7 Habits of Serious Writers

by Ali on January 28, 2011

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blackkeyboardImage credit: aless&ro

With thanks to Michael Pollock for the article suggestion and title.

I’ve been writing, on and off, since my early teens – but it’s only in the last three years that I’ve really taken my writing seriously.

It’s made a dramatic difference. I write far, far more. I write better. I finish things – something which, at one point in my writing life, was pretty much unheard of.

In the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside all sorts of great writers, during my MA in Creative Writing, and in my freelancing. I’ve noticed that serious writers – people who finish novels, who publish ebooks, who run successful freelancing businesses – typically have most of the following seven habits:

Habit #1: Writing

To be a serious writer, you have to write.

Yes, that’s obvious. But I’ve met a lot of would-be writers who don’t actually write on a regular basis.

Maybe you’re one of them. You’d love to call yourself a “writer”, but most weeks, you don’t really get anything written. You have plans, sure. You read writing magazines or blogs. Perhaps you feel that you’re not quite ready to write yet – you’re not good enough yet.

Unfortunately, you won’t get any better at writing unless you actually write.

I know it’s tough. I know that it’s really hard to get over that resistance to write – which can seem almost insurmountable at times. (Kyeli has a great piece here about this, The really good stuff is worth working really hard for.)

You can do it.

Writing “regularly” is key here. That doesn’t mean you have to write every single day. If you can write every other day – three or four days a week – that’s fine. Even if you can only write once or twice a week, that’s fine. Just don’t let week after week slip by without any writing at all.

Get Serious

Write. Every week. Find small blocks of time to set aside for writing, and use them. Don’t worry about how good your writing is – just concentrate on getting words down on the page.

Habit #2: Focus

Maybe you’ve planned to write for two hours on a Saturday morning. You sit down at the computer. You have a quick glance at the news headlines – and then you check Twitter or Facebook, and follow a link …

Writing is hard work – and you’ll come up with all sorts of distractions to keep you from it. Don’t feel guilty or bad about this: it’s something which every writer experiences, at least some of the time.

Serious writers, though, know how to help themselves focus.

That might mean turning off your internet connection, working in a library, or simply closing the door while you’re writing.

Focusing isn’t just about willpower – it’s also about setting up the right working environment, and finding ways to remind yourself to stay on task.

Get Serious

When you’re writing, set a timer for fifteen minutes (you can increase this as you get used to it). While the timer’s running, write and do nothing else. No checking emails, making coffee, doodling on scrap paper…

Habit #3: Reading

If you’re a writer, your job is to take thoughts, emotions and ideas and turn them into words. This isn’t as simple as it sounds – it can be tough to convey something accurately, or poignantly, with nothing but black marks on a page.

By reading, you’ll see how other writers tackle similar problems. You’ll learn what works, and what doesn’t. You’ll know what’s been done before, over and over again, and what hasn’t.

You should definitely read work by other authors in your area: if you’re writing a thriller, read thrillers; if you’re writing a sales page, read sales pages. But, ideally, you’ll want to read as widely as possible – leaving yourself open to new ideas and techniques.

In today’s always-on world, it’s hard to find time to sit and read a book. I find that if I’ve got a book to hand – on the coffee table, at the side of my bed, in my bag – then chances are, I’ll pick it up.

Get Serious

Grab one of those books that you’ve been meaning to read for ages – and start on it. Try to read for at least half-an-hour a day.

Habit #4: Learning

Simply reading isn’t going to teach you everything that you need to know as a writer. You could read dozens of novels, but you’d probably still struggle to see how best to put one together yourself. You’re only seeing the finished product – not the process of planning, structuring, drafting and redrafting that led up to it.

There are tons of books, websites and courses that can help you become a better writer. Look for some which tackle your specific area of writing (e.g. writing an ebook) or ones which help with a particular writing problem (e.g. improving your grammar).

You need to think about what you’re writing, and how it works to capture reader attention. You need to devote conscious attention to improving your work to make it more effective. More readable. More captivating and compelling.

(James Chartrand, Why You Shouldn’t Write Often, Men with Pens)

Get Serious

Browse through these great writing blogs, and bookmark or print any articles which you think you can learn from:

(And feel free to stick around here at Aliventures, too ;-))

Habit #5: Redrafting

Ernest Hemingway famously said “The first draft of anything is shit.”

Serious writers don’t just write a piece and call it “done”. They redraft it, often several times.

Redrafting means more than simply checking for typos. After the first draft of a long work, like a novel or ebook, redrafting will often mean cutting, adding and merging whole chapters or sections. Even with a shorter piece, like a blog post, redrafting could well mean making quite major changes.

