Word and have been moving everything to the Cloud. It enables me to write anywhere there’s a WiFi connect. If I have notes, an idea or a revision, I can pull the article, edit online and save.

  32. I’m don’t think I have a concrete writing process… I’m distracted WAY too easily, which I try to compensate by writing a lot when I do sit down to write.
    One thing that I do, though, is I always outline a scene, usually on my phone. I write the general idea(never super specific, unless I feel like I have a great, great idea), the point, cool ideas for that certain scene, some dialogue, etc. I can spend a lot of time doing this, and it makes writing a lot easier for me because at least I have direction when I sit down.
    On the rare occasion that I don’t outline, I usually let the characters do the work for me. If it’s boring, I’ll chop it off. If it has potential, I leave it there to have it reworked later.
    I guess the only consistent thing I have in my writing process is that I write down every idea that pops into my head. Other than that, it’s a clusterfuck.

  33. Thanks for dissecting your writing process for us. I have real trouble keeping to a routine, mainly because I also do other work and it intrudes at all times of the day or night. I would love to see an example of the spreadsheet you use. I’ve been thinking of using something similar to keep my focus on the writing process rather than other stuff. Anyone else got any examples or suggestions or templates? Thanks J

  34. Up at 6am, backups and emails between the shower and getting ready. Down at coffee shop by 7am (used to live at McDonalds until they changed their coffee, now not so picky about the venue). Co-writer and I talk for an hour about what’s happened in the story and where it’s going, then it’s a train into work. Luckily, it’s just the tail end of peak-hour so I get a seat. Write on the train, write again at lunch time, and I used to write again going home, except they’re rebuilding the station and there’s nowhere to sit while waiting for the train any more.

    I’m a slow writer. I average around 600-1000 words a day.

    Like you, I do everything in Word (really like Word), and with two writers we used to love (believe it or not) OneDrive, because we could both work on the manuscript at the same time. Except … I hate it when they take a program that works and ‘improve’ it, and suddenly nothing works any more. (Rant over.)

    I use OneNote for daily word count, and to keep track of people, places and things. Plus I store all my deleted text in there, just in case we decide to use it again. (We don’t.)

    We’re pantsers. That one hour discussion in the morning is pretty much all the planning we do.

    Once we’re done with what the final draft, we read the book aloud. Two people reading the same passage. Three if we can rope someone into sitting with us to do it. This is invaluable for cleaning prose and it’s amazing what you miss first time around, or even second. And if you have that third person who’s never read the story before, you get all their, “I don’t understand this” bits.

    Weekends I write a blog post and may do a small amount of words.

    I’m not healthy by any means (typical writer, here), but I keep a gym membership for those precious few days when I get to write at home. A full day of writing kills my back. The gym is a block away, and I go down there and do my mindless mouse on a treadmill for half an hour. (Sometimes twice a day.) It’s an expensive way to do it (the gym doesn’t have casual visits), but my back thanks me for it.

  35. I have a full-time job (Electrical Engineer), so I’m forced into having to wake early and put in long hours. However, at the end of the day I will put my kids to bed between 8PM and 9PM and then write for two hours. On a good night I can gut out 3k words in two hours; this is with no internal editing going on – just putting words to paper. However, most nights I average 2.5k words, which seems to be enough for my short stories. On the weekends I write just as much (if not more), and spend a good amount of time editing previous work.

  36. I have a day job, but by the time I get home, my brain is toast. So I get up early (around 5:30). I teach college, so my first classes aren’t till 9 am and I teach manly MWF. So on MWF I get up early, get ready for school, grab coffee at the local coffee kiosk here, and head to school. I try to bang out 500-1000 words before class and occasionally, I can sneak some writing in during my office hours, depending on how busy things are. Tues and Thurs I go in a little later and head for my carrell in the library, where I hole up for several hours and crank out 2000 words (ideally). Weekends, I grab my writing time in the AM as well. Afternoons and evenings are for work around the house and tending to my dogs, I sometimes can do some writing on my iPad in front of the TV, but it’s usually mainly crap, grin. I use Word (like Chuck, I cant get past Scrivener’s learning curve). I don’t usually track my word count–but I’m currently in an MFA program, so I have hard deadlines to meet. Once I graduate (fingers crossed) I will probably set daily goals for myself to keep on track.

