Good Habits for Writers
Becoming a good writer doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, effort and a lot of practice. Having a good set of writing habits will help you on your way to making the whole process easy and enjoyable!
Stephen King, at least 3 hours. Ernest Hemingway, 5-6. You might not be able to dedicate hours to writing like these famous writers, but setting aside 30 minutes a day is a habit worth developing. Not only will a regular writing slot boost your writing skills, it will help maintain momentum, keep you excited, and can potentially leave you with a novel in a short amount of time if you don't slip!
How: Plan out a typical day and look for time slots where you can be alone and not interrupted. Make it known in your home that this is your writing time. Stick to it, start with 15-30 minutes and only increase your time once you know it is doable in the long-term.
“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
- Stephen King
Reading provides you with so many necessary tools to write, often being a source of inspiration helping you come up with ideas or characters. It is also where you can learn from the writing techniques of others, developing your own style with the influences of writers you enjoy and knowing what to avoid in those you don't enjoy.
It is hypocritical to expect others to read your work when you don't do the same for others - connect with other authors and be a part of the community by reading daily!
Write For One Reader
It is often said 'Write the book you want to read'. Why? Your taste in stories and characters are more specific than you think. Imagine opening a book to find something that spoke to you in a personal, unique way - it would become your favourite instantly.
Writing for one reader in mind is a sure way to make it stand out and remain in the minds of your readers. Don't worry about pleasing a lot of people, trying to appease a vast audience can do the opposite and fail to reach readers. Find an ignored niche, write what hasn't been seen before, and write well enough to do it justice!
Resist Distracting Ideas
When you commit to a story, stay true. There will be times you lose interest, become frustrated, experience writing blocks or hit unforeseen plot holes - but this is often the way for all writing projects, and unless you want to be the author of a hundred half-written stories you need to develop the ability to ignore the temptation of flitting to another newer, more enticing idea.
New ideas may seem more exciting and perhaps may be a better story in the end, but jumping ship now means you will likely not return to your original story, never knowing how great it could have been. Jot down the basic outline of any distracting plots or ideas, lock them away and use them as motivation to finish your first draft!
Small, Achievable Goals
'I want to be a published author!'
Having big goals like this is fantastic, but it has to be seen as the landing at the top of a staircase. How do you get up to that goal? By carefully climbing one step at a time.
Make your goals easily achievable and realistic, such as 'Write for at least 15 minutes a day this week' or 'Plot out the main events in a chapter'. Ensure your success is reliant solely on you, not others - instead of 'Find a publishing house who want my story', say 'I will send my opening chapters and outline to X many publishers this month'. When you complete a goal, celebrate! Acknowledging your success makes for a more productive writer.
Develop Healthy Habits
A healthier body = a healthier mind. Look for ways to improve your physical well-being, and enjoy the mental and emotional benefits. A poor sleeping routine can turn the most talented writer into a zombie. Swap out your phone for a good book an hour before bed and try for an average of 8 hours sleep. Regular exercise - even 15 minutes a day! - leads to growth factors, allowing our brains to strengthen and create new neuronal connections.
By pairing this with a good diet packed with protein, leafy greens and healthy fats will ensure you have given your body the tools it needs to boost your mental well-being. Even small changes can make big differences!
Creating A Writing Space
George R R Martin does it in a house. J K Rowling first did it in Edinburgh cafes. James Joyce, Mark Twain, George Orwell, and Truman Capote? In their beds.
A writing space doesn't need to be big, decked out in writing aids or set within a scenic woodland. All you need is a place you can go daily to be uninterrupted,free from distractions, and has all you really need to write your words. This may require a wifi connection, or the lack of it if you work more efficiently without it. It can be in a shed, a corner of a room, or in bed, so long as your space and time is respected.
There's no need to feel guilty - spending your downtime in front of a TV for a show or movie can be a great source of inspiration! Think about it: you can be transported into the streets of Victorian London, hear the voices of Birmingham gang members, see the creatures of horror or have your beliefs challenged, all with little time commitment and foreknowledge required.
Though following up interesting topics with similar books, it is a fantastic method of igniting creativity and expanding on what you are comfortable exploring. And if you find dialogue hard to write, watching a well-written scene can help a lot!
Don't Dry Up The Well
'Leave the audience wanting more!'
In this case, you are the entertainer and the audience - always leave your writing with more to say! Why? Imagine emptying all your thoughts, leaving nothing unsaid. When you next return, where do you go from there? Writer's block often rears its head at the start of a session if a writer is unable to get back on the track they were on before.
Try leaving your story mid-sentence or part-way through a dialogue/action-heavy scene - your future self can pick up where you left off. At most, jot down what the next session should accomplish onto a post-it note. That's it!
Seek Out Inspiration
Inspiration can come from anywhere, but rarely will it come as you stare blankly at an empty page. You can't force an idea, so you'll just have to go searching for it.
Go for a walk, run errands, chat with a stranger or explore somewhere new. The basis for the Harry Potter books came to J K Rowling on a train to London, and Roald Dahl came up with a story about a certain chocolate factory as he sat in traffic. Ensure you have a notebook to scribble down ideas, or if you want to be more modern, dictate your thoughts to into your phone. But most of all: go out and be ready. Inspiration can strike anytime, anywhere.