When you pick up a paperback in a shop, that book has inevitably been through more than one draft by the author, and has had an editor’s attention too. So don’t be disappointed if your first draft doesn’t seem good enough – it’s the same for every single author. You just don’t get to see their first drafts.

Get Serious

Go back to something which you drafted but never rewrote. Look for the potential in it – and reshape the piece to bring out that potential.

Habit #6: Professionalism

Having a professional attitude to your writing means, essentially, taking it seriously. Valuing what you do, and doing it well.

Generally, behaving professionally also means making attempts to get your work published – whether that’s online, on paper, paid or unpaid.

If you’re a freelancer (even if that’s on a very part-time basis), professionalism means sticking to agreed deadlines, communicating well with clients, setting high standards for yourself – and meeting them.

If you write fiction, professionalism means following submission guidelines carefully, presenting your best work, and respecting other people’s time.

Even if you’re not yet making any money from your writing, it still pays to behave professionally. Other writers – and associated gatekeepers, like agents and editors – will take you much more seriously.

Get Serious

Look for places to submit your work – perhaps guest posts to blogs, or short stories to competitions. Follow the guidelines carefully, and remember that agents/editors are typically swamped with unsolicited manuscripts.

Habit #7: Reflection

Serious writers reflect on what they’re writing.

That means putting serious thought into your work-in-progress, particularly when it comes to the redrafting stage. It means being a bit introspective about your writing process – for instance, figuring out your best time of day for writing.

Reflection is about taking a step back, so that you can see more clearly. You might journal about a particular project, recording any problems that come up, and writing about how you solved them – this is useful if a similar problem crops up again in your next piece.

You’ll also want to think about your writing career as a whole. What have you accomplished so far? What could you build on? What are your goals? Where are you hoping to get to? You don’t need to look at these questions every day, of course – just stop and take stock once a month or so.

Get Serious

Where would you like to take your writing over the next year? How can you make sure you’re on track for that?

Bonus: Get REALLY Serious

If you’re going to be a writer, you need to find time to write … which is one of the biggest challenges that most of us face.

I’ve written a free mini-ebook How to Find Time For Your Writing that’s available for all my email newsletter readers: you can find out more and sign up for the weekly newsletter to get your free ebook straight away (and to receive a weekly dose of inspiration).

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{ 87 comments… read them below or add one }

Icy Sedgwick January 28, 2011 at 11:13 am

I wrote my first novel in 2008 and it’s been sitting gathering dust…I like it, but I always felt there was something missing. Now I think I know what it is, so I’m hoping 2011 will be the year I redraft the hell out of it – and make it feel like a proper novel, and not the first!

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Ali January 28, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Awesome! My novels undergo an absolute ton of redrafting — it’s just impossible to get it all right in one go. I tend to print out the whole manuscript then literally start again from the beginning. It’s rare that a whole sentence makes it intact into the second draft, let alone a whole scene.

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Marlee January 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Hi Ali!

Thank you for the tips here. I really like to apply #3 because I can quickly identify what is working and what is not when I read. I can honestly say that the more I read the better of a writer I become. Not to mention, reading is such great fodder for thinking, and thinking is what generates some of my best content.

Personally, I need to work on the redrafting habit. I’m a “get it all out” kind of writer. I go back and clean up the spills, but for the most part what you see is what you get with my writing. I definitely think taking more time to perfect my writing would serve me better.

Have a great weekend Ali!

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Ali January 28, 2011 at 5:31 pm

I absolutely agree with you about reading – we need that input in order to come up with ideas and write interesting things.

It’s great to have the habit of getting words down on the page (some writers try to revise as they’re drafting, which rarely works well) — maybe put your draft work aside for a few days or a week, then take a look again with fresh eyes.

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Michael Pollock January 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Thanks for the mention Ali. Love the article. Especially the Hemingway quote. I need to tape that to the wall in front of my desk.

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Ali January 28, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Well, thanks for the idea! :-) And yeah, it really helps me to remind myself that first drafts are SUPPOSED to be pretty bad…

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Christy @ Ordinary Traveler January 28, 2011 at 5:47 pm

I completely agre with #2. I’ve figured out I’m a morning writer, so I set aside some time every morning to get something on paper. Even if I’m not inspired, I can still get that first rough draft done to come back to later.

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Ali January 31, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Great stuff! I think mornings work well for a lot of writers (though I know a few who really *aren’t* morning people).

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chris January 29, 2011 at 12:20 am

Even though I’m already a published writer, I still find myself easily distracted with many things, say, my Facebook account or my Twitter. Or when someone calls me and want to talk. Even when I’m right in front of laptop, I get distracted by my favorite computer game.