  37. Chuck, thanks for another on-the-mark post. I, too, find having an established routine essential to maintaining creative focus – well, that and the fact that I’m probably undiagnosed ADHD. Like you, I find Word perfectly suitable for doing my manuscripts, although I use Celtx for screenplays because I always forget the proper margins. I have an absolute minimum 2,000 word per day quota, although I tend to do three times that. When I get a bit bored with my WIP (that ADHD again?), I stop and work on character sketches, on outlining the next book, or writing a book review (book reviews, by the way, count against my daily word quota). By mid-afternoon, I’m ready to grab my camera and haunt the yard or nearby forest for photos – I’m on a spider and butterfly kick right now, although I stalked a hummingbird for two months before catching one that found itself trapped in my daughter’s garage. Between 4 and 6 pm, I read – books, magazines, etc., and then from 6 – 8 I watch TV on my laptop or tablet, mostly BBC series, like Rosemary and Thyme or the new American series, Zoo. Just in case you think this is pure entertainment, as I’m watching these shows, I take notes on dialogue, action, plot, etc. That’s my basic routine seven days a week, and it only varies when I have to leave the house for a speaking engagement, to teach one of my classes (I lecture at Johns Hopkins University 4 – 6 times a month), or to attend a board meeting (I chair a nonprofit board, and a boarding school board advisory group) about once a month. On some days, I’ll stop writing at mid-morning and spend time with my three grandchildren, who are a constant source of ideas for books, and just a delight to be around. That’s my routine. Does it work? Hell, I don’t know, but it feels comfortable to me.

  38. Wake up anywhere between 4:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. (Rarely to the alarm clock, which is set for 6:30.)
    Lie in bed thinking about what I intend to write.
    Get out of bed.
    Bio break.
    To the kitchen for a glass of water in the dark.
    Into the office, where I open Word and write.

    After that: email, social media, all that stuff. Breakfast, tea, and then fire up the day job computer at 7:30. (Or head into the office on those days.) The goal is no distractions before writing.

    In the evening, I think about the next day’s writing so when I wake up…I’m [usually] ready to write.

  39. So far, I have my writing routine that looks good on paper, and then the actual one. They don’t look anything alike though I do wish the one on paper would win out some day. In my dreams, I get up at 5:30 and write until 7:00, when I stop to wake up the house, do All The Morning Things, and see hubby out the door. Then I go to the cafe to write some more (in Scrivener, I’m Scrivener all the way). Then home for lunch, where I do the Business Things until around 5:00 when I stop for making dinner, socializing with hubby, etc.

    In reality, I hit “snooze” until 7, grumble through morning things, get distracted by squirrels, see shiny things, ask myself “What am I doing???” and then sometimes sludge off to the cafe to write…sometimes get so distracted by Things that I don’t make it there. Business encroaches until it takes over the day, blended with chasing squirrels. Somewhere around 5:30 the hubby calls and I realize that another day is blown. I don’t know how it happens…

    I have a “shed” so to speak in that I have an office to write in. Perhaps I should shut the door so my mind thinks I can’t escape?

    Perhaps I should go out at 5:30 and write somewhere else.

    Hmmm.

    Perhaps I should stop pretending I’m going to get up at 5:30. 0.o

    Thanks for sharing this Chuck!!! 🙂

  40. I should preface this by noting that I am not writing anything at all at the moment. I have been at my current day job for ten years now, and I am long overdue for a change in scenery, so all my non-existent free time is spent crawling job postings boards and sending out resumes and doing fun stuff like worrying about my future salary and my future commute and suchlike. Gah.

