Writing Routines

David Baldacci’s Writing Routine: “Nobody ever masters the art of writing.”

David Baldacci is an American author, screenwriter and former attorney, best-known for his suspense and legal thriller novels like Absolute Power.

You have to ask yourself why you want to be a writer and you have to have passion in the belly for it. It can’t be just because you hate your day job and you want to sell the film rights, because it’s going to take a long time. It’s a craft, which means you’re going to be an apprentice for life. Nobody ever masters the art of writing.

‘You’re going to be an apprentice for life’: David Baldacci shares his advice for aspiring writers | Pan Macmillan

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David Baldacci has been writing stories ever since he was a child. It all started when his mother gave him a lined notebook as a way to keep him quiet and give herself a break, although the author credits this as the moment which inspired his writing career.

But Baldacci didn’t launch into publishing novels right away. Instead he studied political science at Virginia Commonwealth University and later, law at the University of Virginia School of Law, after which he worked as a trial attorney for nine years in Washington, D.C.

But the writing bug never left him. “And that was the time period where I was really focusing on all my novel writing career,” Baldacci recalled in his Masterclass. “I’d done screenplays, didn’t have really any success. I thought, you know what? I want to attempt a novel.”

So like fellow legal thriller writer John Grisham, Baldacci began juggling his novelistic ambitions with his career. Because his work as a lawyer started early in the morning, the only time he had to write was at night — after his family went to bed, Baldacci would head downstairs at 10pm and write until 2am. He would also find some time throughout the day — during his lunch break for instance — to jot down some notes or “bang out a page.”

“My wife obviously was very instrumental,” he recalled in an interview with The Strand Magazine. “We had a family, and she took on more of the labor of that, allowing me to write at night, early in the morning, and on the weekends.”

He kept up his side writing routine every day, seven days a week for three years until his first novel, Absolute Power, was completed. Published in 1996, the book became an international best-seller and was adapted into a 1997 film starring Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman. The success enabled Baldacci to quit practising law and dedicate himself to writing full-time.

I approached it brick by brick, much like I did my legal cases. I worked, I did trial work. I did business deals. They’re both involving little details.

Writing Process | MasterClass

David Baldacci’s daily writing routine

On a typical writing day, Baldacci wakes up early and takes his two dogs out for a walk. Once he’s back home, he heads into the office and starts writing.

I’m not a words-per-day kind of guy. I always felt that if you have an artificial number, it probably means that you don’t want to be writing, anyway. If you say, okay I do 2000 words, but what if the next words would’ve been fantastic? You’re just going to stop and go play golf? You can also produce 2000 words that are crap. So I sit down to write when I’m ready to write, when things crystallize in my head and I know what I want to say. I work on multiple projects a day, so I might spend three or four hours on my next adult thriller, then a few hours on a screenplay. I might work for a few hours on editing, or on a young adult book. For me, three or four hours on one project, I’ve probably exhausted my energy for that. But rather than just calling it a day, and going on home, I’ll move on to some other project. I just love to write. It’s not a job, it never has been. It’s a lifestyle. If I’m not writing or plotting, I’m not a happy camper. It just keeps me going.

How I Write: David Baldacci | Daily Beast

If he ever gets stuck while working, Baldacci has a few solutions to his creative juices flowing again: go for a walk, have a potter around his garden, or take a shower. “I tell you, there’s something about water,” he told Friday Magazine. “Everything just washes away. Your mind is focussed and you [are able to] dig down like 12 layers and find what you are looking for.”

Baldacci, similar to Kazuo Ishiguro, also doesn’t believe in the notion that you should “write about what you know.” Rather, he believes that writers should work on what they’d like to know about.

“Your prose will get better and your plotting will get better because you’re invested in it and you’re passionate about it,” he said. “The last thing you want to do is halfway through a novel run out of gas because you really weren’t that interested in the subject matter – it’s a long haul and you need to go in with a full tank of gas, and one way to do that is to have passion.”

If I’m not writing, I’m not comfortable. I can write anywhere under any circumstances. I can write in a plane or a train or a boat. In a corner, with a screaming child in my lap, I’ve done all those things. If you wait for the perfect place to write, you’ll never write anything because there’s no such place.

An interview with David Baldacci | BookBrowse

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