How to Guarantee that You Stick to Your Writing Schedule (Yes, Drill Sergeant!)

Listen here, punks! Forget what you’ve heard about writing. It ain’t all daisies and soft breezes fluttering through grandma’s lace curtains. You’re not a tortured soul, crying over those two sentences you wrote after a bottle and a half of gin. You want to put words on pages in a regular way? Of course you do. That’s why you’re reading this. The truth is, a writer is a soldier. Do you know what separates a soldier from a citizen? It’s my favorite three words: Dih. Sah. Plin. Discipline is the only way anybody ever accomplishes anything.


Matt-Meyer-featuredThis guest post is by Matt Meyer. Meyer is the pseudonymous author of The Boy, His Teacher, The Raven and The Peacock. He is a recovering fantasy football columnist and can be seen as half of the YouTube movie review team, Cinemaspresso. You can follow Matt as his alter ego ttamreyem on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.


Before you begin, get yourself an alarm clock with multiple settings. I use an app called “I Can’t Wake Up!” It’s evil. It makes me do math or match countries and capitals or it won’t shut off. I hate it. And I love it. Whatever clock you choose, get cozy with it. You’re going to live your life by it. She is your harsh mistress. She is your boss. Set your first alarm early. How early? How bad do you want to be a writer?

1. Reveille

Rise and shine, sweetheart. Get up, wash up, and clean up. Don’t dilly dally. War doesn’t wait. 15 minutes for the basics should suffice. 15 Minutes? You’re a writer now. Find a way.

2. Morning P.T.

It’s time for stretches. Fire up your laptop and write for 20 minutes. If you have a blog, write your daily post. If you don’t have a blog, get one. Even a slow writer can churn out 250 words in 20 minutes. That’s a decent post. I don’t care what you write about. Just write. It’s just a free form exercise to get your writing juices flowing. Whatever you write, don’t delete it. Let it pile up. Heck, you can print it out just to watch your progress. And the more you write, the more you will notice two things. First, you will get faster. Your 250 words can balloon up to something astronomical like 500. Second, you’ll get better. You’ll make rookie mistakes, but not forever. History lesson: the word expert comes from the Latin expertus which simply means, someone with experience. The more you write, the closer you will come to being an expert.

[Here Are 9 Practical Tricks for Writing Your First Novel]

3. Mess Hall

Grab some grub and a cup of joe. Real recruits in basic training are give 7 minutes to eat. I’ll give you 20. Did I tell you to look at Facebook while you eat? That’s right. NO SOCIAL MEDIA. Little Johnny’s first day of kindergarten pics can wait. Simplify. Just eat. I know, it sounds impossible. Discipline yourself, or so help me.

4. Live Fire

You’re warmed up and fueled up. Now it’s time to put up. Write hard. Write fast. You’re on the clock. Give yourself 45 minutes. But that’s not enough time. Tough luck. You can write 600 words easy, 750 with a little practice. That’s 3 pages of your novel. That’s half of a magazine feature. You’ll be amazed at what you can get done when you don’t have enough time to do it. When the alarm sounds, stop. Even if it’s in the middle of a word. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!] I know, I’m one mean …


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5. At Ease

Take 5. Get on your feet. Stretch. Walk. Run. Do some jumping jacks. Get your blood flowing. Get up off your rump and do something athletic. Even my great-grandma does the two step. Don’t think because you’re young and good looking that inactivity won’t catch up with you eventually.

If you only have a couple of hours a day to write, move on. If you have more time, repeat steps 4 and 5. Don’t run a marathon. Do a set of sprints. You’ll force yourself to get more done.

6. Marksmanship

Spend 15-30 minutes sending out queries or LOIs. But what if I don’t have anything to sell? Simple. Make up a title. Write 3 sentences about it. Send it to someone. If they say they want to see more, write more. Look, kid, until you ask, the answer is always no. The more you ask, the more likely you are to get a yes. It’s a numbers game. Sales always is. And every working writer is a salesman. Ask at least one person every day to take a look at your work. That’s how you become a working writer.

[Want to Be a Writer? It’s Time to Act Like a Writer (must read for all writers)]

7. Final Formation

The smoke has cleared. You wrote a blog, at least 3 pages of your precious novel, and a query letter. You’re starting to look like a real writer. Now you can tweet and pin to your heart’s content. Then go to bed, get up, and do it all over again. Every day.

That’s the real key. If you’re not consistently turning out writing, you’re not a writer. You’re someone who used to be a writer. Does that sound cruel? I’m not here to hold your hand and sing Kumbayah. I’m here to turn you into the finest writer that you can be.

Good night, ladies. See you bright and early.

Thanks for visiting The Writer’s Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.

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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
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10 thoughts on “How to Guarantee that You Stick to Your Writing Schedule (Yes, Drill Sergeant!)

  1. Prisqua

    I read this article yesterday and thought to myself “I wonder if I can follow those steps”. I have pushed myself and implemented the “write daily” prompt. Though sometimes I just stare at the screen and drift off to twitter or my G+ chat windows… But this morning I wanted to give this a try. I started the first 20 minutes by writing: “I don’t know what to write but I have to do this because…” and then it just came up! I ended up writing a blog post, or the beginning of one anyway, 521 words after I removed the first paragraph of non sense. Then I took a break, did the dishes, put the washing out… Got coffee… Whithin 45 minutes, I managed to write 1232 words for my novel!
    Of course I have to make sure I do it every day but I think timing myself is the way to go to. And it makes sense because I thrive under pressure.
    Thank you, brilliant article.

  2. karinfuller@gmail.com

    Great advice — and got a kick out of how you phrased it. My accidental writing schedule advice: Get a cat. Feed the cat at 4 am every day for a week and then spend the next hour or two writing. Every day for the rest of that cat’s life, it will wake you at 4 am and harass you until you get out of bed.

    1. Prisqua

      It is so true. Mine wakes me up at 4.30am. I used to make him wait 5am and set up an alarm just for the cat to make him understand I would not get up before then but needed an extra 30minutes in the morning and I think he likes that time better. But yes, get a cat 😉

  3. Alyssa Mayley

    I loved this article. Very kick you in the teeth with the truth of it. To be a writer, you have to write, all the time, every day. Already shared with my writing group and I look forward to giving this intense ‘writer workout’ a try!

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