    The process always starts in the same place, in a mid-sized office building in New York, where I have to go once or twice a year to a continuing legal education conference on some mind-numbing issue or other. I settle in, get my snacky-snacks, and proceed to ignore the proceedings and spend quality time with a pen and a legal pad, outlining the next project. The outline is usually bare-bones, using just a sentence or three to say what the first ten chapters or so are supposed to do. (I never refer to the outline again after that.)

    On weekdays, I schlep to work and spend my days in the minutiae of project management and legal services for (usually) poor, desperate, and (often) ungrateful people. I try NOT to check my Amazon sales rank or sales dashboard during the day, although that’s difficult (and impossible when one is running a promotion). I generally don’t do anything until I leave my office and get in my discount-priced sport-utility-vehicle and head home. I turn the radio off and do some thinking-out-loud about the current project, what I’m going to be writing about that evening. I do character interviews, which are a lot of fun.

    I pick the kids up at school or camp or whatever, drive home, make dinner, rush kids upstairs, tell stories, and negotiate my way out of the tuck-in process (this is incredibly complex because of shifting demands–right now they want me to sleep on the floor in their room which AIN’T HAPPENING, FORGET ABOUT IT). I get as undressed as I’m going to get undressed, and plop down on my leather sofa with my creaky old Dell laptop. I do a quick run-through on social media and pull up Microsoft Word. (Georgia, 12 point, single-spaced because that’s what works.) While I am doing this, my wife is taking off her makeup and brushing her teeth; she’ll come in the room later and play CASTLE or MAJOR CRIMES on the DVR while I am working. I am frequently interrupted by children who don’t want to go to sleep.

    This gets me about an hour a day of writing, which results in 800 to a thousand words a day, depending. It takes me about ten to twelve weeks to get the first draft done. I will generally start on a project in the late summer and try to finish it by the end of the year.

    I keep my head down and power through the cruddy first draft. I use SmartEdit on the next pass (http://www.smart-edit.com/) and then do another pass before I hand the MS off to my editor.

  41. I have a 6am alarm which wakes me every morning … no excuses. I’m on medication, so I have to get up and take it. Damn!

    So, I make myself get up by around 7:30am when my third alarm wakes me for my third dose of medications… if I don’t, most of my morning is wasted. There’s usually chores to get done between 7:30am and 9:30am. In the middle of all that I eat breakfast of either porridge with fruit and toast with my choice of toppings (either peanut paste, lime & ginger jam, vegemite or avocado) or pancakes… depends on my mood… might have eggs even. But I also get in and do some gardening, wash the car, mow the lawn and do my laundry… yes, it takes around 2 hours to get in and do all of that.

    I don’t have a day job – I’m on a disability pension because I have Epilepsy which has nearly killed me to control over the years. So, it’s been a struggle to get myself to actually hold a paying job. Instead, I do volunteer work at the local art gallery and have done for the last 16 years. I run a hobby business of my own and work the weekend markets once a month and I write books, poetry, short stories and flash fiction with you fine folks. I also attend a very cool writers’ group called The Crew once a month in my local area run by Debbie Behan and her husband – she’s a self-published writer and is doing well for herself.

    When I get an idea, I normally think about how I’m going to go about writing the idea first… that’s the hard part. The next thing isn’t the font – I know which font I’ll be using: Tahoma, size 14, double spaced in Word. It’s the only one that I can easily see without squinting at the screen. I don’t have bad eye sight, but I just don’t like using any other font, it’s big, nice, solid and not strange to look at.

    And once I get stuck on an idea – a fucking good one – I’m like a dog with a damned bone. I just won’t let it go. I’ll research the crap out of it until I know it inside out… and then I’ll write as well as I can about it. Then, I’ll hand it to my friends at The Crew and see what they think… and I usually get a very honest answer from them.

