1. Form a Habit (It’s easier with a routine). Distractions are everywhere. There is always something else to do, somebody you need to talk to, somewhere you need to go. Finding time for writing can be difficult. So it is important to set aside some time on a regular basis. Write everyday (or, at least, as often as you can). Get up early, go to bed late, set aside your lunch hour. Regularly setting aside some time to write can help you to more easily ‘enter the zone’, pick up where you last left off, and more effectively progress to a completed manuscript. It also helps to find a dedicated writing space, if you can.
2. Reading is Important. Reading helps to expose you to new styles, ideas, inspirations, writers, characters, images, motivations (and motives), descriptions, and more. It keeps your writing and your mind fresh, inspired, and is a good way to relax/de-stress. Read a range of different books, in different styles, by different authors. Read as many books in the genres you are writing as you can find. Then read something completely different. Reading is absolutely necessary for good writing. But even if it wasn’t, it’s a great idea.
3. Don’t Edit while you Write. Or, as my Creative Writing tutor used to say “Wear different hats”. This is so hard to do if you’re used to editing as you go along. If it works for you, then go ahead and skip to the next point. If you’re like me, the separation of writing and editing into two distinct stages – though difficult – is a much better way to write and benefits the overall story. For example: don’t worry about perfecting your last sentence, just get it written. You’ll come back to edit it later. All that matters at this stage is the general gist, and getting that first draft onto paper. It doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s for the edit. As screenwriter Tony Grounds once said, “Don’t get it right, get it writ. And then worry about getting it right.”
4. Everything Counts (Never throw anything away). Editing (or redrafting) your work is bound to result in passages that you feel are best filed under ‘Recycle Bin’. However, it’s worth keeping these passages in a ‘scrapbook’ or ‘archive’ folder for future reference. That the passage doesn’t work for your current project doesn’t mean that you might not be able to use it with/in a future project. Perhaps you’ll never use it. Perhaps it will inspire a new work all of its own. Either way, you’ll never know if you just delete it.
5. Be Enthusiastic about your Writing. It’s always a boost to get a positive reaction, or review, from someone after showing them a project you’ve been working on. Negative comments however can have the opposite effect. Not everybody will like your story. Not everyone likes the same things, after all. Just because Mandy Smith happens to enjoy reading zombie period drama doesn’t mean that Mitchell Shaw will like it as well. In the same way, Mandy Smith may not like the sci-fi pirate romance novels that Mitchell Shaw likes. It doesn’t matter. At this point, all that counts is that you enjoy the story you are writing. Your enthusiasm and interest in your work, and your enjoyment while you are writing, will shine through in your work and make for a better overall story than something you are yourself quite bored with.
6. Carry a Notepad and Pen. Better yet – also carry a dictaphone, or other digital voice recorder (most phones/tablets have this as an option). You never know when inspiration will strike. And it’s far less embarrassing to explain a notepad with scribbles on it than pen or eyeliner words scrawled all over your body (trust me on that).
7. Take a Break. Don’t forget to take some time to relax – give your brain and eyes a rest, and go outside for an hour or two. Maybe take a walk, or go for a run, etc. Do something you enjoy. If you feel better your writing will also benefit.
8. A Support Network is Really Useful. Writing can be a solitary affair, so it helps to have people around you who understand – or, at least, support – you in your creative quest. If friends or family aren’t right to talk to about your writing, then maybe find a local writing group. Or an online one. Or even just one fellow writer you connect with. Not only can these people offer you encouragement and support, but they can also provide helpful feedback on your work.
9. Always Back-Up Your Work. Fairly self-explanatory, but very important. Ensure you don’t lose your writing by keeping it safe.
10. One Section at a Time. The prospect of writing a story can be daunting, particularly if you are unsure about the direction you want your story to take (or if your characters are rebelling against your carefully planned plot). I’ve found that breaking the story into smaller sections, or segments, can help to ease the pressure of writing. Tackle one small, manageable chunk at a time.