But reading your article makes me realize, that if I want to be a professional like my favorite authors, I should take seriously about my whole writing career–now and then.

Thank you so much. Before reading your article, I decide to watch DVDs or something, but now…look what I’m doing now. Continue working on my book. :)

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Ali January 31, 2011 at 2:50 pm

It’s great to be published (and congrats!) – but even published authors sometimes struggle to take their work seriously. You might find it helps to turn off your internet connection, or take the game DVD out of the computer – anything that makes it easier to stay focused…

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Dalene January 29, 2011 at 1:40 am

Wow, I needed this. I am about to embark on “getting serious” with drafting my first novel, and these tips will be bookmarked for future reference.

I am so, SO scared!! :)

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Ali January 31, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Don’t be scared – be excited! I’m sure the drafting will go brilliantly. I find that taking things seriously actually makes them more fun…

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Kyeli January 29, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Ali, this is fabulous stuff. I’ve fallen into a writing drought, and this was just what I needed to create a little rain. (;

Thank you for including me! <3

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Ali January 31, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Thank you for writing such an honest post about how it feels to be stuck! I think every writer goes through times like that, but few are open enough to write about it.

Hope your drought comes to an end soon — have been reading about your struggles, on the Connection Revolution and on Facebook. Am sending good writing vibes your way!

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Sandeep January 30, 2011 at 7:47 am

Reading to good writers (e.g., Ali :) ), make a lot of difference. Recently, I’ve started reading “seriously,” and I can say, “It helps a lot.” Thanks Ali.

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Ali January 31, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Cheers Sandeep! :-)

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Zac January 30, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Great post Ali!

I’m guilty of not writing enough, but all you’re other points are dead-on. I have trouble finding the motivation to write.

Have you heard of writer Steven Pressfields “The War of Art”. This book is about the resistance that all creative people face and how to overcome it. I think all struggling writers would find this book helpful. Have you heard of it?

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Ali January 31, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Cheers, Zac. I have heard of “The War of Art” (in fact, it’s on my Amazon wishlist) — several people have recommended it to me now. Maybe it’ll be the next book I buy… :-)

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Matías January 31, 2011 at 6:18 pm

This post is really cool Ali!

I’m from Argentina, Buenos Aires … and I follow your post when I can :)

I find this post useful and I found (as a software developer) some similitudes in software design and construction…Redrafting for us is Refactoring and It’s a nice idea I think ’cause when you can write and write in a continuous flow but later you can reorganize all the components and find a better result.

Well, sorry for my English if is a little bad, I have to learn more :)

Thanks!

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Ali February 1, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Cheers Matias! I’m always excited to hear from readers in other countries — it’s so cool that people all round the world read my blog :-)

I’m really interested to hear how this applies to software development. It’s not my own area, but I worked alongside developers when I was in tech support, so I’ve got a bit of an idea about the workflow involved. I like the word “refactoring” – awesome. :-)

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Marnie February 1, 2011 at 12:57 pm

It’s funny that we, as writers, often don’t finish what we start. There are different reasons for this but for me, I discovered my personality was more suited to writing short pieces than the great American novel. That’s why I feel so successful with my blog. I’m writing now more than ever and from what I can tell, that writing is making a difference in people’s lives – and isn’t that what writing’s all about?

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Ali February 1, 2011 at 3:47 pm

For me, that’s EXACTLY what writing’s all about. And like you, I find blog posts a great length – easy to write, publish and get a response on!

On the other hand, I also like working on much longer, sustained pieces too. I guess the blog only gets one side of me as a writer.

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Tariq and Shaheera February 1, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Hi Ali!

Thanks for the great tips! I have no formal education in writing but I’m hoping to pursue it in the future. I have always loved writing and found that it was the perfect way for me to release my emotions. Here’s to being more serious about my writing and planning for the future!

Thank you again!

Shaheera

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Ali February 1, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Cheers Shaheera! :-) I don’t think formal education is at all essential when it comes to writing (and, in fact, some of the stuff people get taught in school is an active hindrance to good writing…) Hope your future writing goes brilliantly.

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Renee Samuel February 7, 2011 at 9:08 am

Wow!…thanks for making this wonderful blog, it really inspires me to start writing again. I started my novel in
2003, then picked it up in 2005 and wrote the rest and now it is still waiting for the last chapter to be written.
I really feel motivated again to finally finish it after 7 years, but as the saying goes: Better late, then never!
I will share your blog with my friends on Facebook and by email. tks

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Ali February 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Cheers, Renee. One chapter left? You’ve GOTTA finish it! :-)

Glad you like the blog – and I really appreciate you sharing it. Thanks!

