Camp NaNoWriMo: Routine is your friend

We’re on Day 8 of Camp NaNoWriMo. At this point, you’ve probably exhausted the initial “Weeee, this idea is great!” feeling, and you’re starting to get into the weeds of your character development and plot. This is a treacherous time for a story, because if you’re not careful, this is when you fall into bad habits. The worst of these habits is, obviously, not writing. When a story is new and exciting, you want to write as much as you can and as often as you can. But once that initial glow is gone, we start to make excuses about why we can’t write anymore, and the most common excuse is, of course: “I don’t have time to write.”

That is a lie. You know it. I know it.

You think you don’t have time to write. Or you’re not making time to write. But believe me – the time is there. The question is, how do you find it? The key to setting yourself up for success during a writing challenge month is to establish a routine from the beginning. Here are four tips to help you establish your writing routine:

Work at the same time every day:  This is going to largely depend on your personal preference. Do you like to write first thing in the morning? Are you a night owl? Do you go into work in the afternoon, so your morning is free? No matter what you’re doing for work, you have some time somewhere. I’m not good in the mornings, and I’m definitely not good at waking up early, so I know that’s out. I get a lunch break, sometimes, but not always, so that’s out. That leaves me with the evenings. I generally block off 9 pm – 11 pm as writing time. I hit my stride around 10 pm. And as long as I’m home, I write during that time period, no matter what. I plan my whole evening to make sure that I have that time free later in the evening – I’ll do my errands, go to the gym, etc all before 9, so I know I have those two hours free. Sure, sometimes life happens, and I don’t end up actually writing until 9:30 or so, but I always make sure I sit down and do it.

Figure out how much time you need, and then work backward: How much time do you need? Well, again, that depends on you. Look at your writing patterns from the last week. How long does it take you to hit 1,613 (the magic “words per day” number you want to hit if you’re aiming for 50,000)? If I’m incredibly focused, I could hit that in an hour. If I’m zoning in and out, it’s going to be closer to two hours. Maybe you can write that in 30 minutes. Maybe you need three hours. If you find that you need so much time that you can’t block off a chunk of time, split it up! Write for 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes on your lunch break, 30 minutes on your train ride home, and so on.

Tell your family and friends what you’re doing: Two hours of writing time is a lot. That’s time that you’re not spending with your friends or family, and some of them might be a little confused about why you don’t want to watch television/go out/etc. Tell people what you’re doing, especially the people living with you, and ask for their support. This is especially important if you don’t have a dedicated writing space, like me. I have a rule with my husband that when my headphones go on, even if I’m in the living room, that’s the Writing Signal, and distractions need to cease. Let your people know what your goals are and how important they are to you.

Make it a pleasant experience: If you’re doing a writing challenge, chances are that you love writing. In other words, writing should be fun. What can you add into your daily routine to make it better? If you’re working in the morning, buy some really good coffee and tell yourself that’s your writing coffee. If you’re writing at night, have a glass of wine or a cup of tea. Find music that you love and make a writing playlist (I’ll talk about this in more detail in a later post). This shouldn’t be torturous – this should be a time for you to follow your passion.

Writers, what other advice would you give on forming a routine? Is routine important to your writing, or do you just write whenever you feel like it? I’d love to hear about your patterns!

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5 thoughts on “Camp NaNoWriMo: Routine is your friend

  1. I am a sort-of routine person lol I always write in the morning (since nighttime is family time), but the actual time I sit down to write is pretty flexible. I try to write for at least an hour a day and will often do my pre-planning for my next session in the 15-20 minutes before I go in to work.

    As for advice, I’d definitely recommend rewards for reaching your small term goals. That’s how I’m keeping on track so far. Well, that and accountability. I have a great cabin and my blog to keep me accountable with my word count, so it’s not ‘just’ missing a day or not feeling like writing. 🙂

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  2. I’m a write whenever I can person. Developing a routine is hard in my years now. I used to be a morning person, but that’s not the case. I suppose I could wake up early enough to write, but I enjoy my sleep too much. I will write on my lunch breaks, that is if I remember to bring my notebooks. I was leaving my notebooks at work, but almost lost them. So I make it a habit to take them with me wherever I go. Whenever I write, I stream music on Pandora, usually listening to classical music.

    I think if I developed routines during the day, a writing routine would be feasible. For example, I could go to bed at a set time every day and turn off all electronics before I go to bed. I just need to follow my own advice.

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  3. Great to hear some advice! Although I’ve found that, recently, I write a lot better in silence as music – whether it’s movie score soundtracks or my favourite pop artists – can addle my brain and just get me way too distracted.

    I find that doing the NaNoWriMo Word Sprints are a tremendous help – because you know that somewhere out there and anywhere in the world, someone is writing and trying to reach their word goal at exactly the same time as you. I think it’s incredibly motivating and establishes a sense of community, even if you come from different backgrounds. It’s nice to know that, no matter where you are in the world, someone is going through the same process as you are!

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    • I agree – I think the sprints are great! I am not very good at timing my writing to the sprints, though. Usually when I check Twitter, they’re already in the middle of one, and I’ll lose track of time before the next one starts. But it’s a great resource to force yourself to push out a lot of words in a short period of time.

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