8 Habits of Highly Effective Writers – How to Write a Book

These habits of highly effective writers will show you how to write a book; they’re based in part on a fantastic book called 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists. Some of these writing tips will give you something new to chew on…and others will make you cringe at how difficult good writing really is…

Before the tips, a quip:

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” ~ Orson Scott Card.

To be a highly effective writer with strong “idea muscles”, practice seeing ideas wherever you go. Even better, learn to recognize the great book or article ideas (also know as “ideas that sell” — which is what working writers live off of!). The following habits of effective writers are from Andrew McAleer’s 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists: Insider Secrets from Top Writers. which is an inspiring, informative round-up of writing advice from published authors.

8 Habits of Highly Effective Writers – How to Write a Book

1. Keep flexing your idea muscle — and remember that it takes practice. “The key is to train your mind to find ideas and to realize that they can come from anywhere,” writes McAleer in 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists. “As you hone your idea-detector, you will quickly learn that finding ideas is not difficult. Ultimately, it’s how you use these ideas that makes all the difference.”

2. Make your characters bleed – whether you’re writing a book or feature article. “The next time you watch your favorite sitcom or drama, observe that all of the scenes are arguments,” writes Tom Sawyer in 101 Habits. “Stories – both comedy and drama – are about people expressing their emotions. Letting go. We enjoy watching people who are acting out – because by comparison our own lives and emotions are dull (read: quietly suppressed).” Highly effective writers build conflict, suspense, and tension into everything they write – from feature articles to leaflets to blog posts.

3. Stop comparing yourself to other writers. “There will always be someone who writes faster, or slower, or gets a bigger advance, or better advertising,” writes Carrie Vaughn in 101 Habits. “Everyone’s career and writing process is a little different. Follow your own path.” You’re not Stephen King or Martha Beck — and that’s okay. If you want to write a book or article — if you want to be a highly effective writer — be yourself.

4. Build a firm foundation. “The plot, like the foundation of a house, is the structure on which all else is built,” writes Mary Higgins Clark in 101 Habits. “No matter how glib the writing, how enchanting the characters, if the plot doesn’t work, or if it works only because of flagrant coincidence or seven-page explanations of the climax, the book is a failure.”  When you’re writing a book or article, make sure you construct a solid foundation; use a mind map or outline to get and stay organized.

5. Re-read books and feature articles you wished you’d written. “The first time, read for pleasure,” writes Cinda Williams Chima in 101 Habits. “Enter the dream of fiction and stay there. If the book is stunningly good, read it a second time to found out the how of it. Reading for craft takes the juice out of fiction, but it is a fabulous way to learn how to write well.” This writing tip takes the fun out of reading, but it will help make you a highly effective writer — and it’ll help you write a book!

6. Write powerful query letters. “Remember that agents (and editors and publishers) get thousands of submissions each year, so keep your query letter to one page,” writes McAleer in 101 Habits. “The content of the query letter must be powerful and designed to sell, but keep the format simple because for an agent (and editor), time is of the essence. And yes, time is money.” Remember that writing “rules” can be effectively broken sometimes – it just depends on who and what you’re querying.

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7. Adjust your expectations of a literary agent. “An agent is your employee, which is sometimes a difficult concept to understand, when it seems to be the agents who are ‘accepting’ or ‘rejecting’ the writer,” writes Joan Johnston in 101 Habits. “Don’t depend on your agent to set the course of your career. He or she can advise you, but you should be the captain of your own ship. You should have some idea of what you’re worth and tell your agent what you expect in terms of an advance, how many books you want in the contract, etc.”

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“A writing career is nothing more than a long series of disappointments punctuated by occasional moments of success,” writes Michael Bracken in 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists: Insider Secrets from Top Writers. “Maintaining a long writing career involves a little bit of talent, a little bit of luck, and a great deal of determination.”

Do you have thoughts or questions on these habits of highly effective writers? Please comment below…

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8 thoughts on “8 Habits of Highly Effective Writers – How to Write a Book

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Wow….to be a writer who is never rejected….I never knew such a thing was possible! Maybe that writer never submits anything to editors, agents, or publishers. That’s the only way I know of not to get rejected.

  • Tracey

    Great tips. It’s true I often forget that an agent is looking out for themselves, not me. Also good point that I shouldn’t compare my writing to Dean R. Koontz or other successful authors, after all I am unique and my own person.

    And you are right, ideas can come from the news, on the street, from your friends, from your dreams, anywhere. It’s sticking to one idea that I have problems with.

  • Michael LaRocca

    Get used to disappointment? A reply to one of my columns was “you shouldn’t tell authors they’ll get rejected because some, like me, never are.” So naturally I suggested that he write the column instead of me, and he vanished. Gotta love the Internet.

  • Laurie PK

    Thanks, George and Robert!

    My favorite quip is Bracken’s “A writing career is nothing more than a long series of disappointments punctuated by occasional moments of success.”

    It’s SO true, and it helps increase writing motivation and productivity to be aware that disppointments, rejections, failures are the name of the writing game.
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..Example of a Query Letter for Unpublished Writers =-.

  • Tumblemoose


    There are a lot of writing tips out there, and a lot of them seem to be a re-hash of the same ol’.

    These are different and have a real world sense to them. I believe they are print-worthy so that is exactly what I am going to do.

    Thanks for another great one.