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Nicki Savantes February 7, 2011 at 10:04 am

I find a lot of times it’s demotivation that gets me, whether it’s for writing or doing physical work or creating art. Like the task will seem to big, and it feels like whatever I do I’m making no progress. It often helps to break it down in 3 or 4 big chunks, to keep the big picture of where I’m going (more and I just get confused ;-D). Then I just describe the next task (just the one) of the next chunk to be accomplished. Good task length for me is 20 minutes to 2 hours. That’s overseeable.

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Ali February 7, 2011 at 5:07 pm

I agree that’s a good length, Nicki. It definitely helps to chunk things down – especially when there are a lot of different tasks involved. Thinking “I’m going to write a novel this year” is overwhelming; “I’m going to write a chapter this week” is much less so.

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Ian Collings February 10, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Studying Creative Writing with the OU taught me to develop Habit #5.

Before then, I always imagined that *serious* writers would get published because they could sit down at a piece of paper and write their best-sellers straight off the bat.

I’m with Hemingway on the First Draft quote: http://wp.me/p197V4-6p

I have learnt that getting something, anything, down on paper is better than nothing. Then the craft begins. A great writer will worry a piece better. A cut here, a transition here. A paragraph massacred is better than a so-so paragraph.

“The worst piece of writing you’ve ever written is still miles better than the best piece of writing you’ve never written”.

Great article, thanks.

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Ali February 11, 2011 at 10:02 am

Thanks Ian! Great quote – I’ve seen similar ones like “You can’t edit what you haven’t written.”

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Sue Marsh February 10, 2011 at 9:28 pm

I just finished a rough draft of a novella I am working on and I read with great interest your blog on serious writing. I have always enjoyed journaling and at one point wrote for a small sports newspaper in Leesburg Florida. Since that time I have become a lot more serious about my writing. I joined a writers group but found that was just not for me, there were to many wanabees and not enough writing. I hope to hear from you.

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Ali February 11, 2011 at 10:04 am

Congrats on finishing the draft of the novella! I’ve been lucky with my writing groups – there’s always been an emphasis on actually writing! – but I know not all groups are so good. You might find an online forum or similar to join?

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Tahlia Newland February 10, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Yep, I do all that. One more edit after one more lot of feedback on Lethal Inheritance and its back to my agent to try to find a publisher. At that point, it’s out of my hands. At least I know I’ve done all the right things. I have plenty of very critical people who think the novel is pretty good too, just need one publisher who agrees.

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Ali February 11, 2011 at 10:05 am

Good luck with that publisher! Heck, if your agent believes in it, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. :-)

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Joe Duncko February 11, 2011 at 4:19 am

I came on this post from Twitter, curious to find more things to learn about becoming a writer. Though I have a little to learn, I actually do all of these things (though not to the full extent that professional writers do). I’m slightly impressed with myself, as I am a novice.

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Ali February 11, 2011 at 10:06 am

Good for you! You’re clearly taking your writing seriously – which is a fast-track to becoming a professional. :-)

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Julie Musil February 11, 2011 at 4:19 am

These are all such great points. The best advice I ever read, and I don’t remember where, was “first get it written, then get it right.” That alone freed me to write a horrible first draft. And you know what? That first draft wasn’t as horrible as I’d thought. Thanks for such a great post.

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Ali February 11, 2011 at 10:06 am

I’ve heard that advice too, Julie (though I don’t remember where either!) And yeah, first drafts often aren’t nearly so bad as we fear. They certainly always have plenty of potential.

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Charles February 11, 2011 at 10:22 am

Great work! Maybe you can work on building a writers network… Keep up the good work.

Cheers!
CP

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Lisa February 11, 2011 at 11:32 am

I can really relate. I’ve also been writing since I was a kid (first writing memory -3rd grade). I spent years counting the words on a page. The sheer size of a book overwhelmed. I finally finished my first novel after I drove myself relentlessly each day to write -to get to the end. I made it in less than 6 months. I think many of us want our writing to be perfect the first time. The hard work is revising, and that is where I often get stuck. I also get easily distracted -hopping from one project to the other. But I write something everyday, and that has made all the difference.

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Dolly February 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Thanks for this excellent post. When you read through it, it seems so obvious, doesn’t it? Amazing, how hard it is to put it in practice. I love this handy post :-) Thankfully, I already do some of these quite easily (like Reading….where would I be without my books??), but nice to be reminded anyway.