    Writing to me – any kind of writing – is like dreaming with my eyes open. The world around me falls away and I’ve got a direct connection with my imagination… I’m switched onto my own Matrix of my worlds for as long as it takes to get it finished… it’s an amazing feeling to have access to a world that I’ve created (as you all know) and I don’t think I could deal with the world without being a writer.

  42. Up at 7 am, coffee’s ready because yay timer on a coffee machine. I gotta get dressed immediately ’cause the dogs gotta go out. Then it’s inside where they get breakfast, and I sit down with peanut butter on a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel and a cup of coffee. I write until it’s time to go to work, then an 11-hour work day, then home to write until bedtime.

    On my days off, there’s a lot more faffing about and errands to run, but the morning still looks the same.

    If I’m under 2k for a day, it’s a bad day. I have them, sure, and I don’t beat myself up over them because I know a 5k day is in my future.

    I also cannot — CANNOT — write without flipping out of the story every now and then. I check Twitter (a lot), answer email and story comments, read blogs, check Twitter again… Every now and then I focus enough to write for an hour solid without alt-tabbing, but my brain starts to go numb if I try to write steadily and do nothing but story. I can only story for a little while. Some kind of mild ADHD, I guess, but since it works for me and I can keep up my high volume, I don’t see any reason to rein it in.

    As for software, aw yeah MS Word, baby. I need something that just gets out of my way and lets me write. I don’t need tabs and bells and bars and windows and frames and and and… I don’t DO all the stuff that everyone who loves Scrivner uses it for. I have never in my writing life — and I’m fortymumble — needed to move entire chapters around. I write too sequentially for that, and doing so would cause a rewrite of everything that comes after. I can see why Scrivener would be a godsend to people who write differently than I do, tho.

    I have a folder in MS Word for each project, and each major rewrite gets a rename of the whole document. Usually it’s the main character’s name and a number. So the initial run is Jane.doc, then the first time I stop and have to back up a few pages or whatever, I save the new version as Jane1.doc so the original version is preserved. I do sometimes use plot notes. I scribble those in Notepad and leave it in the same folder with the name Janenotes.doc

    Every time I stop for the day (or before work), I save and email the document to myself so I have a backup. I can also read the draft at work over and over, which helps keep the story percolating in my head, and helps make edits go faster when I get home.

  43. After hearing that…Headed towards a new routine for sure. In college we had “mandatory” study halls. A return to advance my degree years later found me making my own study hall hours that without them would have meant failure. With adherence, it was a great success. Time to impart a new set of self-imposed time to write. Thanks Chuck for the inspiration.

  44. I have a full-time day job, so my usual week day looks like this:

    6:30am: Get up with the wife and kids, get ready for work, get them ready for school.

    7:30am: leave the house, take them to school, head to work. Howler Two’s school is half a mile away, Howler One’s school is half a mile farther down the same road, so we all walk together, then my wife splits off with Howler Two, I take Howler One the rest of the way, then I head back to the street opposite Howler Two’s school to catch the bus. This means I walk 1.5 miles every morning, the last third of that on my own. I find this time, and the morning commute, useful for plotting in my head. About whatever I’m writing, not about how to take over the world or anything.

    9am-5pm: Work.

    I spend my evening commute reading, which is the only time I have for that. But I get forty-five minutes or so to read each day, so that’s not bad, and it helps recharge my own creativity.

    6:15pm: Get home from work. Relax, hang out, help with homework.

    7-ish: Dinner.

    8:30pm: Get the kids upstairs, washed up, and into bed. They’re allowed to sit up and do stuff quietly, like read or play on tablets, once they’re in bed.

    9-ish: Kiss the kids good night and head downstairs. My “office” is a corner of the family room, which is in the basement, so it’s two floors below them. I stop off in the kitchen to get something to drink on the way—iced tea, usually, or water.

    9:00-9:15pm: I’m at my computer, and can finally do some writing.

