You have an idea for a book. Or maybe you just want to start journaling or author a blog. When you actually sit down and try to begin, it can be harder than you thought. So, how to write and write well? Although each writer’s method varies, and you’ll discover what works best for you, there are some fundamentals to consider as you begin your writing journey.
If you’re like me, your desire to write came from a love of reading. Read a variety of authors and styles. Analyze and take notes while you read, and figure out what works and what doesn’t. What hooks you in a book? What types of characters feel realistic? How does a writer make you feel like you’re part of the story? Can you see, touch, hear, taste, and smell all the things the author describes? What parts do you skim or skip over when you read? (Hint: don’t write those parts when you are writing.)
When I go into my home office and sit down at my keyboard, my brain is conditioned to know it’s time to write. Even my dog knows it’s work time. You could have a special spot at the library, a table at a coffee shop, or your favorite comfy recliner and your laptop. Wherever it is, designate it as your writing spot. It’s where you work and needs to be conducive to your task. Do you need to listen to music for inspiration, be in an active environment surrounded by people, or a quiet space? Maybe you’ll find dictating your words works best?
For me, I work best in a semi-quiet environment for long stretches at a time. My ideal space means having paper, pens, a whiteboard, sticky notes, a great chair, access to the Internet for research, and a place to keep my cup of tea at hand. Some authors can’t be online while writing since the temptation to get distracted is too great. Figure out what works for you and makes you the most productive.
When writing fiction, resist the urge to worry about spelling and grammar as you’re writing. Trying to perfect each sentence or word during your first draft process can impede your progress, and you may wind up throwing in the towel. Tell your story, let it flow onto the screen or paper, and then go back to tweak and edit it later.
It takes time to form a habit, so be prepared to commit to your craft. The more you write, the better you’ll get at it. I write almost every single day. Some authors adhere to a set number of hours or a strict word count per day. If you commit to 1,000 words a day, it’s easy to see how you can complete an 80,000-word book in a few months, but only if you’re diligent.
Every author has her preferred method for writing. For me, I tend to end my writing day at the end of a chapter or scene. When I’m writing, I feel like I’m right there with the characters, immersed in the story, and have a hard time stopping because of the hands on the clock or the number of words on the counter. Others advocate for stopping mid-scene or mid-chapter because it can make it easier to pick up where you left off in the story, like a built-in writing prompt.
When making writing a habit, it’s still important to plan your time to best suit you. I’m at my best in the morning, so I make a point of being in my office working early in the day. I’ve discovered how important it is to schedule breaks, to save my neck and back. Some authors do twenty-minute sprints and then take a break. I tend to write for an hour, take a short break to walk around or lie flat on the floor, and then get back to my desk. Keep your own physical limitations in mind when you devise your writing schedule.
Like all important things in life, writing won’t just happen, you’ll need to make a plan and schedule time for you to pursue it. It may mean early in the morning, late at night, or just short breaks throughout the day. For me, routine works best and makes me the most productive.
Some authors like to start their writing day by going back and reading what they wrote the previous day; citing it helps them get back into the story. If I’m feeling stuck, I sometimes go back and read earlier passages and find it helpful, but usually, if I’m stalled on a scene or chapter, I move on to the next one or take a break. Stepping away from the manuscript and letting my mind wander by taking a walk or watching a movie is usually the solution.
If you struggle to meet your goals, whether it be words per day or hours per day, you may benefit from a writing buddy. Writing, by nature, is often solitary and can be lonely. Writing buddies serve to help you stay on track and committed to your schedule and can also talk through issues or sticking points. You may also find a writing buddy who is willing to read your work and provide valuable feedback, but you’ll need to be open and willing to accept it.
To find a writing buddy, search for critique groups and use social media to find groups on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, or Meetup. Local and regional writing organizations, many of which are genre-specific, are often helpful in connecting you with writing buddies. Writing conferences are also a great resource and my number one recommendation for new writers.
Writers are lifelong learners. After publishing nearly 1,000,000 words, I continue to learn and improve. Now that you have some ideas on how to write don’t procrastinate. Just put your fingers to the keyboard or pen to paper and write the words. If it’s your calling, you won’t be able to stop.