Tips to Keep Writers on Track While Drafting

This month, I want to focus on how we can stay on track as writers. Writing a book is a long, complex process and it is easy to lose our way. If you want to finish your novel, read on for tips to keep you moving forward to “the end” of your story and your process.

What are some things that derail us as writers? What doesn’t, right? I mean, day jobs, kids, caregiving, traffic, chores, exercise, cooking, errands…the list of things that fill up our busy lives can certainly keep us from the page.

Before we dig deeper, I want to impress upon you the importance of a writing routine.

I know there are writers out there who swear by the write every day at the same time philosophy. And I’ll be honest, that’s how I work. Not because that’s what everyone should do, but because it works for me to dedicate two morning hours every week day to my writing in order to stay on track. But does everyone have a job with my flexibility? Does everyone have two consecutive hours? Does everyone need that much time to write to stay in the flow? Probably not. So while that works for me, you need to find what works for you.

A writing routine can look like:

  • Writing at the same time every day
  • Getting up an hour earlier and getting in the words before your busy day starts (check out the #5amWritersClub on Twitter for a little early morning company)
  • Using a dictation app to “write” during your commute
  • Writing while waiting for your child’s sports practice or in the waiting room at your elderly parents’ medical appointments (I edited my second manuscript pretty much exclusively during my son’s weekly rock climbing class)
  • Putting aside one weekend a month (or a quarter) that is just for your writing, whether that’s at home, at a hotel, at a retreat, in a friend’s attic…
  • Asking your spouse to take the kids for breakfast every Saturday morning while you write

Basically, a writing routine can look like anything that works for you. It doesn’t have to be EVERY day, but aim for regularity. Setting matters, too. I’ve talked about walk up songs before, but maybe you also have a favorite coffee shop or a corner in your local library or a candle you always light when it’s time to get down to business. As much as we’re taught to think outside the box, creativity loves a container, so create the boundaries and routines for your muse to flourish.

HOWEVER, if you miss a day (or more) because of life, give yourself some grace. I was in the midst of a revise and resubmit when my dad passed away. I couldn’t write for months. I ended up struggling against what I thought I should be doing (writing) and what I was capable of doing (getting out of bed and surviving the day) for a long time until I finally gave myself permission not to write. When I had the courage to return to the page, my routines were waiting for me and I was able to slip back into my writing life. Don’t beat yourself up if you need a break, just be honest with yourself about why you need it so you can more easily recognize an excuse from a reason as well as know when it’s time to return.

Even with established and reliable writing routines, we can easily be distracted from our writing while we’re in the drafting stage. The reasons for this–beyond the typical distractions from our writing routine already mentioned–include fear, imposter syndrome, writer’s block, and a general lack of direction in your writing.

  1. Fear/Imposter Syndrome/Writer’s Block. I think these are three sides to the same emotional triangle. Drafting requires us to put our fears and doubts aside in order to simply get the stories out of our heads and our hearts and onto the page. This is far easier said than done, but I want to remind you that you have a story to tell. You came to the page with an idea, a hope, a dream. Don’t let this emotional trifecta hold you back from achieving your goals. Acknowledge that your fear and imposter syndrome and even your writer’s block are just your inner self’s way of protecting you from the vulnerability that comes with writing. If you can, invite this fear to take a back seat while you’re drafting. Before I begin any new project, I re-read Elizabeth Gilbert’s letter to fear in Big Magic*. If you haven’t read this book on creativity, I highly recommend it, but here’s a quick video on how she lets fear come along for the creative journey without it hijacking her progress.
  2. Lack of direction. I already hear you plotters pumping your fists and you pantsers groaning, but let’s take a step back and discuss what kind of road map can keep you on track while you’re drafting. I am not necessarily talking about a detailed outline, though if that works for you, go for it. I’m talking about is a detailed understanding of what your book is, what you are trying to say, and what it will mean to you and your reader when you say it. These are the foundations on which you will build your work. For plotters, the most intricate plot outline doesn’t mean anything without meaning. For pantsers, the most sincere, authentic character guide can still get lost without a flashlight. To ensure that the next plot point or character instinct will drive your story forward, arm yourself with the answers to these questions: What is your story premise? What is your story point? What will this story mean to you and your reader?

Now, you have a routine, you have your road trip companions squared away, and you have your road map. What could be missing?


Whether it’s participating in NaNoWriMo, submitting new pages to a writer’s group every week or two, hiring a book coach to guide you through the process, or simply circling a date on the calendar, a deadline is beneficial to the writer who wants to stay on track. On track for some writers may be a draft in a month or it may be a draft in a year or somewhere in between or beyond. The logistics don’t matter as much as the commitment to your story, your process, and your dreams. Set a goal and a timeline, track your word count, celebrate those wins, and ask for help when you need it.

Help? What kind of help might a writer need during the drafting process?

  • An accountability partner
  • Page feedback
  • Craft support
  • Research help
  • A babysitter, a time share for a weekend retreat, a cleaning service, or whatever to help alleviate some barriers to writing time
  • A book coach

The goal is to keep you drafting so you finish this book you’ve started! You can do it! Control the environment when you can, set yourself up for success, and keep writing! I’m cheering you on from my little corner of the internet.

Are you currently drafting? What helps you to stay on track at this stage of the process? Drop your favorite routines, accountability hacks, or time management skills that keep you inspired and writing.

If you need extra help or want to chat about where you’re losing sight of your draft, I’m here for you.

Featured photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

*Affiliate link. If you make a purchase, I will receive a small commission (so thank you!)

Published by Monica Cox

Monica is a writer and book coach who helps writers get unstuck so they can reach their writing goals.

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