Writing Tools and Habits for Successful Novelists


These writing tools and habits for successful novelists are from New York Times bestseller Vicki Pettersson, who is working on her fourth book. She spoke at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference in British Columbia about writers’ self-sabotage, goals and habits.

Outwardly, Pettersson looks like a writing success. But, like most writers, she struggles with motivation, time, and energy. She doesn’t feel totally successful…





“I just feel like I’m failing forward,” says Pettersson. She describes herself as a mule who wants it really bad…so she stays focused and determined to keep writing her books. “We sabotage ourselves in so many ways to keep ourselves from doing what we want to do.”

Pettersson recommends the book The Success Principles by Jack Canfield – it’s full of practical ways to be successful in whatever you want to do. Click on the book cover for more info, and read on for Pettersson’s writing tools, tips, and habits for successful novelists….

Goal Setting in Writing: Tools and Habits for Successful Novelists

“If you learn from your mistakes and change your behavior, your failures will be part of your success story,” says Pettersson.

1. Protect your time to work. If you don’t shore up your time, no one else will. Be obsessive about protecting your time. Keep your promises to yourself – it’ll give you momentum and endurance.

2. Stop saying “this is the way I write.” Don’t get stuck on one particular way to write, outline, blog, or do research. Be open to exploring new techniques and abandoning the tools that don’t work.

3. Think of writing as active, not passive. “Do it fast and do it now,” says Pettersson. Don’t put things off to do later, whether it’s revising chapter three or querying a magazine.



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4. Use mind maps. Pettersson uses mind maps for characterization, plot, chapter summaries, and whole books. If you haven’t used mind maps yet, she recommends you try.

5. Hear your own voice first. You don’t necessarily need to do Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, but you do have to hear yourself first (Cameron recommends Morning Pages every day, to clear your mind). “You need to process the world through your own experiences before you can understand your characters,” says Pettersson.

6. Use a working journal. Pettersson learned this tip from Sue Grafton. In a working journal, you write a sentence or two about what’s holding you back from writing today, or what’s bothering you. Then you move into your book or article – and suddenly you’re writing dialogue or description! It’s a journal of both your life and your writing.

7. Be accountable. Partner up with critique partners, because “you can’t do this alone,” says Pettersson. Find a good writers’ forum, a critique group, or an individual writing mentor.

8. Use Scrivener. This is a writer’s software program that Petterssen can’t live without. Scrivener works faster, saves every two seconds, allows you to separate chapters and scenes, and files your scenes on the side of your desktop.

“It’s your responsibility to seek out your own happiness,” says Pettersson. For writers, this can mean anything from locking your “office” door when you work to trying mind maps for the first time!







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What do you think of Pettersson’s writing tools and habits for successful novelists? I especially love her opening quip about self-sabotage!


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4 thoughts on “Writing Tools and Habits for Successful Novelists

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi Gary,

    Thanks for your informtion about Scrivener — fascinating! And what skill he had, to be able to write AND create a software program. Very different talents, I think.

  • Gary H.

    I don’t think I would have been able to write my novel were it not for Scrivener and its support for non-linear writing, outlining, research, image and document importation or full screen mode. It is an indispensable tool for any serious writer. I would put it on my top ten list of must-have applications as a Mac user. There is a Windows alternative, but it doesn’t come close. The developer of Scrivener was a writer who was frustrated with not being able to find software that could do all the things he wanted to do a writer, so he learned how to write software and made it himself. Could you ask for a better source for creating such a terrific software program made especially for writers?

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

    I agree — but I’ve heard that there’s a similar writer’s tool for PC users. I’m not sure what it’s called.

    Pettersson RAVED about her Mac. She said she didn’t want one at first, but found PC’s too frustrating. She fell in love with her Mac right away, and says she’d never go back.

    I need to find someone with a Mac so I can give it a test drive!