Writing life

Simon Kernick

No breakfast, a huge lunch, a gym workout and writing 2,000 words. The thriller writer describes a day in his writing life


“You have to persevere”

On working days, I get up at about 7.30am, make a cup of tea and watch the headlines on Sky before jumping in the shower. Then I make the first cup of coffee of the day. Only then am I ready to work. 

I try to be at my desk for 8.30am, but sometimes it stretches to 9am. I write at a desk in an upstairs spare bedroom that has been converted into an office. I look out onto a view of trees and other people’s gardens. It’s a nice space to work and I love it.

My handwriting is terrible, so a keyboard is essential; I write everything on an iMac. My other essentials are more coffee and water.

I aim to write 2,000 words a day. It takes it out of me sometimes but you have to persevere. The actual writing of a book takes between four and eight months, depending on how well the plot flows on the page. I’ve been known to abandon a draft halfway through and simply start again, though thankfully I haven’t done that for a couple of books now.

If I'm struggling, I just keep on writing regardless – I can’t afford to wait for inspiration. Eventually, if you keep going long enough, it’ll come.

Ways to unwind

Mid-morning, after I've done about two to two-and-a-half hours’ writing, I take a break. It may not sound like a lot of time spent writing but it is mentally, so I usually head to the gym to unwind. 

After the gym I take another shower and then it's time for lunch, one of my favourite times of the day. I don't eat breakfast so I have a mammoth meal now, which I eat while reading the papers, usually The Times, from cover to cover. 

About 2.30pm I go back to work. I usually finish between 4.30pm-5pm, but if I’m behind it can stretch as long as 8pm. When I'm done, I go for a decent walk. I’m lucky enough to live in a little village surrounded by countryside, so I’ll tend to walk for a good hour, even in winter, and longer in summer. 

Afterwards I'll pop to the pub for a drink or cook dinner for myself and watch TV. I tend to watch a lot of drama – anything from re-runs of Miss Marple to Breaking Bad and Homeland – and comedy. I’m a huge fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld, and if there’s nothing on the box, I’ll usually stick in a DVD of one of them, and laugh uproariously on my own for the next couple of hours!

Other nights I spend with my fiancée, just chatting and chilling out. On weekdays it's lights out at 11.30pm; half midnight at the weekend. I’m not a party animal these days.

By the author

Find out more about the author

Related articles