Writing Routines: Scott Turow

Turow - Portrait
Scott Turow.

Scott Turow, the bestselling author of Presumed Innocent and other legal thrillers, has a new book out entitled Identical. At TheDailyBeast.com, Noah Charney asked Turow about his life as an author and attorney.

Here’s a peek into Turow’s writing time:

Describe your morning routine.

It’s not really a routine, because the pace is so likely to vary, but the greater portion of days finds me up by 7 and looking through three newspapers over coffee. By no later than 8:30, I’m at my desk, writing. I think the truth, to be brutal with myself, is that I spend no more than 45 minute out of every hour actually getting things down on paper. The rest of the hour goes to email or phone calls. But this does not prove that technology has intruded on my life, since years ago I’d just spend that 15 minutes wandering around the house, often ending up at the refrigerator.

Apparently, Turow is adept at handling distractions, also saying, “I can take a call from a client in the midst of writing a sentence and complete it as soon as I put down the phone.”

How does Turow determine if he has had a productive writing day?

No page or word counts, but I have to keep my ass in the chair, which is hard at the very start of the process. If I allow myself to become distracted, as I’m inclined to do at that point, then I’m disappointed in myself.

A Chicago native and Cubs fan, Turow still enjoys practicing law and has been a member of a famous authors rock band called the Rock Bottom Remainders. Other band members have included Stephen King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry and Mitch Albom.


Author Scott Turow’s Recent Appearance on ‘Charlie Rose’

Sometimes when I’m up at 11:30 p.m. I click over to PBS to see who is on Charlie Rose. It’s a mistake to do that because I’m supposed to be in bed at that hour, or at least on the way. About a week ago Charlie’s guest was author Scott Turow talking about his new book Innocent, a sequel to Presumed Innocent, the book that launched a legal-thriller career on the bestseller list.

I enjoyed the interview, and the next thing I knew it was 12:30 p.m. My main takeaway from Turow was that writers never really arrive. The goal is to just keep writing. It’s all practice, as he put it. The lawyer-author said he is still practicing and trying to improve his craft with each new book he writes. And now he’s trying something new—he’s writing a play.

Turow had no idea or expectation that his work would break out the way it did 20-plus years ago. I believe it took him by surprise. He had written four or five unpublished novels that were sitting in a drawer. That was the amount of practice he had when Presumed Innocent circulated and drew the interest of a handful of publishers. The rest is history, as they say. That book gave him the fame and financial independence to continue writing, although he still practices law part-time because he enjoys it.