Why you Should Establish a Writing Schedule

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This guest post originally appeared on Violette L. Meir’s blog. Also, shout out to Brande McCleese who just successfully revamped her writing schedule. Ya’ll stop by her blog and show her some love! Happy Monday, you guys!


Cat Meme

Back in the day (way back. Before Facebook), I had a creative writing professor who asked the class: “How many of you have a writing schedule?” Very few of us raised our hands. A writing schedule? I mean, I watched The Young and the Restless and The Golden Girls regularly and spent a lot of time thinking about going to the gym. I knew I eventually wanted to write a novel, but actually writing? Who had time for that? But as time went on, I kept thinking about what he said and it dawned on me: how was I going to write the next New York Times best seller if I didn’t sit my behind down and write? So, I put my big girl panties on and made the decision: I was going to establish a writing schedule. But when? I had classes during the day and after 5 pm my brain turned to mush. That only left the mornings. And if I was going to make any real progress, I needed two whole hours. It was settled: my writing time would be from 5am until 7 am, when my house was completely quiet.

I was so proud of myself! I waited for my professor after our next class and told him about my new writing schedule. “I get up at 5 in the morning!” I gushed.

He looked at me and said, “Well, even if you’re writing crap at 5 am, at least you’re still writing.”


His words went right over my head. All I knew at the time was that I was now a serious writer. A bonafied, eat it, live it, and breathe it writer. Not one of those people who walked around complaining of how they wanted to write a novel but couldn’t find the time. No, sir! I was dead serious about my craft. I would write the next Great American Novel and give litra-ture a whole new meaning. I told all of my friends and family and pretty much did everything to let the world know aside from hanging a shingle outside of my door that read, “Serious writer resides here. Inquire within.”

Fast-forward 10 years or so and here I am, still writing at 5 am. I’ve made it a priority. Even if it means going to bed early. Or waking up even when I’m tired (to combat this I usually preset my coffee pot so that if I have a hard time waking up, the smell of French Roast will lure me to the kitchen, and finally to the computer). But most of the time, I get up ready to confront whatever idea or manuscript I’m tackling at the time.

So what’s happened since I’ve established a writing schedule? Well, I’ve spent many a morning writing short stories that will never see the light of day, outlining novels that I’ll probably never write, wading through terrible ideas and even more terrible manuscripts, squinting at my computer screen (wondering how I could come up with an idea so hackneyed), frowning at my coffee cup (wishing I had just a tad more hazelnut creamer), and giving a good ole fashioned western style stare down to my computer screen before rolling up my sleeves to confront my WIP.

I’ve abandoned more novels than I’ve finished, thrown several novels out of the house, and divorced many well-meaning protagonists. But on the flip side of that, three not so bad novels, several well thought-out outlines, and many brainstorming sessions have come at 5 am. Had I not established a routine, I would probably still be twiddling my thumbs and saying, “You know, I want to write a novel. I just don’t have the time!”

So if you’re having trouble establishing a writing schedule (and finding that, every time you sit down to write, there are a host of distractions that come your way), consider this: what are your goals and how long will it take you to reach them? For instance, if you plan to write a full-length novel (80,000 words are so), decide on a deadline and stick to it. You want to give yourself 6 months? Then you’ll need to write just under 450 words a day. Doesn’t sound so bad when you break it down like that, huh? You could probably do that on your lunch break! And if you can’t devote 2 hours, try to commit to 30 minutes. You’ll be amazed at how fast your word count will add up!

Also, considering your work schedule and family obligations, when is the best time for you to write? Early mornings? Afternoon? Late at night? On your lunch break, perhaps? Pick a time and stick with it until it becomes second nature.

Can’t write every day? Commit to 3 days a week. And if you can’t do 3 days a week, be a weekend warrior. But if you’d like to write a novel, try to commit to something, even if it’s only one day a week.

What about others? Do you have a writing schedule? If not, how do you prioritize your writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

25 thoughts on “Why you Should Establish a Writing Schedule

  1. That feeling of accomplishment is amazing. I spent at least five months trying to figure out how I could develop a schedule that would work with my insomnia, teaching schedule and reading habit. I read about the importance of a writing schedule during my MFA and I developed one to complete my thesis. But post-degree, the schedule escaped me. Thanks to Quanie, I know have a routine that works.

  2. Hear, hear. A writing schedule is the only way I get anything done. For the book I recently finished, my goal was to have my ass in the chair and start writing every night at 7PM. I usually started sometime between seven and eight, but I was there every night, getting it done. I’ve done the same thing for the past few books I’ve written (not sure how far back it goes), and I know it works.

