Building a consistent writing habit for beginners. Start your writing today.

building a consistent writing habit
Building a consistent writing habit is difficult but is definitely worth it.

When you want to write a novel you know that it will take time to write it. You understand that creating a habit of writing regularly is important. But actually sitting down to write every day is not always easy. I go through what makes building a consistent writing habit difficult and how to build a regular writing routine.

We live in a fast-paced world where virtually anything we desire is a click away. Instant gratification is commonplace so it’s natural to expect big results from very little effort. With a simple click, you can get goods and services delivered to your doorstep – sometimes in a matter of hours. But the creative process is different. Speed is not the only way of measuring value or success. Any writer that can publish a book a month has been writing for a few years. They have spent time writing slowly before they can write fast. And not every writer produces books that fast. Traditional publishing is definitely not able to keep up with that level of output.

Many beginner writers have sat down to write and successfully gotten words onto the page. When I was starting I would spend a few hours at a time sitting down to write. This got me through Nanowrimo but once November ended and Nanowrimo finished I didn’t write again for months. Writing for long stretches is not sustainable for me and is not always compatible with a young family either. Writing in long spurts can be draining and you need recovery time. This is why a consistent writing routine is better in the long term.

Why is it so hard to build and maintain a consistent writing habit?

When we don’t see big results quickly, we are at risk of quitting too soon. When we are starting anything new we have to give ourselves time to learn the process. Anything we think is a mistake can make us feel bad because we do not have enough experience to understand whether it is a big mistake or a little mistake. We do not know if the mistake is one of those mistakes that happen all the time and are easy to recover from or a mistake that needs a lot of time, energy and possibly money to correct.

There is also the risk of judging your writing session only by how many words you write. You could become very self-critical if you are not reaching a high number of words at every session. But a high word count is only necessary at certain stages of the process of writing a book. When you are editing you might take away more words than you add. During editing your overall word count could be lower than when you first sat down. But this does not mean that you failed. 

When you are researching you are looking for information to spark ideas. More of the activity is happening in your brain than on the page. An hour of research for my current novel gave me 20 words. And I was happy with that. It was a very focused hour and I had a result at the end. But If I only used word count to judge the success of my writing session then I would have been very disappointed.

My coach, Patrice Washington, always says that everything is either a lesson or a blessing. If it does not benefit us then we can learn from it. When you are starting to write there is so much to learn and get used to. I found adopting this attitude reduces how self-critical I am when I think I have made a mistake and allows me to look at it from a different angle. Can I find a solution to this mistake so that I won’t make it again the next time I sit down to write? Or for the next novel that I write?

Look for the lesson and the blessing in every situation.

Patrice Washington

Your writing routine will help you finish your novel

It can feel overwhelming when you sit down to write first because writing a book or a novel can be daunting. When I sit down at my desk to write I am surrounded by my favourite books. While there is inspiration to be had, it is also hard for me to see how my rough idea could ever have the relatable characters or catchy dialogue those books contain.

But this is where the small steps come in. You are not writing a finished book in one go. You are breaking it down into many steps. 

My steps are:

  • brainstorming the initial rough idea
  • planning out the order of the scenes or chapters
  • writing each scene or chapter
  • researching any gaps
  • writing the next draft chapter by chapter to make it closer to finished
  • edit and redraft as necessary

Even within each of these steps, there is more breakdown. For example, brainstorming includes characters and worldbuilding.

I developed these steps when I was writing short stories. The thought of writing a novel was too much for me to start with but I still really wanted to write. So I started with shorter fiction. I also found it easier to build a consistent writing habit when the end goal of a short story felt smaller.

Breaking a large task into small steps has always worked for me with everything, not just writing. I love the sense of achievement that happens during the process as I achieve each of the steps.

Also, focusing on the small steps makes it possible to course-correct if you find yourself going off track anywhere. (Notice I did not use the word mistake?)

What to do when your writing habit gets boring

There are many parts to the writing process and chances are high that you will not like all of them. Creating ideas, developing characters, action scenes, dialogue, endings, editing and researching are just some of the areas that I have heard writers complain about. 

And that is ok. You do not have to write so if you find that you hate a lot of it then maybe it is time to find yourself something else.

But if you are reading this then you probably like enough about writing that the hard parts (which are often also the parts we don’t like) are not enough to scare you away from writing forever. 

I use reframing to get through these parts. It also works for the bad writing days as well. For example:

I might not like this particular part of writing my novel but I want to finish my novel badly enough to get this part over with. 


I might not like this part so I need to do it in the most efficient way possible to get through it as quickly as possible. 

How to write regularly

It takes 21 days to create a habit – even a small one. A habit is something you do without needing to talk yourself into it. A habit is a pattern of behaviour that has become normalized to the point it takes very little effort to complete. We can do it without using much space in our brains. Or, even while thinking about something else. 

