Posted in Writing

Writing: Why It’s Sometimes Good to be an Irregular Writer

Many writing coaches counsel writing a set amount every day, preferably at the same time, and even in the same place, to programme oneself into good productivity habits. In this post, I’ll describe how when I flouted that advice I surprised myself with the new-found productivity of an all-or-nothing binge writing routine.

This post first appeared on the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Author Advice Centre blog here.

ALLi logo

Plenty of bestselling authors point to their own regular work pattern to account for their success, from Jeffrey Archer (four two-hour stints per day – phew!) to Graeme Greene (a low word count of just 500, but consistently adhered to). Simple arithmetic provides a compelling argument for such regularity.

365 days x 500 words = 182,500 words = 2 novels

500 words a day – that doesn’t sound so hard, does it?

From 0 to 60K in a Month

Before I started writing novels, I wrote short stories, most of them no longer than the articles and features I’d written previously as a journalist. Used to polishing short word counts, it was a huge change for me to fill a bigger canvas. I took the NaNoWriMo route, aiming at 2,000 words a day, till the first draft of the novel was done. This well-trodden path seemed a sensible choice.

But a short and minor hospital surgery that left me resting in bed for a couple of weeks unleashed a whole new writing me. I discovered that when the rest of life didn’t get in the way, I could just keep going. In fact, I not only could, but I longed to.

Before long I was writing most of my waking hours, and between the end of November and the middle of February, I wrote the first draft of not one but two novels, the second and third in my new Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, Trick or Murder and Murder in the Manger.

Are Writing Rules Made to be Broken?

Cover of Anita Brookner's Hotel du Lac
A holiday read – and a holiday write too, apparently (Image from Amazon)

I felt like a schoolgirl disobeying the rules, although I also took heart from the role model of Anita Brookner, a university professor who only wrote fiction during her summer vacation – but then churned out a whole novel, to a very high standard. Her Hotel Du Lac won the Booker Prize in 1984.

Ironically, by mid-February, my health had returned and I’d got over my op and the anaesthetic, but I was completely exhausted. The ten-week writing binge had sucked me dry.

However, I felt as if I’d discovered magical powers. I’d let the binge-writing genie out of the bottle.

Writing non-stop till I’d drained the creative well felt so much more natural and productive than the scientifically measured and monitored x words per day. I was then so exhausted mentally that I felt I had no choice but to take a complete break for about six weeks before I sat down to edit the first of those manuscripts, which I’m now just about finished two months later. So it’s been an all-or-nothing process, but it’s got me across the finishing line. It’s worked.

ALLi pen logoAm I a lone rebel against the tried-and-trusted regular writing method? I put the question to the ALLi hive and was gratified to have a flurry of positive responses from people who shared my approach. Their endorsement has given me the reassurance I needed to continue to follow my writing instincts, and as soon as I’ve finished editing these first drafts, I’ll be putting my head down to go round again for book four. Seconds out…

Visit the ALLi blog here to read thoughts from other ALLi author members who love binge writing. 

  • Cover of Trick or Murder?
    The sequel, set around Halloween, will launch on 26 August

    One of the products of my latest binge writing session will be published next month, Trick or Murder?, the second Sophie Sayers Village Mystery novel, and it’s already available to pre-order as an ebook here.

  • The first in the series, Best Murder in Show, is already available in paperback and as an ebook.
  • Order Best Murder in Show on Amazon UK here
  • Order Best Murder in Show on Amazon US here
  • Or order from your local bookshop by quoting ISBN 978-1911223139




English author of warm, witty cosy mystery novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Gemma Lamb/St Bride's School series. Novels published by Boldwood Books, all other books by Hawkesbury Press. Represented by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agents. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. Course tutor for Jericho Writers. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors. Lives and writes in her Victorian cottage in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold countryside.

3 thoughts on “Writing: Why It’s Sometimes Good to be an Irregular Writer

  1. I think figuring out one’s own writing process is one of the hardest and emotionally loaded aspects of being a writer. We beat ourselves up over not having a butt-in-chair model every day because we’ve heard enough times that that’s the way to do it. But like you said, it’s such an instinctual process. I’ve got a friend who says she’s full steam ahead with getting words on the page about one day out of every nine, and she’s okay with that. On the other days, the ideas are percolating. I go for a few days of intensity, then I take a break. I’ve never written every single day, and can’t see myself ever following that model. Good for you for finding what works for you!!!

  2. I do not write with the regularity I crave as life intrudes, demanding the shifting of attention, time and energy. When the regularity of daily writing is possible I chip away like a beaver who is afraid of starvation. Writing should be a joy, not an arduous 9-5 job is my personal take.

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