Writing Habits

on January 5, 2020 in Writing

It’s the beginning of a new year, or a new week, or just a new day, and you want to finally write that book you’ve been talking about for years. You sit down at your computer and open a blank word document. You type, “Chapter 1″ and center it. No, that’s not right.  “Chapter One” looks better. Underline. Remove underline. Underline again.

The blinking cursor taunts you.

You edit the setting to double space. Maybe you type a few words or sentences, but then you read what you wrote and take out a word here and change another word there. You sigh. You know you can do this. You type a few more sentences, but immediately erase them. Check your email. Scroll through your favorite social media site… and finally walk away from your computer without even saving.

This was me!

It helps to know even successful writers struggle sometimes. Writing is work and if you treat it as a hobby, it is unlikely you will ever complete your manuscript. Because I finally overcame my most repetitive struggles, I want to share a few things that helped me.

First, if you want to write, you must read. There are countless books about writing. I recommend starting with Stephen King’s On Writing. From his own story to advice for aspiring writers, this book is invaluable. Also, read books in the genre you are writing. Don’t just stick to the best seller list; read as many books as you can. When something resonates with you, stop and take notice. Did the writer use a technique that could benefit your story?

Choose a writing space where you are comfortable. While I prefer to write in my home office, others do better in a coffee shop or at the library. Make sure you have everything you need. Computer, charger, notebook, pens, whiteboard…

Choose a time you can totally devote to writing and stick to it. Set an alarm. An alarm doesn’t respond to whining, it simply sounds at the appropriate time. Also set an alarm for five minutes before your desired ending time (trust me, this five minutes will become your secret weapon). It’s okay to start small. Ten or fifteen minutes on day one can grow to half an hour by week two. An hour and a half each morning used to work for me, but life changed and now I am most efficient with 45 minutes in the middle of the day and an hour before I go to bed.

Post your writing schedule. Put it on the fridge. Write it in your planner. Tell your family and friends. This time is non-negotiable. In my house, the only allowable interruption is an emergency. I love my family, but when I’m writing, if they aren’t bleeding or on fire, they can wait. Close the door. Turn off the wi-fi on your computer, but leave it on for the rest of the family or ‘emergency’ will have a whole new meaning.

When the alarm sounds, grab your coffee or water (or both) and sit in your chair. Open your document and start writing. Jump into the story; don’t feel like you have to start at the beginning. You can arrange your scenes later. I like to write each scene in a separate document to make this easier later. For example, about midway through the story I’m working on now, my main character meets a pair of troublemakers. It didn’t matter that I had been writing the opening scene the day before. I simply started a new document titled “Meeting Daphne and Delilah.” If you don’t want a bunch of documents to combine later, you can just insert a page break, but be sure to title each scene in a way that identifies the action so you can put it where it goes when you assemble your full draft.

Progress is better than perfection. Resist the urge to edit as you go. Just write! Write until the second alarm sounds. If you cannot compose a sentence, write a list of the actions your character is experiencing. List what he or she hears, smells, and sees. Don’t worry about proper formatting for dialog. Magic happens in the editing phase, but you cannot an edit a blank page.


When the second alarm alerts you that you have five minutes left, you can either choose to keep writing or start wrapping up. I make sure I leave an open sentence so I have a launch pad for the next day. Stop in the middle of an action. Write a few descriptive words if you need to so you can jump right back into the story the next time you open the computer. Save your work and turn the wi-fi back on.

Reward yourself for creating and sticking to your new writing habit.

I’d love to hear any other tips and tricks that have worked for you. Good luck and Happy writing!

Next week: Assembling your final draft

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