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Karin Slaughter’s Writing Routine: “I think ‘obsessive’ is probably the diagnosis.”

Karin Slaughter is an American crime writer, who has written 21 novels to date, which have sold more than 40 million copies. Her debut novel, Blindsighted, was shortlisted by the Crime Writers’ Association for the “Best Thriller Debut” award of 2001.

I think ‘obsessive’ is probably the diagnosis. For two weeks at a time, I throw myself into the process, barely bothering to stop and eat, until I am exhausted. I used to say I would develop better habits, but I’ve lately realised that what I’m doing is working, so I should stop feeling guilty.

Karin Slaughter reveals the secrets behind her best-selling books and her writing success | Woman & Home

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For many of the authors we’ve covered so far on Famous Writing Routines, they mostly approach their daily writing schedule like a marathon. That is, show up every day and grind out their daily word count.

Khaled Hosseini writes from the morning to the afternoon with the hopes of producing a few pages each day. Haruki Murakami (who is an actual marathon runner), wakes up at 4am and writes until about lunchtime. Stephen King used to pump out 2,000 words a day, but these days he aims to get down 1,000 words in four hours.

Karin Slaughter, on the other hand, approaches her writing craft more like a sprint. When she’s not actively working on a novel, her schedule is pretty regular: “My typical morning involves some time on the treadmill, but obviously I skip that a lot. Mostly, I wake up, check my email, then get to work on the various interviews and questions and phone calls that come with being an author. I always try to block out an hour or so a day to read.”

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Before we go on…

Each week, we spend hours upon hours researching and writing about famous authors and their daily writing routines. It’s a lot of work, but we do it out of our love for books and learning about these authors’ creative process, and we certainly don’t expect anything in return. However, if you’re enjoying these profiles each week, and would like to send something our way, feel free to buy us a coffee!

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Karin Slaughter’s daily writing routine

But when she’s deep into a story, it’s a totally different story. Slaughter will head up to her cabin in the mountains and stay for two weeks a time. While there, her entire life will revolve around writing. “My routine hasn’t varied much over the years,” she revealed in an interview with Dymocks. “I get up. I write. I eat meals if I am hungry. I write some more. I go to sleep. I get up and write again. It’s lovely to be alone with my laptop and work through the puzzles at the center of the book.”

In a 2021 interview with Harper Collins, Slaughter provided a detailed description of her daily writing routine during one of her mountain cabin trips.

When I’m actively working on a book, it’s a completely different routine. I drive two hours outside of Atlanta to the Blue Ridge mountains, where I have a cabin that my father built for me. I sit in this old recliner that has seen better days, put my laptop on a pillow in my lap, then start working. This explains the alluring c-shaped slope of my shoulders. I wish I could say that I have a very balanced day when I’m working, but all I do is get up in the morning, start writing, then stop writing when I can’t see or think anymore. Sometimes, that can be 12 or 16 hours (with naps in between) and sometimes that can be four hours (with more naps) but I’ve always been better in isolation. I don’t understand how people can work in coffee shops or, worse, be in the middle of a chapter and just stop. I suppose part of it is my obsessive/compulsiveness. I’m completely incapable of not finishing something I start. Which is why my garage is vacuumed and mopped once a month.

Karin Slaughter on writing and her cabin in the woods | HarperCollins

Following this process of escaping up into the mountains a couple weeks at a time, Slaughter spends, on average, ten to twelve months on each book. “Sometimes it goes more quickly, sometimes more slowly,” she said. “I never want to be in a position where I am rushing a story, and thankfully my publishers are very patient.”

For a crime and mystery fiction author, producing more books and gaining more experience in the craft of writing doesn’t necessarily make the process any easier, as Slaughter learnt over the years.

If anything, the more I write, the harder and more challenging it gets because I learn something new with each book. If there’s an easy part, it’s that I have a lot more resources now. If I need to talk to a cop about how to commit the perfect murder, she’s not going to put me on a watch list. I hope. I have a doctor, a medical examiner, lots of folks I can call up and ask crazy questions. Also, a certain level of confidence comes from writing several novels. I don’t feel compelled to fit in everything. I’ve learned the patience of being able to say, “this character detail or plot twist that I love doesn’t work in this story, but I can put it in the next one.”

Author Karin Slaughter Answers our Questions About her New Novel, The Silent Wife | Better Reading

Before you go…

Each week, we spend hours upon hours researching and writing about famous authors and their daily writing routines. It’s a lot of work, but we do it out of our love for books and learning about these authors’ creative process, and we certainly don’t expect anything in return. However, if you’re enjoying these profiles each week, and would like to send something our way, feel free to buy us a coffee!

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