I want to become a successful writer. And by success, I mean I want to be published by a reputable publisher. (Yes, I know there are other measures of success, but this one is mine.)
But I am my own worst enemy. I procrastinate. I criticise my efforts. I denigrate my meagre achievements. I work endlessly on the same paragraph, again and again and again. I abandon work. Sometimes I wake up and decide I’m being completely delusional and I must give it all up immediately and do something else instead. Does this sound familiar to you?
This morning I read an interesting post by Randy Ingermanson on habits and how to form good habits as a writer. Randy is “the Snowflake guy” and has an excellent E-zine for fiction writers. If you want to read his original post, you can read his March 4th edition for yourself.
This led me to thinking of what habits to adopt and, as usual, I turned to other writers for advice. There is a lot of advice out there. Tons. Now some people talk about the habit of “confidence” and others talk about “writing from the heart”. All very admirable. But vague. How exactly do you develop the habit of confidence? How do you write from the heart?
The Merriam Webster dictionary gives the following definition:-
Habit: a usual way of behaving : something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way.
This is more helpful. Habits have to be regular and they have to be repeated. And, I suspect, it easier to adopt a new habit if you keep it really simple.
So, here is my take on it.
The 7 Habits of Successful Writers
- Write every day: even if it’s just a piece of nonsense about the dream you had last night. Just write.
- Read widely: not just your usual or favourite authors. Pick random books. Explore a new genre.
- Be endlessly curious about people and their lives. The key phrases are “I wonder why” and “what if”.
- Re-edit ruthlessly. Then re-edit some more.
- Seek out beta readers and consider their suggestions for improvement.
- Finish the story / novel / piece of non-fiction / blog post. Keep going until you can write [THE END]
- Submit. A friend once said, “I wish I could win a competition and have a story published.” I asked how many competitions they had entered. “None.” Huh? You can’t be published if you never submit.
What other people say:
Kristi Holl: 7 Habits of a Highly Successful Writer
Henri Junttila: 7 Habits of Highly Prolific Writers.
Daphne Gray-Grant: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Writers.
Ali Luke: 7 Habits of Serious Writers.
Leo Babauta: 7 Writing Habits of Amazing Writers.
11 thoughts on “7 Habits of Successful Writers”
This is really useful thanks. One day I will finish my Great Novel!
One day you WILL. But you may have to wait for those kids to get a bit older first!
Brilliant Ruth, and all so true. I always find I write better when I’ve read a new author. Will make a note of those. Thank you for sharing.
I’ve been reading romance and teen fiction recently (neither genre is my usual up of tea). Interesting to see how the stories are structured and the style of language used.
I could have written your opening paragraphs. I was nodding my head reading that list too. Seems I have a long way to go yet. 🙂 I agree reading outside your usual genre, is a good idea. I’ve just beta read an erotic novella, and a young adult story.
Hi Maria, I’ve enjoyed picking random books off the library shelves. So many good writers out there. And, reassuringly, so many imperfect writers too. Hope for all of us 🙂
Excellent habits. Particularly that last one. You’ve got to be in it to win it, to coin a phrase.
Yes, and you have to develop a thick skin. Plenty of knock-backs and just the occasional success.
I completely agree. My own ‘sticking’ point is number 6. I have promised myself I’ll finish the current script and novel before I allow myself to start any new writing projects!
That’s my big problem too. Instead of finishing the 3rd big edit of my novel, I’ve been blogging about a writing conference, updating my coastal walk blog and, oh yes, I’ve started drafting a little ebook about improving your memory. Now, what were those 7 habits again? 🙂