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My (current) writing routine

Sat, 18th March 2017

A work colleague recently asked me about the two books I am writing, and was interested to know what my routine was. He was particularly interested to know how and where I found the time. As is the case with things like writing books, making games, etc., I always found that I have to just make the time. That is to say that instead of watching TV or playing around on the internet (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) I would devote the time to sitting down and writing the story. It's really the only way to get it done, in my humble opinion.

So, I thought I would detail how I'm currently going about writing THE CURSED MAN, and THE DRAGON MISTRESS. To begin with, it's important to remember that I'm not a full time writer, and must therefore balance writing the books around my day job. As such, my day normally goes like this: I get up at around 7am (woken perhaps half an hour earlier by the cat, if I'm lucky). I then prepare myself a cup of tea, and write solidly for then next thirty or forty minutes, finishing up around 8am. In that time, I try to get about 700 words down. On a good day, I can get 1,100. With that done, I head off to work, and pick things back up in the evening.

Around 9:30pm or so, I return to the laptop and carry on from where I left off. I'll write until around 10pm, though maybe a little longer if I've still got a lot of momentum going. Once I'm done, I'll leave it there for the day, and pick things up again the next morning. I actually try and not finish at the end of a chapter; finishing off in the middle of a scene makes it far easier to pick up again when coming back to the novel. On some occasions I've stopped in the middle of a sentence. This forces me to re-read what I was writing, and remember what was going on.

Now, it might look funny that I'm very specific about the times I'm doing this, and how regimented I am. I actually found this helps, as it creates a routine that I'm used to and can work with. I know that between X and X I'm going to be writing for thirty or forty minutes, and so I can schedule things better. That isn't to say that I do this every single day; I allow myself time off if there is something going on at work, such as a night out, etc. I then won't be writing in the evening, as working on a manuscript after three or four beers isn't the best idea in the world. Additionally, on weekends, I tend to write from 10am until 11am, and then again at 3:30pm until 4pm.

This continues until the first draft is done. I then take a short break of about two weeks or so, and then work on the other novels (I switch between the two at the moment, to allow time for fresh perspective on each). I often find writing the rough draft is the hardest part, as there are a lot of blank pages that need to be filled in. Rewriting involves me taking what is already there, copying it into a new document a paragraph at a time, and making tweaks and updates depending on notes I may have made. Typically, I make at least three passes at a manuscript before I start to consider it done. THE CURSED MAN is waiting for its third pass, and THE DRAGON MISTRESS is currently going through its second. I know that THE CURSED MAN will be close to done once I've completed the third pass, with spelling and grammar just needing to be attended to after that. THE DRAGON MISTRESS will require at least two more passes after the second is done, as it's a somewhat more event-packed novel. Already, the rewrite is over 8,000 words ahead of the rough draft at the point in the story. This could work out at 20,000 extra words at the end of the day, which will need more going over. There are also plenty of missing scenes in the book!

I don't worry about things like writer's block. If I get stuck while writing for how a scene should progress, I make a note in the manuscript that something needs to be done (adding something along the lines of, TODO: xxx needs adding), and moving on to the next part of the book. I therefore also keep a separate text file containing a load of notes for additional content and tweaks that need doing. An example of this is when Duncan has dinner with a load of people while making the journey to the Southern Isles. In the rough draft, only two of the other guests have names. I made a note to give them names during the first rewrite. I also needed to bleed some details of a later event into the story a little earlier one, so it didn't seem to come too much out of the left field. And so it goes.

This routine probably isn't too unusual to writers, but I thought some might find it interesting to read, anyway.

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