When you get up in the morning what do you do without thinking and what needs a bit more effort? Brushing our teeth is often automatic but what clothes we are wearing might not be. 

When it comes to writing you want sitting down in your writing space to become automatic. When you are building a consistent writing habit writing needs to be a regular part of your day. You want to create the expectation within your body as well as your mind, that at this time on this day you will write. That at this stage of your commute you open up the notes app on your phone and start typing or you always listen to a writing podcast driving home from work.

I have developed my writing habit to support the way I write and think. I know what music, scented candles and chair I will be using. The decisions have already been made. I use these to signal to my brain that this is writing time now. 

Creating the surroundings that I need increases the chances of sitting down to write. It makes writing even more attractive. Just getting to write improves my whole day and feels like a reward in itself. This made building a consistent writing habit easier for me.

I have written more here about how to build your writing habit in 5 days.

How to break down the big task of writing a novel into small tasks will make building a consistent writing habit easier

A lot of writers suffer from procrastination. Feeling like your novel, or even chapter, is too much to tackle can make even the most dedicated writer avoid sitting down to write. Breaking down big jobs into small tasks can reduce the overwhelm and make taking action easier. 

One of the techniques that writers use to tackle the challenge of writing a whole novel is to only focus on what is right in front of them.

Imagine running a race through the mountains. If you look out ahead of you and see the hills looming in the distance, it can feel overwhelming and actually rob you of the stamina you need to run the race. By looking three feet ahead, you can focus on the next few steps over and over again until you crest the hills and conquer the mountains. 

building a consistent writing habit
Start where you are. Don’t wait for the ‘right’ time.


What’s on today’s agenda?

Only focus on one thing for your writing session. Pick a scene, one character to develop, one topic to research or one chapter to edit and only focus on doing that. It is important to be realistic when you are choosing your goal. But, when we are only starting we do not know what our potential is yet. So, start small and have another goal to move on to if you get the first one finished quickly. Look back at your previous writing sessions to get a sense of what you are capable of.

What will keep you writing? 

If you are struggling to sit down and write, think about what you have set as your goal for this writing session. Is it something that you will enjoy? Or, is it something that you know is necessary to complete your novel but is not your favourite part of writing? 

Try to figure out what will get you sitting down to write. When we permit ourselves to skip a writing session then it gets easier to skip the next one too. So, if you are feeling tired, consider changing the goal of your writing session to something that you will enjoy. And definitely congratulate yourself for sitting down to write even though it was hard. 

Being off task can make you feel disheartened and may even make it harder to sit down for your next writing session.

Treat your writing like a marathon, not a sprint

There are all sorts of runners out there. Trail runners, sprinters, and marathoners. Each type of runner has unique qualities that make them best suited for their type of race. A trail runner is great at agility and dodging snares while a sprinter is excellent at using explosive speed for short periods of time. Marathon runners have the ability to withstand long periods of running while conserving their energy. 

Writing a novel is a lot like running a marathon. While snares are possible and intermittent explosive energy in the form of writing sprints are sometimes needed, it’s also important to have the stamina to withstand the long, arduous process of producing a finished novel.

When a marathon begins, the wise runner starts slow and steady. They understand that bursting off the starting line won’t gain any real advantages over the competition. Many of the people who start off with great enthusiasm won’t make it past the halfway mark. It’s best to conserve energy for down the road when the real competition begins. 

Running a marathon requires breaking the course down into manageable chunks. Staying focused on small tasks like completing 10 miles and breaking through the dreaded wall when the body is fatigued. Staying focused on the small tasks rather than the enormity of the race helps the runner stay focused. 

It’s the same for writers to focus on the word counts and chapter goals on the way to finishing a novel.

Running a marathon requires a strong and stable mind that can overcome the body that wants to quit when the going gets tough. In the same way, a writer can use their mind to override the fatigue and strain that comes from the ups and downs of writing a novel. Life is going to happen but if you build up your stamina and refuse to quit, your steady commitment will pay off in a big way. 

Writing a novel like a marathon is a wonderful metaphor that can remind writers that consistent and regular writing wins the race. Completing small tasks over time is far more advantageous than bursting off the line and losing steam long before the race is over. Develop the marathon mindset with your writing and commit to the long haul and you will build a consistent writing habit to have a sustainable writing career.

Action steps to building a consistent writing habit

Figure out why you want to write your novel

Break the large task of writing a novel into several smaller tasks

When you get overwhelmed or discouraged go back to why you want to write your novel

Focus on the small steps along the way and celebrate those milestones on the way to completing your novel

More reading on Building a Writing Routine

How to use other writer’s routines as inspiration for your own

The comprehensive guide to finding time to write

12 quotes to inspire you to write

Writing during the summer

How to build your writing routine in 5 days

How to find the time to write: 4 steps to help you write more often

Setting up your productive and inspiring writing space

The complete guide to the benefits of journaling for writers

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