For years I tried to build a novel writing routine, but couldn’t make myself stick to it. Not even a little bit. That’s when I realized I was being too strict with the definition of routine, and I needed to embrace my inner space cadet.

A teal typewriter with pink paper sits on a desk in the foreground. Pieces of art hang on the wall in the background. The image has the text "The Novel Writing Routine for Schedule Haters and Space Cadets."

Most novel writing tips focus on consistency. This post will also focus on consistency.

But what this post won’t do, dear reader, is tell you what consistency is. Because like, my brain is its own very unique entity that recently got medicated for the first time in nearly 40 years and wow. Just wow.

I always sort of knew the consistency for me wasn’t what it was for other people. And we should all be looking for the definition of consistency that works for us.

But so much of the advice you’ll find online for writing in general and a novel writing routine in particular seems to have been written by fascists that believe you have to write every single day.

I believed that for a long time, and if you’re bored, you can do a search through the archives on this blog to see where I recommended that in the past.

But shit has changed and I’m not a fan of strict schedules. So let’s talk about it.

The Novel Writing Routine for Schedule Haters and Space Cadets

Knowing how to create a writing routine is one thing. Actually sticking to that routine–you know, the thing that makes it a routine–is quite another.

I love to create a plan, and unfortunately I love creating plans with no wiggle room. That’s not been great for my novel writing routine in the past. If you want to know how to stay motivated while writing a book, the answer is not by creating a strict schedule that you can’t ever meet.

The Novel Writing Process

Any post I’ve seen with novel writing tips for beginners or novel writing tips and tricks rarely takes into account how your brain works.

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It’s important to focus on craft and the actual process of putting your ass in a chair and your hands on the keyboard. But for me and my writing journey, the most important thing for me to learn is what my brain needs to write a novel.

So, before you commit to an uncompromising writing schedule or assume you need to be one of those hardasses with a daily writing routine, think about how your brain actually works. You can follow all the advice in the world, but if it doesn’t work for you, it’s bad advice.

And yeah, that even includes novel writing routine recommendations from bestsellers and revered and respected artists.

That’s why your novel writing process has to be your own. I’m happy to share what works for me, but know that you shouldn’t expect it to work for you without some tweaks to fit your brain.

My Novel Writing Process

My process starts with an idea. Then the idea becomes an outline. I only think in terms of story beats for the outline, and that allows me to write the most important parts of the story first.

Once I’ve got the outline, I draft as fast as I can. (Your girl loves fast drafting.) I cover the story beats and write notes about changes I want to make as I go. I don’t do any editing. Write first, edit later is my motto.

Once the initial draft is bashed out (if you want to know more, check out this post on how to write a discovery draft) I let it sit for a bit. Then, I go back and add where I want to or make changes.

From there, it’s off to a beta reader who makes notes and comments. Then I take those comments and make some edits.

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And finally, it’s off to the editor.

Should this be your process? Maybe. But my process is a bull in a china shop sort of method. I get in there, make a mess and bash out the story, then I get out and survey the damage.

I totally get why that might not feel right to you.

(To be clear, it doesn’t feel right to me either but it works so I trust the process even though the process is a nightmare.)

A Novel Writing Schedule?

Okay. You’re still here and you want to create the best novel writing routine there ever was.

Please know that you can’t, and you’re just going to have to do what works for you. It will never feel like the best or most productive routine. And what works in one season of life will not work in another.

Basically, honor your fiction writing process, even if that means changing what you used to do.

I know you want a clearly laid out novel writing schedule template, but that won’t work for anyone but the person who created it. Instead, think about how often you can write and carve out time in your schedule to make those writing sessions happen.

Forget about novel writing tips from authors because their circumstances aren’t yours and no matter what they did to write their bestsellers, it probably won’t work the same way for you.

Instead of focusing on the schedule first, think about all the writing circumstances you can control. Give yourself a few weeks or even a month of writing sessions where you try out different things, and then create your schedule to fit what you liked best.

To start, check out this post on the coffee shop writing routine to help you when you’re writing at your favorite cafe. And consider getting a writing sprint timer. I love having a timer to keep me on task, especially when I want to write a lot really fast.

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Give Yourself a Soft Space to Create

I saw an Instagram post the other day that said something to the effect of “if being hard on yourself worked, it would’ve worked by now.”

I know it’s corny as hell to quote Instagram or Pinterest wisdom, but shit, y’all. In the past, I spent so much time trying to be a hardass to myself only to find that it never really did anything for me. Well, except make it harder to write.

I have to give myself space to feel safe, as weird as it sounds. Yeah, I’m always in my home office in a really cozy spot. But my nervous system gets really overworked with the excitement of a new story idea, and I have to push away a lot of the desire to set firm deadlines. I can’t let myself work for more than three to five hours a day on any given project.

Because when I start a new project, it feels like writing a book with no experience every single time. I come to every project new and find that I’m teaching myself how to write every all over again.

It can feel like reinventing the wheel, but ultimately, I have to accept that my process looks that way. I can fight it and lose precious writing time to stubbornness. Or, I can go with it and let myself get lost in my next novel.

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