So, why would you need to create good writing habits? Surely creativity is something that should just happen, spontaneously and without any effort or with rigid conformity?
Well, If you’re anything like how I used to be, you might approach writing your novel like this.
- Decide to do some writing and turn on computer
- Think ‘must just check my emails while I’m here’
- An hour later, guiltily realise you haven’t written a word
- Decide that, yes, NOW you are really going to do some writing
- Write a paragraph
- Decide to check Facebook
- An hour later, guiltily realise you still haven’t written more than 50 words all morning
- Realise the washing machine cycle has finished and you really need to hang out those clothes
- Sit back down at your desk and stare at the blinking cursor
- Repeat ad infinitum until you have to pick the kids up from school
- Words written: a measly 200 if you’re lucky. Pathetic.
Well, that’s what it used to be like. It was when my writing income became the primary source of our family’s money that I realised I had to become just a little bit more efficient and productive in the time I had to write. And like anything else, becoming disciplined in your writing is really just a matter of forming good habits. So, read on to find out the best five writing habits that you can create and you’ll be banging out the bestsellers in no time.
BLOCK OUT WRITING TIME
I can’t tell you how much harder it is to progress on a project when you don’t take it seriously. If you don’t take your work seriously, then who is going to force you to do it? Nobody, that’s who, and then it won’t get done. So block out your writing time and keep that time sacrosanct. When you are sitting down for writing time, that’s all you should be doing. Not checking emails, not posting on social media, not fannying around ordering your online grocery shopping for the week. Just writing. Take your writing seriously – treat it as a job. Which leads me onto point number two:
Just as taking your writing time seriously will help you to get a lot more done, writing regularly helps to really cement the habit in your mind. If you can write every day, then great. You’re going to get a lot done! If you can’t (and personally, I can’t write every day as I don’t have suitable childcare), then make sure you make time to write as regularly as you can. Work out what works best for you. Every week day? Every weekend? I write four days a week – when my youngest starts school, it’ll be every week day and I’ll have the weekends off. Anything you do regularly becomes a habit, until it’s so ingrained you don’t even have to think about it anymore. Which is great, as it frees up your mind to unleash even more of your creative potential.
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO WRITE
This is a tip that is really going to help you start those words flying. You may have not tried outlining before – that’s fine. Some people work well as ‘pantsers’ rather than plotters. But what can really help you avoid those moments of staring at a blank page, sweating and chewing your fingers, is to block out the next scene you’re going to write. It could be as basic as a few lines of text or even bullet points. Just something to get you going. For example, I’m about to write the opening chapter of Pulse, the new Kate Redman Mystery, and these are my bullet points for the scene:
- Opening scene – middle of wild party
- Murder victim, Joe, meets the killer
- Killer lures him to graveyard next to the party house
- Chapter ends on Joe looking up to night sky and watching stars wink out as he dies
That’s it – just four sentences but I’ll use those as the framework for the entire chapter.
A great book for helping you outline your entire novel is indie author Libby Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants! (great title too).
GET RID OF DISTRACTIONS
Easy, this one. Turn off your phone (or if you do have to be on call for whatever reason, turn it to silent), disable social media notifications and hang a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your office door, should you be so lucky to have one.
Make sure your desk or writing space is uncluttered. If there’s a lot of background noise, consider getting some noise-cancelling headphones or playing soothing white-noise sounds in the background – you can play rainstorms or similar natural sounds through YouTube. There are also apps you can download that simulate the background noise of a coffee shop, if you work better with a bit of unobtrusive human background sound.
Don’t forget to go to the loo before you start and make your hot drink or tasty beverage before you begin!
This is the simplest and yet the hardest tip of all. Once you’re ready to start, just start. Don’t sit there in front of the blank page, trying to come up with something marvellous. Just write. It’s easier if you know what you’re writing – as I’ve mentioned up above – but if in doubt, write anything. Write ‘I don’t know what to write’. Let the words flow out of you and don’t worry about what they sound like or look like. Everything is editable!
On that note, don’t edit as you go. Nothing is more likely to put you off your creative flow. Just splurge it all down on paper or keyboard and worry about the editing later.
ONE EXTRA TIP!
Keep your writing sessions short and sweet. I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro method (where you set a timer for 25 mins and work flat-out until the timer goes off). Even if you don’t go for that particular technique, don’t write for too long. You’ll probably find that once you’re in the flow, time goes quickly but don’t force yourself to write for longer than seems comfortable – both physically and mentally. Health-wise, you should be taking regular breaks from your pen or your computer – your back, neck and eyes will thank you for it.
GOOD WRITING HABITS – IN BRIEF
So, a quick recap on creating good writing habits:
- Block out writing time
- Write regularly
- Know what you’re going to write about
- Get rid of distractions
- Just write!
- Keep it short and sweet
So there we have it. Hopefully these tips will help you establish a really solid writing habit and make you a much more productive and efficient writer. You might also like to read my post on Productivity Tips for Authors. Got any other tips? Drop me a line in the comments and let me know your best writing habits.