    I write in Word, for the same reasons you do—I’m used to it, it does everything I need, and it allows my editors to send me revisions via Track Changes. I also use Word at my day job, so I’m very comfortable with things like the aforemenioned Track Changes but also with formatting tags.

    I usually write for one to two hours. My goal is one chapter a night, which is roughly 2-3k. Some nights I can manage more, some a little less, but if I start a chapter I make sure I finish it that same night. If I’m writing a short story I aim for 2-3k and try to at least finish the current scene. I check email before I start, just to make sure there isn’t anything urgent, and then again when I’m done, but not in between. I do have a Chat window open with my wife, however, in case she needs me upstairs for anything.

    10:30-11pm: My wife comes downstairs. I save my file and we get something to drink (again, usually iced tea or water, though occasionally a glass of wine) and we watch some TV together. This is the only time we get together sans kids.

    12am: My wife heads back upstairs. I stay behind and fire up the computer again. Some nights I write a bit more. Other nights I do other things like email or layout. This is my wind-down time before bed.

    1-ish: I head upstairs for bed.

    1:30 or so: I actually get to bed.

    On weekends I tend to write either first thing in the morning before the kids are up or in the afternoon, and then again at night on the usual schedule.

    Most of my books map out to 30-40 chapters, which means I can finish a first draft in a month or six weeks, provided there aren’t any interruptions—sometimes events like school functions or services or going out with friends takes up the whole night, but when that happens I try to do an extra chapter another night or over the weekend to make up for it.

  45. I still work full-time, so by necessity, I do my writing in the evenings. I’ll get home, make a quick dinner (often accompanied by an audiobook), and then write for 2-3 hours. When I’m first-drafting, my minimum threshold is 1000 words, but I’ll often write 1500 to 2000.

    Question for Chuck and others: What is your revision process? I find that this is where I get the most bogged down. When I’m writing a first draft, it’s easy for me to breeze past awkwardly constructed sentences and weird inconsistencies. But when I get to the second draft, my pace CRAWLS because I’m trying to make every sentence as good as I possibly can. I’m having a hell of a time figuring out how to get my drafts to the point where I actually feel comfortable sending them out, WITHOUT taking weeks per chapter. Any suggestions?

    • This is most probably bad advice (because popular counsel is to write the first draft as it comes into your head even if it’s completely vile and chunky word-vomit) but I think that a small degree of editing as you go along [YES EVEN IN THE FIRST DRAFT] goes a long way to making the subsequent re-writes more pleasant. There, I said it. *hides*

    • I revise as I go. I usually re-read the prior session’s work before starting on the new stuff, so I’m back in story-mind by the time I reach the end. It’s both minor and major editing; correcting poor word choices, removing excess commas, maybe even deleting whole swaths for an immedite re-write. If the editing takes up all the time I have to write, so be it. That doesn’t happen often enough to worry me.

      Once it’s all done, I do a top to bottom sweep for flow and accidental phrase repetition. I can focus on plot (dropped plotlines, holes, etc.) because I’ve done the nitpicky editing as I went along. Rewrites take the same pattern as the first draft. Once I reach the end, it’s back to the top to do another read-through.

    • Revisions are a bear, particularly if you just crank out the thing without planning, and then have to try and get it into structural shape. Doing it that way, which is what I’m doing now, requires a few rewrites. The first draft, without an outline, and done in pure pantser style, is really noodling around to find the story. The next draft requires you to try and fit that to a structure. That means total rewrites, as in sitting down with a printed copy as a guide, and retyping it. Because all solutions breed new problems. When you figure out that the thing you had happen two thirds of the way through was really the first turning point, then you’re fucked. Make it so, but you have to rewrite.

