My Writing Routine

After reading this post over on John August’s blog, about what his writing routine is, I thought I might write the same kind of post to detail my own writing habits. I write for a living, both blog articles and copywriting, as well as do some blog editing. On the side, I write novels, novellas, and screenplays. I’ve also written two non-fiction books.

When and Where Do You Write?

I start my writing day sometime between 7:30 and 9:00 every morning. I’m most productive when I get to my desk before 8:00, but that doesn’t always happen. The bulk of my work writing is done at my desk. It’s a giant wooden desk I salvaged from the magazine where I used to work, and was used by my late editor. I like to think that it has good vibes left over from him.

I start with email and checking social media. Then I usually get down to researching whatever it is I need to write for the day. I usually start out with some kind of outline, even if it’s just a handful of bullet points, and then I get down to actually writing. Many posts I can finish in a single day, though some take longer. Books are a different story entirely.

I break for a quick lunch sometime between 11:00 and noon. I’m usually back at my desk within about 20 minutes, and sometimes I even eat at my desk. Then it’s usually back to work until 2:00 or 3:00 at least. At that time, I usually take a break. Sometimes I have errands to run, while other times I just watch a little TV or take a walk. Depends on the day. I’ll work for another hour or two before dinner (we usually eat between 4:00 and 5:00), and then, depending on whether I finished my work for the day or not, I’ll either go back to my office for a couple more hours or I’ll bring my laptop into the living room, and either do more work or spend time doing other things online.

My fiction writing is mostly done either first thing in the morning, on breaks during the day, or just before bed.

What Hardware Do You Use?

I’ve got a 2+ year old 13″ MacBook Pro as my primary computer. I recently upgraded it to 8GB of RAM, which has made a huge difference. I also work with a 23″ external LG monitor most of the time, and use the MBP screen as a secondary monitor (often either streaming video while I work or with things like email open in it).

I have a rooted Nook Color that also has Kindle and Kobo apps on it. I don’t use it as much as I ought to, but I do use it some. And it got me to transition to reading ebooks way more than paper versions.

My phone has become a huge part of my day. I have a Motorola Droid X2, and have a very love-hate relationship with it. I hate the screen, except for the fact that it is PHENOMENAL in direct sunlight. It’s e-paper-like. I use it to read ebooks all the time now (with both Kindle and Nook apps).

Now, I don’t do all of my writing on the computer. I use notebooks a lot. Within arm’s reach of where I’m sitting, I have ten notebooks. I carry one in my purse. I have them on my nightstand. And I have a stack of unused ones on my bookshelf, waiting for their day to come. I’m partial to college-rule, spiral bound notebooks. I usually pick them up during back-to-school sales for $.15 each, and buy enough to last me for the year.

Pens are a huge thing for me, too. I have ball point pens I got at the dollar store that I love. I’m a huge fan of ultra-fine point pens, including the Pilot G-2 with the .38mm tip and the various Uniball ultra-fine tips. I also sometimes use Pentel R.S.V.P. pens. For editing I use PaperMate Flair pens or colored gel pens. I occasionally use fountain pens, too, though I find them to be too much of a hassle to keep up with for daily use. My favorite is a Lamy Safari in charcoal gray. I use Noodler’s Polar Black ink when I do, though, because it’s waterproof and freeze-proof (both of which standard fountain pen inks are lacking).

What Software Do You Use?

I’m a software junkie. I regularly have to go clean out my applications folder just to free up space on my hard drive. It’s crazy. Right now, I use TextWrangler for most of my day-to-day work writing, because I hand-code all of my articles for uploading them to WordPress (which I also use on a daily basis). For notes I use Evernote (which I also have on my phone). I use Google Docs a lot for my writing, as that way I can access it from my phone when I’m not at home.

For specific writing software, I have four go-to programs:

  1. Bean: a super-basic, simple word processor for the Mac.
  2. Scrivener: a fantastic planning and organizing tool for larger prose projects.
  3. Celtx: my go-to screenwriting and pre-production application.
  4. Write or Die: I’ve been using the online version for when I need distraction-free writing and a tight deadline.

I also use OpenOffice.org for some things (like dealing with edits or opening more complex Microsoft Word documents). I’ve also used Adobe Story for screenplays, though I’ve found Celtx’s interface more enjoyable to work with.

For creating ebooks, I use Calibre, Sigil, and Adobe Digital Editions. I use InDesign for laying out print books and PDFs. One of these days I’m going to experiment with using Scribus for print book layout, because it’s free. I’ve gotten as far as downloading it and opening it, but haven’t done much beyond that.

Other basic software I use on a daily basis includes Firefox, Chrome, Thunderbird, and Hootsuite.

What Would You Change About How You Write?

I wish I had more time for writing fiction. I love my day job (writing about web design and tech, as well as a bit of designing), and can’t imagine doing anything else, but it leaves me without a whole lot of time for working on novels and screenplays.

I also wish I was more of a morning person. I would love to be one of those people who could get up at 5AM and spend a couple of hours writing. But I have a natural tendency to stay up late (I usually go to bed sometime between 11 and 1), so getting up at 5 would mean very little sleep.

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