    Granted, it doesn’t promise good results, but it does ensure the book gets done, which is the only way anything else is going to happen.
    Mason T. Matchak recently posted..Troping STARWINDMy Profile

  3. I’ve often thought about a writing schedule. I’ve even attempted it now and then. I really should get serious about this, but there are so many things I need to get serious about. Kind of sad, but then again I’m essentially happy so I guess it’s not wrecking my life. But I’m not doing any writing outside of blogging either.

    Arlee Bird
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  4. I use to have a writing routine to write during lunch break but sometimes that’s not always the case. But then I also try to put some writing time after I put the kiddies to bed. And I recently found out that I do rather well in cranking out 250+ words in the morning before getting myself and my kids ready for work, school and daycare. And I’m not a morning person. Just take a look at the 5 alarms I’ve set up on my phone. All in all, my routine is very irregular but where there’s a will there’s a way. And when there’s time, there will be writing done.
    Lidy recently posted..Happy 3 Year Blogiversary!My Profile

    • LOL! My husband must have like ten alarms that he never hears in the morning. They always end up waking ME up! I find that once I get into a groove in the morning, it’s nearly impossible to tear me away from the computer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been late because I just wanted to finish a particular scene.
      Quanie recently posted..Why you Should Establish a Writing ScheduleMy Profile

  5. I had a morning routine previously (at either 4:30 or 5am) and I don’t know why I’ve been falling off the wagon on that these days. Fortunately, I still manage to get most of my work tasks done by 10pm (lol). I must get back to my routine.

    • Oh, wow. I wish I could say that! But you know what? I think that I will eventually get to a point where I’m able to manage my time better. I think being tired most of the time has a lot to do with my inability to be as productive as I’d like to be lately. But I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to change that soon.
      Quanie recently posted..Why you Should Establish a Writing ScheduleMy Profile

  6. ha! So, I write best at night. I also just went through a spell where I was lost with my writing, so now I’m back at it and I make sure I write at least 1,000 words per day. Every day. No excuses. Some days it goes fast, others it’s slow torture. But in five days I have 5,000 which is amazing. Granted, it tends to lead to a LOT of editing, but whatever! lol

  7. My writing schedule had change so many times. As the family grows and obligations alter, I find myself torn between exercise and writing. Yeah. I tried to do both for a while–an elliptical and an ipad. It worked, mostly. I’d like to get back to that. I didn’t have to feel guilty about writing as long as I was working out. =)
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    • Ah! Me, too! I LOVE exercising in the mornings (mostly aerobics DVDs or Youtube videos) and I find that if I know I’m going to workout in the morning, my focus is more on getting myself amped up and as a result of that, I can’t focus on my writing. When I had a lot more time in the morning, I could write for two hours and work out for an hour. The good ol’ days!
      Quanie recently posted..Why you Should Establish a Writing ScheduleMy Profile

  8. I’m definitely a morning person, and I love French roast and hazelnut! I typically have no trouble jumping back into a WIP (long as I stay off the internet first), but I get a little cranky long about about 7:am when someone wants breakfast or can’t find their something or other – “Are you kidding me?!” Seems like once I’m on a roll, I just don’t want to stop;-) So I resign to afternoons when I’m sure everyone else is gone or occupied, unless I’m out in the field chasing customer payments. That can be a real mood-killer. I’ve written some of the best chapters right before I fall asleep at night; hoping to write it down in the morning 😉 Happy writing!
    diedre recently posted..Summer Passages; Diverse PerceptionsMy Profile

  9. It is important to schedule time for your writing, or to at least have a specific goal. For a long time I’ve been a feast-or-famine writer. I’d write a lot everyday, then I would go long periods of time without writing. This resulted in two years of next to no production.

    Now that I am in a contract for several books and also have indie publishing goals, I’ve realized the need to be more consistent. I’ve set a daily/weekly writing goal and I’m aware that morning hours–before I do client and other work–are best for me. However, I haven’t quite graduated to creating a specific schedule. That might be next.

  10. I basically bribe myself. “You can’t get up from this chair (or check Facebook or whatever) until you write TWO pages. That tends to keep those fingers moving. But I have to first set aside time every day. First thing in the morning is good, as long as your brain can warm up enough by then!
    Stephanie Faris recently posted..The Mystery of the Taos HumMy Profile

  11. 5 am? Oh no. I am not a morning person. haha I actually was telling someone just yesterday that I need a writing schedule, because now that I edit I’m having a hard time balancing the two. It seems I only edit for others and have no time to write for myself.
    Chrys Fey recently posted..Writing About: A HostageMy Profile

    • Oh, no! Chrys, that is seriously the worst. It’s one of the reasons why I haven’t marketed my editing services heavily; because I know that with my family and editing for others, my writing time would be almost nonexistent. I do it on a very limited basis, though (mostly nonfiction).
      Quanie recently posted..Why you Should Establish a Writing ScheduleMy Profile

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