Pictorial Ideas for a Writing Routine

Pictorial Ideas for Constructing Your Own Writing Routine

I’m often asked about my writing routine. What techniques have I found most useful for making the most of my writing time, getting in the groove as fast as possible, and making sure I’m writing to my full potential every day? Although my writing routine evolves in minor ways depending on what’s going on in my life and what story I’m working on, I’ve discovered that organizing my daily writing routine into a series of specific steps, designed first to center my thoughts on my story, then to ground me in the requirements of the specific scene I’m working on, then to pump me into readiness for the actual writing, helps me get the most out of every minute I spend writing. Below is a pictorial tour of my writing session. Take a look. You might find some ideas worth implementing in your own writing routine!

Daily Writing Routine: 4-6 p.m.

4:00: Prayer

I ask God to guide my writing, to grant me inspiration and efficiency, and to make my words pleasing to Him.

4:01: Outline

I refer to my outline in yWriter to make sure I remember all the details of the scene I’m supposed to be writing today.

4:05: Current Writing Journal

I warm up my creativity with an entry in my writing journal. I discuss my feelings about my story and go over ideas for the upcoming scene.

4:15: Old Writing Journal

I read an entry from an old writing journal to remind myself of the challenges I faced and overcame in previous stories.

4:17: Writing Article

I read one of my filed articles about the craft of writing, both as a warm-up exercise and a reminder of important techniques.

4:20: Character Sketches

I review notes about the character whose POV I’ll be writing from today.

4:22: Research Notes

I review a pertinent segment from my research notes.

4:24: Proofreading

I proofread the scene I wrote the day before.

4:30: Music

I choose a soundtrack.

4:30: Chocolate

I fortify myself with chocolate sustenance.

4:30: Write

And we’re off!

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What’s your writing routine? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. wow, neat journals. Mine look like someone squashed a spider between the pages. I have a similar routine — in theory. Find it hard not to go investigate the screaming coming from the rest of the house. Or the sound of something breaking, followed by complete silence.

    Chapter One Analysis: The Hunger Games

  2. Blogger’s not behaving. I tried this once, it was “unable to complete your request.”

    This is for a revision. Creation is a different process entirely.

    I usually write about the same time every day, but I may graze (do writing at a different available time). I don’t stay at my desk for the entire time — I’ll wander back and forth and move around, which helps me think.

    I just start right in on the scenes I’m working on. I usually bounce between 2-3 scenes, but I’ve done as many as five. I may skip one scene entirely for a while, then suddenly come back to it and write the entire thing.

    If it’s a new scene, I visit my One Note notes for the sentence about the scene and bounce back to Scrivener to launch on it.

    If research is required — I wait until the revision to do the major research — it’s off to a book or a site to do the research. I draft an idea map with keywords covering the topic.

    After I finish a scene, though I also try to do this as I’m writing, I check through it to make sure I haven’t left anything out. This a big problem for me, so I’ve been trying to catch it as I go along. I will sometimes revisit earlier scenes to check for this and am often adding something I’ve missed.

    Then I check to see if I got at least one sound and one taste or smell into the scene. I also check to see if I’ve gotten one color in the scene as well.

    A quick review of my “non-list” to see if I missed anything I needed to get in, like I needed to mention the tuna factory in one of the scenes.

    Then complie the file and save it as a Word document so I have a backup.

  3. @mooderino: If you look at the closeups, my handwriting isn’t all that great either. I’ve always said I never needed to worry about anyone stealing my notes, because they’d have to decipher them first.

    @Linda: I like your “one color” checklist. No detail brings a scene to more immediate visual life than a deft and vibrant use of color. It’s one of those details that needs no explaining but can instantly paint a picture in the reader’s mind.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Thank you for sharing your routine, and I’m so glad to hear others understand the importance of chocolate fortification. :- ) Some of my best music has been written under the influence of chocolate!

  6. What’s life without a little cocoa bliss? Gotta include that in the writing life. 🙂

  7. I really like the idea of keeping a writing journal!

    My rituals depend on what stage I’m at. If I’m handwriting, I have to have a particular fountain pen. If I’m typing, I need music while I type. If I’m editing the paper copy, I either work in silence while I really have to focus or have noise in the background while I’m more relaxed.

    Lots and lots of tea accompanies every stage of my process 😉

  8. Best place to edit: outside on a summer day. Too bad I can’t schedule all my edits to make it work!

  9. I love the idea of taking a few minutes to review something about the craft before you start writing. Great way to get in some continuing education every day. Unfortunately for me, I have little routine. Maybe I need to institute something. It would probably increase my productivity quite a bit.

