How Can I Develop Good Writing Habits?

'How Can I Develop Good Writing Habits?' expands on the top tip in Writer's Connect newsletter Issue 62. Practise, then practise, and practise some more! By looking at some of the habits of a good writer, it should help you identify some ways you too can hone your craft, one word at a time.

Paper plane over cityscape - The Habits of a Good Writer

Be Concise

I'll say it time and time again—the phrase 'less is more' is highly relevant to the discipline of writing! Know what you want to say, and say it in as few words as possible. Not only does it project authority, but it's a powerful way of getting your message across and ensures you don't end up waffling.

You don't have to notarise every step your characters take, nor should they give a speech when a sentence will suffice. Trimming the fat, so to speak, is one of the most crucial habits of a good writer.

Don't Be Selfish

Stephen King's phrase 'kill your darlings' refers not to advancing menacingly upon your loved ones, but admitting to yourself when something just isn't working or doesn't belong in your current writing project and removing it, no matter how much you love it.

For example, let's say you wake up one morning with a pithy one-liner in your mind. You start trying to find ways to work it into your story ... but no matter where you place it or how you write around it, you can't shake the feeling that it's a little self-indulgent, feels out of place, and doesn't really contribute anything to the narrative.

Another example could be a side character or subplot you find yourself deeply invested in. Because you love them so much, you end up giving them too much of the limelight and overwriting them. However fantastically crafted they may be, leaning too heavily into them will interrupt the flow of the core narrative.

These are the darlings you must kill.

Write, Then Write Again

In the same spirit as above, you must learn to accept that not everything you write is going to make the final cut. As eager as you may be to increase your word count and inch closer to completion, it just isn't worth leaving in something you're less than happy with. If it doesn't look right to you, it's probably not going to look right to your readers either!

Having said that, you don't always have to go nuclear on a section that isn't working as hard as you'd like it to. If editing it isn't working, try opening up another document and rewriting it from scratch. You can use as much or as little of your original vision as you like—just make sure that you don't accidentally create any loose ends!

This May Surprise You ...

... but at the forefront of the habits of good writers is writing! That is, writing consistently. While it certainly wouldn't hurt, you don't have to sit down at the keyboard for three hours every day. If you can spare even twenty minutes out of every day to dedicate to writing—even if ten of those are spent staring at a blank page—you will be well on your way to improving your game and moving closer to a finished product.

If you'd like some help with motivation, techniques, or moving through something you're working on, see our book coaching & writing programs or editing services.

Word of the Day

diablerie (n.)
/dɪˈɑːbləri/

Those who possess diablerie have a devilish charm. Reckless and wild, they are filled to the brim with a seductive, mischievous energy that bespeaks the word's origin, once reserved for black magic and sorcery.

The dancer's finesse and diablerie drew in crowds from the world over.

Quotidian Quote

"If writing is easy, you're doing it wrong."
~ Bryan Hutchinson

Get Competitive!

A selection of current writing competitions YOU can enter!

Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Competition

Format: Poetry
Theme: Spirituality
Word Count: max. 1,000
Entry Fee: $15
Prize: $500
Closes: 1/08/2022

Click here for more details

Poetry of the Sacred - The Habits of Good Writers

YeahWrite Super Challenge #25 - Summer Microfiction Contest

Format: Microfiction
Theme: Retelling of story (prompt provided)
Word Count: max. 100
Entry Fee: $25
Prize: $150
Closes: 7/08/2022

Click here for more details

YeahWrite Super Challenge

Searchlight Awards - Best Novel Opening

Format: Novel
Theme: For children or young adults
Word Count: max. 1,200
Entry Fee: £14
Prize: £1,000 plus publication
Closes: 22/08/2022

Click here for more details

Searchlight Awards

Literature Matters - Royal Society of Literature Award

Format: Grant / proposal
Theme: Any
Word Count: Unlimited
Entry Fee: Nil
Prize: Varies
Closes: 24/08/2022

Click here for more details

Literature Matters

A NOTE ON WRITING COMPETITIONS

Before you go all-in on an entry for any of the above competitions, it's highly recommended that you look over the fine print to make sure that your submission qualifies and you're happy with the terms of engagement.

To help yourself make an informed decision, the Australian Society of Authors has a highly informative post on their website called 'What to look for in a writing competition's T&Cs' .
To locate the article, click on 'Home', then 'News'.

Photo credit Andrey Larin, Unsplash

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