10 Good Writing Habits – Tips From a Publication Coach

10 Good Writing Habits - Tips From a Publication CoachWho 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 Writersit’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.

Gray-Grant also contributed 8 Stress Management Tips for Writers and 5 Ways to Salvage Writing Disasters, here on Quips & Tips for Successful Writers.

If you have any thoughts or tips on creating better writing habits or being a successful writer, please comment below…

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8 thoughts on “10 Good Writing Habits – Tips From a Publication Coach”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your tips! I can’t imagine turning off my monitor when I write…I, too, would have a screen of gobbly gook.

    But, turning off email, Twitter, and the telephone is very effective.

  2. Another tip is to turn off the internet when you write. I have a problem with people messaging me when I am trying to write or pop ups that tell me “you have a new email” and I tend to get distracted.

  3. Writing down your goals and making them attainable is definitely one of the keys to success with online article writing. Great article thanks for sharing it!

  4. Turning off the monitor while you write is an awesome suggestion! I, too, find it difficult not to edit when I’m supposed to be drafting. Trouble is, my typing is so bad, anything I write without seeing the screen is likely to be a whole load of goobledegook!

  5. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    JM ~ Very cool — I didn’t know Vonnegut actually had NAMES for writers who edit as they write, and writers who just write! Why do you think it’s easier to be a basher? I can totally see how it holds you back…and I can tell you from experience that once you train yourself to just let those words, phrases, and sentences go, you’ll be a far happier and more productive writer.

    Prerna ~ I’m glad to hear that you’re setting a daily writing goal! I’d love to hear how it goes, and hope you keep me posted.

    I’ve taken the writing coach’s tips to heart, and have even started writing the smallest of chores on my list. She’s right; it feels great to tick off even the littlest things 🙂

  6. Love lists.. So, yeah, am going to set my self the daily goal of writing a certain number of words or probably articles every day.. Hmm.. Now have to find an accountability buddy..:-)

    Thanks for sharing these Laurie.. They’re really going to help me write better and faster.. Will keep you posted. 🙂

  7. I can especially relate to #9.

    Re: self-editing, Kurt Vonnegut said that there are two kinds of writers: swoopers and bashers.

    Swoopers dive right in and tell the tale from beginning to end, don’t stop to think or turn a phrase, just want to get it done. Bashers are more like tinkerers and they have to get things right the first time, every word must sing right from the get-go.
    Paradoxically, it is far easier to be a basher than a swooper. The temptation to self-edit is so strong. It has held me back for a long time and I still struggle with it!