  10. I tend to work best in a highly scheduled atmosphere, but even a tenuous routine can be very helpful in creating a creative mindset.

  11. I rise at 0445 – 0500 without an alarm – I don’t need one if I can get into bed by 2230. Go down stairs to kitchen. Switch on laptop and kettle. Visit bathroom. Get dressed. Make cup of tea. Sit down to write at about 0500 for one hour in complete silence – wonderful. Then at 0600 alarm goes off, wifey and son get up and the volume in my world goes on for the rest of the day.

  12. Yeah, that going to the bathroom part is important. Can’t have nature calling in the middle of an important scene!

  13. I need to set up a routine for this summer. I think time-based will be best.

  14. I much prefer time-based routines vs. word count-based routines. Word counts can be counterproductive, since they place the focus on quantity rather than quality.

  15. I have yet to establish a firm writing routine, but I agree prayer should always be the starting place.

  16. Start with prayer, end with chocolate – how’s a writer to go wrong? 😀

  17. You’ve got some ‘splaining to do.

    I loved your little visual trip through your process (though I shake my head at the idea of that much work before getting down to work–we all have our unique approach to it). I can go along with the journaling thing, though. I even like the idea of taking a minute to peruse an old entry.

    When I finished your slideshow, the “Related Posts” heading at the bottom caught my eye, particularly one of your old articles : “4 Reasons Why I Quit Writing Exercises.”

    I was curious, so I took a look. It’s a post from November of ’09 . . . in which you offer four reasons why journaling is a waste of time. They were good reasons, too.

    Then I see a link at the bottom of both articles to one called “Journaling and Conquering Monsters.” I go to read that one–an entry from February of ’08 in which you talk about how great journaling is.

    Now I’m waiting for a post in which you discuss writing in your journal about how you can’t make up your mind. . . .

    (Note: I’m not angry about this, of course. I could never be angry with someone who has both Braveheart and Dances With Wolves in their Media Player. . . .)

    – Scott

  18. Saved by the soundtrack!

    I divide journaling into two approaches: the good and the bad. My way (which is the good way, of course 😉 focuses on journaling *about* my WIP. I use my journals to work through plot holes, etc. The bad way, IMO, focuses on writing exercises that have no immediate application to the WIP – e.g. writing exercises that have you free write about a prompt sentence for ten minutes as a “warm up.” My argument is that I’d much rather spend my writing – and journaling – time focusing on moving my stories forward, rather than fiddling with exercises that may or may not be helping me improve the craft and certainly aren’t adding to my WIP’s word count.

  19. Wow, Great post,

    Love the pictures, I am surprised that you get time to write at all after all that fun stuff before hand.

    Thanks for all your inspiration. That is why you are in my top 20 blogs i read. Don’t forget to join the linky yourself!

    Have a great day,


  20. At first glance, thirty minutes out of a two hour writing session does seem like a large chunk to devote to “warm ups.” But, in my experience, I’m much more likely to use the remaining hour and a half productively if I get my ducks in a row beforehand.

  21. Now that makes good sense. I’ve never been one for the prompt either, especially when you should indeed be focusing on the job at hand.

    As for the soundtrack thing . . . you’ve inspired a new thread for CW. Watch for it. . . .

  22. Oh good. One can never have too many soundtrack discussions

  23. I’m always fascinated by other writers’ routines.

    I’m not a morning person, so it helps me to contemplate the day’s plan over breakfast. I also start with prayer, then hit the highlights in my email inbox, peek at facebook and twitter and check my blogs posted correctly. After that, I read a chapter on writing, a top writing blog, or one of the emails I’ve filed under “Education.” By the time I finish reading, I’m usually ready to face the blank screen.

  24. Interesting. Our routines really aren’t so different. I tried the whole early morning writing session thing for a while, but it ended up being self-destructive. I lost too many precious writing minutes to the snooze button.

  25. GIRL! You are SO ORGANIZED!!! 😀 I’m beyond impressed/envious.

    Me? I do the prayer and then I’m off to the writing races–at whatever time everyone’s gone/occupied. LOL!


    so far it seems to be working, so here’s hoping for the best. <3

  26. I was absolutely aghast at your discipline because, upon first cursory reading, I thought you started this at 4 AM. Ha!

    After I re-read the first part, I settled down and stopped expecting myself to be super woman.

    I like your routine. It takes focus, and I am trying to train myself to focus. I think after a schedule, focus is KEY.

    Good post.

