To continue with the theory of applying exercise to writing, this post will talk about how to structure a writing routine. These are ultimately guidelines. The book Strong Women Stay Slim says the best exercise to try is one that you enjoy, and know you can do a few times a week. The best writing routine is one that you enjoy, and one that you know you can commit to. Whether or not it is “right” by anyone’s standards.
For a long writing session I use a basic three part structure: warmup, process, future.
You can’t open your WIP and expect to jump back into it in a moment. (Well, some people can, but its hard.) A warm up is to get you in the writing frame of mind, so you can then focus on working on the WIP. It should be no more than fifteen minutes. It could be shortened, but I wouldn’t go less than five. Options include morning page (essentially a timed free write, the point of which is to never stop moving your pen), coloring, reading previous writing, doodling or watching a youtube fun video. Don’t do any work out of the warmup, just get yourself into the right frame of mind.
This is the bulk of work. Don’t try to stare at a screen and start writing, that is the surest way to shut your creativity down. If new to writing or a particular project use writing exercises for background information. Type up scenes that were written by hand. Basically, do the work you planned to do. Read notes from previous sessions, and get to work.
A sort of cool down, if you will. When wrapping up a writing session, jot a note of what you want to work on tomorrow. Read through what you just wrote, but not trying to revise it. Or read through what you plan to work tomorrow. Did you get an idea for a new scene you didn’t have the time or energy to write? Really feel like this scene needs more work? Have something that bugs you but not sure why? Write down a few brief notes. These shouldn’t be longer than one or two sentences. It will give you an idea of where to start next session. Sometimes, you will come back to your writing after the prompting of your previous notes and the exact solution will pop into your head.
Sometimes, I have an idea for a scene that gets stuck in my head and need to grab a notebook to get it down. Or I have a note to make for a quick idea. If fifteen minutes is all you got to work on writing, use it. If you know what you want to do, its amazing what you can get done in 15 minutes if you completely focus. I usually am able to at the very least write a new scene or dialogue down.
Tracking Your Time
This is a good thing to do, especially when doing your future notes. A simple number of minutes you worked. (I wouldn’t include the warm up.) It can be encouraging to go over your notes and realize how much time you really have spent writing, even if you didn’t feel you were making a dent. Someone who is organized can use a spreadsheet.
Sometimes, its more important to remember how you feel. Ironically, doing small writing sprints can often feel more productive. I suspect because it is something short, it feels more complete. Feel free to experiment, and find what works for you.