7 Winning Habits for Writers

Almost every writer will tell you their absolute best writing tip and we fledglings chirp it over and over, hoping to succeed.  Maybe this is the magic secret, we think.

Once you’ve done that a few times you get a collection of suggestions and you act on them with varying results.  Gradually your own personal list emerges.  Here is mine.

1.  Be consistent

Mostly this is about when and how often you write.  I find that when I’m doing the first draft mornings are my sparkling idea time.  My characters’ situations become my own so much that three hours goes by before I realize I have to pull myself out of my alter ego(s) and make lunch.

2.  Write about what you love

For many years my reading of choice has been historical fiction.  Colleen McCullough’s Caesar series, Sharon Kay Penman’s British kings and queens and Alison Weir’s histories have been my escape places.  Weir writes history so well, it seems like fiction but is not and the other two take the bare facts, study them in-depth and come up with characters so believable I feel like setting an extra place at dinner.  Ready to try my own hand at a novel, I naturally gravitated toward historicals.

3. Listen to others’ criticism but be true to yourself

A neophyte, I read how-to books, took courses and joined critique groups.  What did I learn?  Be careful whose comments you act on.  There are many who have an opinion but if they’ve never read your genre take their suggestions, but consider the source.  My ears are wide open when my critique group speaks now, but I suffered a few false starts before finding them.  And even now, I listen but don’t always agree.  After all it is my book.

4. Take time to feed your creative juices

All work and no play, as they say, makes us dull and, by extension, makes our writing dull.  In order to be creative I must take my camera and find beauty.  Or watch the seagulls line up in rows on the beach.  Maybe even cut , chop and stir to concoct a work-of-art meal, beautifully arranged on the plate.  Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Maureen Jennings’ The Map of Your Mind allowed me to stretch and reshape my way of thinking and creating.  The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne, was a revelation, as well.  Even now I am creating positive thoughts to attract my ‘best life’ (Oprah) to me.  All of these examples foster thinking calisthenics and help us pull those epiphanies to the forefront.

5.  If a project suggests itself over and over you need to do it

Why, you might ask.  Years ago, I read  Jean Little’s Listen for the Singing and found myself afterwards sitting in our screened-in porch, tears streaming down my face.  Not because of the story.  I just so wished I could write like that.  And the feeling persisted leading me to write a compilation cook book and two volumes of personal memories.  But they weren’t enough.  I still needed to write a novel.  Now that I’m finishing that, its sequel and other projects slip and slide around my brain.  But if I put my writing away for any time, sadness creeps into my life, and is only dissipated by sitting down again to the keyboard.  I need to write.

6. Never give up.  There is always a way

Ever had a setback?  Someone tell you your work is crap?  Or part of it, at least?  I have come to realize those are the best readers.  They tell the truth and you can learn from them.  In the early stages of my novel-writing journey (when I thought I was finished, ha ha) I had a number of educated, intelligent people whom I respect read and comment.  Mostly that was a waste of time.  The problems?  a.  They are my friends and b.  they don’t have the background to effectively critique my work.  Their comments fed my ego but not my need to get the darn thing right.  Over time I found my way to an excellent critique group.  My work has improved because of it.

7. Write often for the sheer fun of it, not just on your current project. 

This last point is important.  We all started writing because of the good feeling inside and/or our love of words, not to mention our delight in the power of our writing.  This is why I keep two blogs:  one is about writing, specifically the journey to publication, and the other is purely for fun.  There I insert lots of pictures and comments concerning family and my life, in general.  Rants appear once in a while but mostly I write about my joy in living.  And it’s fun.  No pressure, just fun.  Oh, and I feel so good when I’ve written it just right.

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6 thoughts on “7 Winning Habits for Writers

  1. Elaine,

    So much good advice. I take particular note of point # 3. There is an art to critiquing. I look back on my early days as a critiquer and cringe. Can’t believe some of those authors are still speaking to me.

    Through practice, trial and error, reflection and consideration of how I like to receive feedback (and, on occasion, listening to ‘know-it-all’ critiquers blast another writer), I hope I’ve become more gracious and considerate in return. Honesty is crucial. You can’t candy-coat – that’s no help to the author, but it is important to honour and respect their work, and remember, always, that it is their story, not mine.

    Thank you for bringing these tips to your blog.

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  2. Great tips, Elaine. I’m best in the morning too, and I’ve often missed lunch so engrossed in my manuscript. I love that you mentioned we need to add new experiences to our writing life, get out and paddle a canoe for instance.

    What I need to do is add an exercise routine regularly into my day. Sometimes my back hurts from sitting in front of the computer, yet I it hardly registers as I keep typing. I have to start taking regular stretch breaks and walks. Send some blood to the brain!

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  3. Hi Elaine,
    I had no idea that blogging would become fodder for my creativity. Its great to have an area where I can write whatever I want and get some of the extra stuff out of my brain so I can focus on the work. The other ways I re-charge are regular walks and going to the gym and when the back is aching, I clean the house. That way I still feel productive and I get to do something totally different from sitting. Still feel that Secretarial Spread approaching, but at least the brain is in shape!

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  4. Hi Jessica! OMG that’s the first time I’ve heard cleaning house is an antidote for aching back. Too funny. Your recharge comments hit the mark. Going places, having new experiences, meeting new people, both online and off–all of these feed the imagination. It’s like they make my brain bubble and the only thing that stops it is stirring my writing pot.

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  5. Hi Sharon. You, too, suffer from the aching back when writing too much. My solution is a chair that is great for me but doesn’t even meet the standard any more as it has no arms. It’s a secretarial type which gives me lots of support. My husband offers to buy me a new one but I love this one.
    And the brain shape? It’s humming along most days writing, tweeting, blog posting, reading, writing some more, reading some more, so much so that sometimes at night, I just don’t even want to think about writing. My brain needs a rest. All I can say is, ain’t it great?

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