National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is upon us. As I write this, the first week is almost over. I’ve been working on my newest project, tentatively titled Violets in the Snowstorm, while teaching and being a spouse and cat mom. So, in this post, I’m going to do two things: talk briefly about my new novel and discuss the importance of a writing routine.
So, Violets in the Snowstorm is going to be the second Sam Hain novel, picking up a plot thread from Liam’s Doom: Sam visiting Carmilla at her castle for Christmas. The novel will blend the urban fantasy adventure genre with a queered version of the traditional Gothic romance. So, while both women secretly (or not-so-secretly) want to rekindle their relationship, Sam’s stubborn determination will butt against Carmilla’s desire to keep the family curse secret. I’m currently 10,000 words into the novel, which I’m finding surprisingly easier to write than Liam’s Doom.
While part of that is the experience of getting one novel under my belt, I’m sure that outlining the novel in detail and having a writing routine have also helped. I talked about outlining a few posts ago, so I’ll just link to that one here. But having a writing routine is something I’ve never really done – even when I wrote my dissertation.
A writing routine is simply the formalization of one’s daily writing goals, time, place, and methods. It’s about making a commitment to write instead of just “finding time” to write. So, let’s break down some tips for writing based on my routine.
- Set Goals for Each Session: To make writing easier, set some goals. I know that with work and family, I probably won’t be able spend 6-8 hours each day writing. I would love that, but it’s not possible. So, I set daily goals for my writing. Currently, my goals are 8oo words per day on week days and 2,000 words per day on the weekends. I set goals by word count, because it shows progress toward the goal of the novel’s first draft. I could set a page count, but some pages write quickly, especially with dialogue. Word count gives me measurable progress that moves me toward my goal in a fairly consistent way. If I exceed my goal and have time to keep writing, I keep writing. But I don’t stop writing for the day until that goal is met.
- Write in the Same Location When Possible: I write better in certain locations. I’ve found that my home office with my Victorian desk, vanity, and fainting couch is my sanctum, my happy place, and the place were writing feels like it flows more smoothly. Having a specific space helps give a ritualistic feel to writing. I know it’s time to write, because I am in the “writing spot.” I’ve found that this helps me focus, and as someone with ADHD, that’s important.
- Have a Set Time to Write: I’ve learned through NaNoWriMo that I’m a morning writer. My feline alarm clock wakes me by 4:30 am. I feed the cats, make a pot of coffee, and let my brain wake up. Then, around 7:00 am, I start writing. This pairs with having a location, because a set time and a set place, a “date for writing,” helps put your mind in the mood to write, which, I’ve found, helps focus.
- Use the Same Methods of Writing: Everyone swears by different methods. Most writers have a collection of mostly-empty journals for “ideas.” Niel Gaiman writes his first draft by hand. My handwriting is so bad that that wouldn’t work.. Some people use Scrivener, which I’ve tried, but it doesn’t flow intiuitively for me. I simply use MS Word that autosaves to my OneDrive for backup.
So that’s my first week of NaNoWriMo updating. I’m making progress, and I’ve found my writing routine. I’m still not sure how I became a morning writer, but I’ll blame the cat.
Anyway, write well!
What is your writing routine like?