Who better than a publication coach to learn good writing habits from? These tips may seem odd – such as turning your monitor off while you type – but they’ll make you a better writer.
“I had a tough time not editing while writing for years,” says Vancouver-based publication coach Daphne Gray-Grant. “Then I started turning off my monitor while I wrote. That worked! If that strategy seems too drastic to you, then simply cover your monitor with a towel.”
This was a writing habit that I, too, struggled with – until this publication coach broke me of it. I write faster now that I power through without editing every sentence. Plus, the quality of my writing has increased.
If you want to write but have bad writing habits, read 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists: Insider Secrets from Top Writers — it’s a great resource for getting and staying motivated!
And here are Gray-Grant’s writing tips…
10 Good Writing Habits – Tips From a Publication Coach
Guest Post ~ Daphne Gray-Grant
I listen to the radio while I do my back exercises every morning, and these days the airwaves are filled with nothing but talk about New Year’s resolutions. While most of the publicity goes to weight loss, exercise and stopping smoking, I know that many or you aim to buff and polish your writing habits when the calendar rolls from one year to the next.
Here are my writing tips for this year and beyond…
1. Be specific about your writing goals. Don’t just resolve to become a “better writer.” Instead, promise to write 150 words a day. That’s the length of a typical email! You can do that — right? At the end of a year, even if you take every weekend off, you’ll have a total of 39,000 words. That’s half a book! Double your output to 350 words per day and you’ll have an entire book within a year.
2. Write down your goals and plans. Nothing makes something more specific than writing it down. This is one of the most effective writing habits because it makes your goals concrete and visible.
3. Review your writing goals daily. I LOVE lists. In fact, I start each morning with a 13-point list of items I do first thing every day. I feel accomplished as I make the 13 little check marks, even though all the tasks are almost shamefully easy. Something about making the check mark is deeply invigorating.
4. Make your goals small and manageable. Did you notice how I began this list with a suggestion of writing only 150 words? If that seems too onerous to you, then reduce it! Aim for 75 words. If you make the task small enough, you’ll actually do it.
5. Write daily. I know, it might sound frightening to commit to doing something every day but paradoxically, this is often easier than doing something sporadically. I now enjoy writing, so that’s not my problem. But, I dislike my back exercises. Still, I do them first thing every morning. Doing something small, regularly, is a lot more valuable than doing something big, rarely.
6. Be accountable to someone. Get yourself a writing buddy or make a commitment in a public fashion (a blog, perhaps?) that will “force” you to do your writing. If you can’t think of anything else you can always resolve to do something you really don’t want (suggestion: make a donation to a political party you dislike) if you fail to achieve your writing goals.
7. Follow a writing model. You’re a writer, not an inventor. Instead of feeling you have to start from scratch, find an example of a piece of writing you really like. If you want to write a book, look for a book. Ditto for a story, a blog post or magazine article. Then study what the other author has done and copy his or her techniques. (Note: I’m saying techniques — not exact phrasing!).
8. Give yourself a reward. Achieving your writing goals should always pay off. If you create better writing habits, give yourself a prize, regularly – at least once a month and perhaps as frequently as once a day. The prize doesn’t have to be chocolate brownies! It can be a latte, a pound of excellent tea or a great magazine.
9. Don’t edit while you write. I had a tough time with this resolution for years. Then I started turning off my monitor while I wrote. That worked! If that strategy seems too drastic to you, then simply cover your monitor with a towel.
10. Begin with a mind map. I’ve written and spoken many times about why mind mapping is superior to outlining. This incredibly simple technique can remove so much of the pain from writing.
Make writing goals or habits strategic, and you’ll have a lot to celebrate by this time next year!
Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of the popular book 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a brief and free weekly newsletter on her website. Subscribe by going to the Publication Coach.
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