Did you know that only three percent of hopeful authors who begin writing a novel will ever type “the end”? Why do so many novels fade before they’re completed? Books don’t disappear because the author’s ideas weren’t creative enough. Half-finished stories don’t exist because the author didn’t “want it” enough. It’s certainly not because their plots lacked potential. Rarely do authors lack unique ideas. The hard part is developing the consistent discipline needed to finish.
Don’t worry, your brain was made for this. You are built not only to survive this creative endeavor, but to thrive in this industry! Audiences need to hear what you have to say—your voice—your stories. But how do you beat the odds and become one of the 3%? By developing healthy, consistent, and sustainable writing habits, which is exactly why you’re here!
We’re here to give you some tools to help you develop a personalized plan. In particular, we’re here to offer you a free eWorkbook titled Healthy Writing Habits written by Rachel Huffmire and Beth Buck that you can download below. This eBook will help you actively stretch those writing muscles and figure out what works for you.
Developing Healthy Writing Habits requires custom fit expectations—not goals based on other people’s abilities. This is about you. You deserve to understand what works for you, what you’re capable of, and where your path leads. So come and explore your creativity but also safely plant yourself amid good habits! Why is this important? Let me tell you a story...
A few years ago, I saw someone announce on twitter, “I’m going to write a book! I started today and it’ll be published by Monday! Stay-tuned for updates.” Then, Monday came and went and that author never mentioned their book ever again. I’m certain this author had a fabulous idea they were super excited about and had every intention of writing an entire novel in less than a week. They probably wrote like the wind for a few days, got discouraged, and eventually tossed their novel aside to collect dusk in the abyss that is the bottom drawer–the place where good ideas go to die.
We have narrowed it down to seven topics you’ll need to explore in order to develop habits that will carry you to “the end” over and over again. They are:
Finding Your Voice
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that “every story in the world has already been told.” But here’s the thing, it hasn’t been told by you.
Your voice is a unique and beautiful writing tool that no one else has access to. It’s the reason only you can write the stories inside of you. You are talented and entertaining and have a view of the world that no one else can match. That makes you inherently interesting.
Do you find yourself shaking your head with these difficult to believe statements? You’re not alone. Most of us have a hard time believing we could ever move someone with our creativity.
That’s the voice of your inner critic. Get to know that voice. Recognize it for who it is. It’s not you. It’s a voice of uncertainty and fear that is trying to protect you. It wants to avoid criticism, vulnerability, and struggles.
So finding your voice is finding that honest way of observing the world, and not mistaking your inner critic as your own.
If we keep growing and improving, we’ll finally make it to our goal where we can sit back comfortably and bask in our accomplishments. Right?
That is exactly right.
A frequent question people ask writers is, “where do you get your ideas?” The truth is, ideas can come from anything. In “The Artists Way”, author Julia Cameron talks about filling up a creative well to draw from by engaging your senses with a spectrum of emotions and details around you—not just the pleasant or comfortable ones. All creativity is an interpretation of the world. Soaking in the details will inevitably make you a more creative being. Here’s a few ideas to help you start filling your well:
Find a beautiful photograph and use it as a writing prompt.
Watch movies and take note of the actors’ expressions and dialogue.
Take a walk and pay attention to your senses: the sounds of birds or traffic, the colors in the sky, the temperature of the air on your skin.
Read a research paper and learn about a psychological study.
Filling your mind and soul with new information will translate into ways you perceive and can interpret the world in your own stories.
Even if your first inclination is to begin writing and see where it takes you, let us make an argument for outlining.
Authors who create an outlined schedule not only finish their great American novels, but they finish another one. And another. Good business is all about developing efficient systems that you can predict and replicate. You can plug any story into an outline, and have a schedule that keeps you sane, and gives you an accurate sense of progress.
There’s certainly a time and a place for free-writing, but if your number one goal in this whole endeavor is to type “the end”, you’re going to need a roadmap to get you there. You should never forget that you want to write a novel—a real, coherent story with a beginning, middle, and end. You need a map. You need an outline, at least in some form. The outlining chapter in this eBook gives you a template and specific guidelines to help you figure out your writing speed, how to set your own deadlines, and create a custom plan to keep you on track.
Real-world details elevate any genre of fiction. However, the rabbit hole of research can derail your writing session faster than social media, so you have to structure it appropriately. Employ these tactics when researching to protect that precious writing time and momentum.
In our eBook, we break down four steps to research that will ensure it doesn’t become a time-suck of useless information that the FBI will flag you with. You know... Like how long does it take a dead body to decompose and those other totally appropriate author research topics…
Outlining: Conduct a broad bit of research before starting your rough draft to help make sure you’ve got what you need to structure the plot.
