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Following up on loads of questions asked by folks here, one question lt260 asked was: Do you have a 12-step program for gaining good writing habits?



You know, with the amount of writing I do, you'd figure that I wouldn't need this so-called 12 step program, but the reality is sometimes even the best authors don't write as much as they should.  But, of course, I don't follow many rules, so these are my 15 step program for gaining good writing habits.  So, here are my recommendations for gaining good writing habits.

1.  Apply butt to chair; fingers to keyboard (or pen to paper).  Seriously, most writers don't write because they fail to just sit down and write.  Sitting down and putting yourself if the position to write will at least get you to the medium you intend to write on.  After that, the rest is up to you.

2. Block out a certain amount of time when you won't be disturbed to write and write every day.  Whether you have to get up a half hour early or go to sleep a half hour late -- or whether you can write during your lunch break, you must come up with some time to write and stick to that time each day to write.  When I was working, I'd find a local coffee or tea shop and write there during lunch.  Or, I would simply bring a sandwich and write in my car.  Anywhere I could get about a half hour ot an hour worth's time. 

3.  Start small.  Rome wasn't built in a day, as the old saying goes.  If you're a new writer, one of the most common mistakes is thinking you can write thousands of words in your first sitting.  Forget that.  You're not writing a report or a letter -- you're working a creative muscle -- your brain.  What you need to do is not overload it or you will burn it out.  Start small.  Set your goal at writing 50 to 100 words a day and stick with it.  Somedays, you'll want to write more -- and that's ok.  Somedays it'll be like pulling teeth to get that amount written.  When you're consistently writing well over the 100 words for two weeks straight, you can up your writing quota to 50-100 words more. 

4.  Set a word count limit.    Always write at least that amount every day.  If you're not making that amount, cut it in half and try again.  Even if you're writing only 50 words a day, that is 50 words more than you wrote the previous day.

5.  Many writers come up with little rituals to start their writing.  While I'm hesitant to mention this, because you can get more involved in the ritual and not write, one still might help put you in the frame of mind you need.  I usually need tea to write.  Some authors put on music.  Others play one game of freecell on the computer.  (Warning -- this is dangerous).  The main thing is to prepare yourself to write and get your subconscious prepared to write. 

6.  Read to help you write.  As a writer, you must read -- but don't just read other fiction in your genre.  Read nonfiction; real outside your genre.  It's not a waste of time -- it's research.  I often read nonfiction and other pieces of fiction because they give me ideas in terms of content or in terms of writing style.  You'll bring this information to the page and your writing will improve.

7.  Keep a word count tally.  You need to be able to look back at your progress to pat yourself on the back.

8.  Set a weekly or monthly goal for writing. Make it realistic.  There will be times when you can't write on certain days.  If you plan on writing 100 words every day, but only manage usually manage to write five times a week, set your goal to 500-600 words a week -- and reward yourself when you make that goal.

9.  Give youself a few hours a week to do something fun, just for yourself.  Go for a walk or hike; visit a museum.  Draw or play an instrument.  Whatever.  Give your mind a chance to relax and revitalize yourself. 

10.  Reward yourself for writing.  One suggestion I've heard is have a money jar and each time you meet a goal, you put in one dollar.  At the end of the month, you use the money to buy something you really want.  One thing I do is not allow myself to play any games until I've gotten my writing done for the day.  YMMV.  When you're done with the first draft, do something really special.  Make yourself feel good about getting that accomplished.

11.  Never edit your work until you're done writing the first draft. First drafts are supposed to be crappy.  Finish what you write.  Edit after you type "The End" on the last page.

12.  Don't edit your manuscript to death.  Clean it up and get it in decent shape and then send it out to editors and forget about it.  A rule of thumb on drafts?  Three to five full edits -- and no more. 

13.  Start something new after you finish your story.  Don't go back and edit it again -- unless an editor tells you to. 

14.  If you get stuck, work on another project.  It's best to have at least two or three projects going at any one time to avoid getting stale.

15.  Do what works for you.  If you're most productive in the bathroom writing, do that.  If you're better writing in a quiet room, then go for it.  If you like rock blaring and can pound out that story -- awesome.  But if that isn't working, then perhaps you might try what I recommend.    

So, there you have my thoughts on it.  So, sit down and write!

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
jwjohnson
Sep. 2nd, 2008 01:44 am (UTC)
Thanks again. Great stuff. Do we need to send check or cash?


I know. My humor sucks.

I do really appreciate the advice.
shadowhelm
Sep. 2nd, 2008 02:24 am (UTC)
No problem!

If you feel that grateful, buy all my books! ;-)
jwjohnson
Sep. 4th, 2008 12:16 am (UTC)
Link
Would you mind if I put this on my website for the 2 people who read it? With a link back to this original post of course.
shadowhelm
Sep. 15th, 2008 08:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Link
Go ahead and link to it. I'd prefer if they came over to the Dark Side...
lt260
Sep. 10th, 2008 11:40 pm (UTC)
Great advice. Now to make it a habit.
(Deleted comment)
shadowhelm
Sep. 15th, 2008 08:10 pm (UTC)
Re: this is very useful
Glad I can be of assistance.
galeni
Sep. 15th, 2008 08:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
ext_122735
Sep. 16th, 2008 11:27 am (UTC)
Re: Good Writing Habbits
I picked this blog up via a friend and enjoyed it. Excellent advice. Many thanks. I’ve added the bits below in case it helps anyone.

One tip I picked up for reading stuff outside of your normal genre was to ask friends to recommend books (or magazines, or web sites, but mainly books) they know you would never normally read. If you get a couple of good friends to buy, lend or point you in the direction of something different and then bother you to make sure you’ve read it, not only will it broaden your horizons but it may lead you down paths you never thought you’d take.

Also, never stop writing. Even if it’s just a blog, a forum post or a letter (you know, those paper things people once used ;) ), keep up your skills. Don’t let posting in forums take up all your time (and, oh, they can be addictive), but if you don’t fancy working on any of your projects a few paragraphs on something entirely different may give your brain the break it needs.

Oh, and if you’re not in the right mood to write what you want to play some music to change your mood (don’t use TV, it’s too immersive). If you want to write something sad, play some Enya (I jest, slightly). If you want to write something satirical listen to Monty Python or Weird Al Jankovich. ;)
shadowhelm
Sep. 16th, 2008 05:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Good Writing Habbits
One tip I picked up for reading stuff outside of your normal genre was to ask friends to recommend books (or magazines, or web sites, but mainly books) they know you would never normally read. If you get a couple of good friends to buy, lend or point you in the direction of something different and then bother you to make sure you’ve read it, not only will it broaden your horizons but it may lead you down paths you never thought you’d take.

You know, I'm probably going to catch flak for saying this, but reading omnivorously is a good idea. Read bad stuff as well as good. You'll get a feel for why it is bad and why it doesn't work. You'll read like a writer and can only learn from it.
(Deleted comment)
shadowhelm
Sep. 19th, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)
Welcome aboard!!!!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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