  27. Lots of good ideas.

  28. Gabrielle says

    I really like the idea of keeping a journal of a novel. At the moment the only journal I have is one with very basic character sketches and plot ideas. Keeping a journal might help me to work through things much better.

    I don’t have a writing routine at the moment. I work it around my study…or do it when I’m supposed to be studying. I think it would be beneficial to set aside even an hour or half hour each day to write – at least I’d ahve some continuity.

    Listening to soundtracks seems to be a common theme among writers!!

  29. @LTM: Whatever works, keep doing it! Not everyone works well on a consistent schedule. As long you’re writing on a regular basis and feel as if you’re writing to your optimum capacity, keep on keeping on!

    @Denise: Haha! Definitely *not* 4 a.m. At 4 a.m., I’m a zombie. When it comes down to a competition between sleep and writing, sleep always wins.

    @M.: Thanks for reading!

    @Gabrielle: I picked up the daily writing journal idea from mystery author Elizabeth George. It beats the pants off staring at the blinking cursor for anywhere from five to thirty minutes, trying to get my thoughts organized enough to start writing.

  30. I am so impressed by your routine! I don’t really have any structured routine at all but yours sounds like it makes you very productive. I thought that the Character Interview especially was a great way to inspire yourself. That and the music which I also use. Great post!!

  31. Music is the international food of the muse. Can’t go wrong with a good rousing soundtrack in the background while you write!

  32. Thanks for sharing your routine!

    I write mostly from 10pm to
    midnight…sometimes beyond.

    I must have music when creating, silence when revising or editing.

    I have used written journals at times.

  33. Generally, I do better when editing in silence, but sometimes music helps me stay awake! :p

  34. That’s great! I do look over any scene notes I’ve written down and then re-read the chapter from the beginning to get in the groove again too.

  35. Rereading the previous day’s writing is always one of my favorite parts of the writing session. Always fun to see what I came up with in the heat of creativity.

  36. Chocolate and music is a MUST have for me. (Oreo cookies and cream to be exact)

    I warm up by just writing about anything in an empty word doc. I use it as a way to ‘flush’ all the bad writing out, and get into my normal writing. I might even try a prompt.

    Then I get started writing, and every once in a while make sure that I’m fully aware of the goal of the chapter. For example the goal for ch.5 could be “Make character A meet character B.” As long as the chapter ends with the target goal I let my writing go in whatever direction it wants. 🙂

  37. I like your routine. Very similar to mine. I’m still looking for stable periods of writing time, but that’ll come. Outlining and micro outlining on the chapters I currently write help me stay on track. You have a great blog here. 🙂

  38. @Ezmirelda: Mmm, Oreos. I have to tell you, I’ve been craving Oreos for the last couple weeks! I probably need to make a pit stop in the cookie section of Walmart soon.

    @David: Thanks for stopping by! Outlining is my lifeline in writing. My work flows much easier and I’m always more confident in it when I’m able to follow a specific outline.

  39. Great routine. I use an old reporter flip pad with my overall outlines and idea sketches. I only look at it in between what I’m working on in the pieces. Daily routine for me begins with getting the latest from the writing circle on twitter/blogs. Then I shift gears and dive into writing for the rest of the day.

  40. I don’t count my social media interaction as part of my writing schedule, but, coincidentally enough, I *do* check into my favorite social and writing sites right before beginning my writing routine. Nothing like a little commiserative inspiration!

  41. Wow, pretty organized! And you just go so fast through the steps.

    I usually alternate between days where I plan scene in detail and let them play out in my head, and days where I just write a lot based on what I’ve come up with before.

  42. I don’t actually plan for alternating brainstorming days and writing days, but it inevitably turns out that way. Usually, when I’m starting a new scene the first day’s word count is pretty low, since I have to spend more time figuring out exactly where I want to go.

  43. Inspired by this post, I recently started keeping a writing journal. It’s really helping me to stay focused on my current project. Many thanks!

  44. I originally stole the idea of a daily writing journal from Elizabeth George. I can’t believe I ever wrote without it now!

  45. On the subject of keeping a journal for your current WIP: do you ever have issues with writing something in your journal related to your current story that you need to go back and find (critical plot ideas, character traits, etc.), or do you limit yourself to what you are allowed to include in the entries so you don’t have all this extra material scattered around everywhere with no means of easily locating it?

    In other words, do you reserve these crucial elements for including in your Scrivener files only?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I try to type up any note I think I may want to reference later on – so I *don’t* have to search through my notebooks all the time. I organize notes into different files depending on how crucial I think the information will be.

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