Drafting: Once you begin drafting, you are no longer allowed to research, because it will kill your momentum and easily become a distraction. Leave notes for yourself with research ideas to come back to later.
Revising: Now you’ll go back and do all that nitty-gritty research you need. Like, making sure doorknobs had actually been invented during the time frame of your story…
Beta Reads: This is where you want to start pulling in experts to read your book. Have a lot of guns? You might want a beta reader who is familiar with firearms. Sensitivity readers, grammar police… Anyone with the skills you think might benefit your project.
Even with a good idea of where you’re going, staring at an empty word document can be the most daunting thing in the world. Ahead lies a universe full of ideas, plots, and characters that are entirely at your mercy. Not to mention hundreds of empty pages waiting for you to fill them.
Looking at a project in its entirety can quickly become overwhelming. So, we’re not going to.
Instead, try breaking your project down into a series of small steps, and just focus on the step in front of you.
For example, let’s compare writing a book to running a marathon. No one wakes up one morning and says “I’m going to run a marathon today.” That’s not realistic or healthy. Remember, the first guy to run a marathon back in the days of Ancient Greece actually died. You need to train first. In fact, google recommends at least 16-24 weeks.
The same is true for writing a book. We all love the idea of making one momentous effort and having a shiny, sparkly novel appear overnight, but that’s not realistic. Just like a marathon, you’re going to be miserable, burnout, and maybe even injure yourself.
The most important thing is consistency over time.
Let’s explore an example of the power of consistency:
If you spend 30 minutes a day writing and average 600 words per writing session, in under 3 months you’ll have a 50,000 word novel completed! Think about that. In three months, you could propel yourself into the top 3% of writers!
As you exercise your writing muscles, you’ll find yourself constantly growing and changing. One way to track this is to keep regular track of how many words you produce during sprints and adjust your word count goals accordingly. However, if you want to super-speed the process, you can focus on two areas of improvement:
Typing speed: Wherever you are as a typist, practice can only help improve your speed and accuracy. One great resource that can help you ramp up your skills is typing.com. If typing isn’t your thing or you just need to change it up every now and again, try using auto dictation to lay it all out on the page.
Micro-outlining: Having a broad outline can help keep you headed in the right direction. But outlining on a more detailed level - every scene, every page, maybe even every hundred words - can help keep your literary creativity flowing without having to problem solve broad strokes of your plot and character development on the spot.
Never hit delete. Once you turn off your inner editor, you’ll only experience forward momentum. You can always go back and edit later, but at least in the beginning, you’ll have all your ideas down on the page to work with.
Social motivation: Sometimes you need an outside motivator. This is where writing groups are invaluable. You can schedule writing group sprints where you get together and write together. Accountability buddies are also great - someone to share your goals with who will follow up and check that you’re staying on track.
Character Arcs: Knowing how to create a satisfying progression for a character will help your readers care about your story. Streamlining this process helps you write impactful first drafts. Camille Smithson teaches a great course on character development called “Prewriting and Character Journaling to Dip Deeper.”
Evoking Emotion: We often hear “Show don’t tell” but how can we help our readers feel for themselves instead of observing in others? Author Rosalyn N. Eves teaches a class specifically on this at our conferences called “Writing Emotion: Using the Objective Correlative to Evoke Feeling.”
Natural Dialogue: Natural dialogue reads quickly and pulls readers deeper into the momentum of the story. Author Whitney Hemsath teaches a class called “The Do’s and Don’ts of Dialogue”, everything you need to know about improving your dialogue skills.
Self editing: Knowing how to self-edit means that every time you query, you’ll be more likely to keep acquisition editors and agents reading. Or, if you choose to go into the indie publishing track, it will cost less to work with editors because your manuscript won’t have as much work to do.
Moving Past Blocks
What happens when the fell beast called writer’s block pays you a visit? All writers, even highly successful ones, suffer from creative blocks from time to time. All of them.
Creativity isn’t something that just happens. It isn’t a muse or bolt of inspiration that you have to just sit around and wait for. Creativity is a form of problem-solving. And sometimes problems aren’t easy to work through. Sometimes they require approaching it from a new angle. The more you use those problem-solving muscles, the more you’ll feel confident in a growth mindset to help you overcome those challenges.
These habits might seem like inconsequential little things, but day by day, over the course of weeks and months, they will increase your ability to write productively. You will be in that three percent of authors with a real, live, finished novel.
Everyone has a different routine or method that works for them, and you need to explore what not only works, but brings you joy.
Discovering some new and exciting creative exercises won’t just help you move through your novel, it will teach you more about yourself, as well. Isn’t that why you’re writing? To creatively tap into the psychological, physiological, and spiritual depth of the world around you? To explore it and open others’ eyes to your view of the universe?
With healthy writing habits, you’ll finally be able to do exactly that!
So download your free copy today and get started.