      That is the big advantage to being able to outline, which I don’t seem to be able to do very well. If you can figure out all the plot points up front, all you have to do is fill in the blanks. Sounds formulaic, but it’s not, really. It keeps you on track without having to move things around, which causes more problems. It also turns completely rewriting it into editing. (Not the same thing)

  46. First thing: I draft on a typewriter. A manual one. And it doesn’t have a delete button – helps keep me going forward rather than letting the brain demons go BUT THAT MIGHT BE WRONG. NOPE SORRY BRAIN DEMONS CAN’T FIX IT NOW HAVE TO KEEP WRITING. It also makes clattery noise and goes ding, and that constant background noise helps me get into the word-river in my brain somehow. Second draft/when I can’t get to my typewriter happens in Google Docs since I have a Chromebook. I really only have time to write four days a week, since Thursdays and Fridays are usually fifteen-hour days at work, and Saturdays are recovery time/errands/time with the SO and then more work. Sundays are my only day off from everything.

    I like to write in the late afternoon/early evening, because I love the light then, and I’m usually done with work on Mondays/Tuesdays/Wednesdays by then. Have to have some kind of beverage beside me to start out with, although if I’m in the flow of the story, I’ll usually forget about it. Sometimes cider or wine, sometimes tea, sometimes coffee. I’ll usually write for an hour or ninety minutes (probably about 1000-1500 words), get to a comfortable stopping point, then put the work away. To get back into the story the next day, I’ll let myself read and edit whatever I wrote the previous day, but I won’t make notes on the actual draft itself – those notes go in a notebook, because I don’t want to sully Story World with corrections before it’s fully cooked.

    Also, does anyone have any tips on transferring typewritten pages into a computer to edit them? Would scanning work, or is there somehow an easier method?

    • I ran into that problem with my first book, sort of — you can scan them in and save them as .pdf. My editor had to print everything out, take it home with her, and then scanned and emailed me her changes. I have no idea how much it might have sucked, but it’s doable.

  47. This is excellent timing as I’ll be changing my routine in 2 weeks. Currently I write while my son naps. In 2 weeks, I return to work (which I also love) from maternity leave, so I’ll have to figure out how to be present in my family life, work life, and writing life. It will probably be a 5 am wake up call for writing. We’ll see. Interested in what everyone else has to say on this too.

  48. I work two jobs (running a nonprofit full-time during the day and tutoring middle-schoolers and high-schoolers in the evenings) so I’ve to carve out time to write at least 2 – 3 times a week.

    On a good day (usually a Sunday afternoon) I can crank out 3000 – 5000 words in a 3-hour sitting. I also keep a hard cover notebook within reach so I can scribble in ideas and snatches of conversations and scenes by longhand.

    My process is a curious blend of Pantser and Planner:

    I cannot stand not knowing where I’m going and I have an ensemble cast of characters so I’ve put together an Excel spreadsheet with each character getting a column and each line denoting pivotal points in the timeline. I fill in what each character is doing at that point in time. It helps keep me on track while….

    … I pants along by writing the story scene by scene. No way do I write from A to Z. I write scenes as inspiration grabs me and according to what my characters decide to do. And I frequently improvise along the way.

    Then it’s back to updating my Excel spreadsheet – various characters’ trajectories etc get adjusted.

    Then I go back to writing yet another scene.

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Along the way, I continue building my world and doing research.

    Also belonged to a writing group that died a slow death due to one member ghosting out, one member on hiatus due to chronic illness, and one member having eternal writer’s block. Was good while it lasted – gave me incentive to write something every week for critique. Am in the process of assembling a new writing group now so I can continue having that weekly prod towards productivity.

    • Also:

      1. I use Scrivener. Without Scrivener, my habit of writing scenes that aren’t in the right order would be the death of me. With Scrivener, I can use the corkboard function to drag scenes here and there.

      2. If I am really stuck, I go stand in the shower. No, really. I go take a shower and let my mind wander. My best ideas and solutions to work and writing problems always come to me in the shower.

      Consequently, I am a squeaky clean person in terms of personal hygiene as well. Win-win!

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