Maintaining a regular writing schedule

Always be writing.

When I discussed last time why this site is called Always Be Publishing, I noted it’s a riff on the software industry maxim, “always be shipping:” If you’re not writing code, you’re not shipping software.

The same thinking applies for writing novels, short stories, self-help guides, biographies, and so on. If you’re not writing (or editing, or proofing), you’re not moving closer to getting your work published.

For anyone who’s read a book on how to write a novel, or taken a class on creative writing, the following will sound familiar:

“Write an hour every day.”

Let me offer a slight twist. Instead of “write every day,” find a regular writing schedule and stick to it. In other words, come up with a schedule right for you.

I’ve written six novels over the last six years (and maintained an irregular blog along the way). Believe it or not, I managed to do all that only writing once a week. Sometimes I get in two days a week, but the second day is a rare luxury.

With that one allotted day, though, I spend eight hours writing. That’s writing with minimal interruptions for eight hours straight, like an office worker in a cubicle.

Over the course of my day, I’ll pause for lunch. I sit eating at my computer and go over what I had produced so far that day. Usually I write at cafes, although due to COVID-19, I’ve been writing at home the past few months.

The people in my life know that one day a week is off-limits. If something comes up that interrupts my schedule, I make arrangements to write on a different day. It takes a lot to pry that one day from my grip.

A second job

For some people, this probably sounds like a fantasy. Most parents I know don’t have full eight-hours to cordon themselves off from the world without a gracious and understanding partner. Sundays are sacrosanct for (American) football fans, and so on.

But this is the important part: It’s not a wasted day. As I’ve told my partner and relatives, writing is my second job. It’s not a great-paying job, but it is a job.

You don’t have to spend a full day a week writing to produce a novel. If you can set aside a few hours twice a week—say, two dedicated evenings—you’ll be surprised how much writing you can get done. But you have to stick to your schedule for it to work.

One writer I admire is comic-book legend Peter Bagge. Apparently, Bagge is infamous in the comics industry for his work ethic. Every morning he rises, dresses in business-casual clothes, and go to his home office to produce comics. He’s not working from home; his office just happens to be in his home. He puts in a full day, five days a week.

I don’t have the success to write every day and make a living wage off my work. Six years ago, I made a commitment to myself that I would treat the one day a week I had free as a work day, just like Bagge does. I rise, eat breakfast, head to the computer, and write, just as if I was heading to the office.

Silence your phone. Close the door to the room. Put on a pair of headphones. Turn off your computer’s Wi-Fi to avoid the temptation to surf the Internet.

If you’re not writing, you’re not publishing. Make the time to write.


Bridge Daughter is the first book of the Bridge Daughter Cycle. It follows Hannah, a girl who learns at age thirteen that she was born bearing her parents’ child—a “bridge daughter.” In a few months she will give birth and die, leaving her parents with their real child.

This speculative-fiction alternate-universe novel of suspense has been reviewed by Publishers Weekly, and has received praise from readers, authors, and editors.

Bridge Daughter is available for Kindle and in paperback. You can also purchase the three-part series in a single Kindle e-book. More information on Bridge Daughter can be found at j-nelson.net.

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