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Archan Mehta February 16, 2011 at 8:24 am

Ali,

Blimey, this post is superb. It resonated with me. Can you write a follow up post about writers? That would be helpful to your readers and subscribers and fans. We want to know about professional writers. Be sure to include an entire list of them. What were their habits? How did they become so successful? What were some of their quirks? What were some of their trade secrets? Any hints? What about their lifestyles? We would like to read something along these lines. I am sure it would make for a fab post–very interesting. And like a shot in the arm.
Not just enlightening, but it could provide new ideas for wannabe writers like yours truly. Thanks. Cheerio.

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Ali February 16, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Crumbs, that sounds like a long post! ;-) I’ll have a think on how I could put something like that together…

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momof5cuties February 23, 2011 at 3:35 am

FANTASTIC advice to new writers and veterans alike. As a definite wannabe, someday-maybe-I’ll-do-it writer, I am so inspired to see that the things I struggle with – focus, learning, re-drafting, and the biggest of all – writing – are all issues that every writer faces, no matter what stage they are at in their journey.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share these tips! ;-) Jen

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Ali February 24, 2011 at 9:55 am

Thanks Jen! Glad it helped!

The thing is, we never *see* the pros struggling … we don’t see their first drafts, or their bad days, or the times when they think how easy it’d be to jack it all in. We just see the finished book on the shelves.

But they go through it, all the same — every writer does!

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Erica Corley February 24, 2011 at 12:04 am

Thank you for this!!! I have my “writer block moments”, as all writers do. FRUSTRATING, is not the word! I keep writing, and writing, and writig some more. Eventually, my book of poems will come to pass. Selah

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Ali February 24, 2011 at 9:55 am

Thanks Erica! Keep on writing … you will get there. :-)

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wing February 25, 2011 at 6:27 am

Hi Ali, I have never thought of doing habit 7. At random times, I will just sit in front of the computer thinking I’m going to nail it but still nothing productive come out. With better plans, hopefully I could do it better. As a newcomer to this path, I believe I still have got lots to learn and to reflect on (:

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Ali February 25, 2011 at 4:41 pm

I think reflection helps at every stage of being a writer – it’s how we consolidate what we’re learning (and sometimes writing throws up some emotional stuff that you’ll want time & space to process). Good luck with your writing! :-)

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Traci Kenworth March 14, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Great article!! It’s taken me three years to learn the value of all you say, but it’s time well spent!!
Traci Kenworth’s last blog post ..Let’s Chat for a Bit

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Adam iwritereadrate April 17, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Hi Ali. Great and useful post. I’ll Tweet to our followers – they’ll no doubt be interested in your insight and advice.

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Ali April 18, 2011 at 11:01 am

Cheers Adam, much appreciated!

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Audz April 27, 2011 at 4:35 am

Hi Ali, great post, cool advise.
I’m Audz from Philippines, I love reading and I also would like to write a story of my own, I even bought a book about creative writing to jumpstart my writing. The problem is I have an idea but I’m having trouble writing it down with my work eating all my time and making me exhausted. And during free time I get distracted by other stuffs.
Reading this article made me think. Do I really want to be a writer? Do I really want to finish my book? Well, YES! So, I have to find a way and fix my schedule and focus on writing. Be a serious writer.
Again, thanks for the inspiration =)

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Ali April 27, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Thanks Audz! Glad you found the post useful.

I know it’s really tough to write when you’ve got a full-time job — plus all the usual distractions of life. I found that the best thing for me was to just find half an hour every day when I could write. Yeah, it means getting serious — but it really is worth it.

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Kari June 22, 2011 at 4:08 am

Awesome article. Nice to be reminded from time to time–sometimes we lose track :)

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CJ Louis June 22, 2011 at 6:10 am

Great tips! I will use all when writing my book.

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Stephen Woodfin June 22, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Two other things that have helped me a lot are hiring a professional writing coach and establishing a small critique group that meets monthly. Both of these things provide input into the process and help you re-write on the fly. They also keep you writing, because you know you will need to have something new to share each month or at each session with your coach. It’s like working out with a trainer, the very thought of it helps you make better decisions between workouts.

Thanks for advice.

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Ali June 23, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Both really useful things to do — my writing’s always flourishing when I’ve had critique groups (and ideally tutors too) to help me along.

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Sasha Gonzales June 29, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your “best practices” in writing. I am a rookie at this and these tips are most helpful.

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Diana Kao June 30, 2011 at 11:13 am

Bookmarking this post! Loved the “Get Serious” at the end of each habit because it provides concrete examples of how to take action on your suggestions. Thank you!
(Was referred here by Mark Cortez http://bit.ly/lMRZRB.)

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Ali July 4, 2011 at 10:32 am

Thanks Diana, glad this helped! And thanks Mark for the referral :-)

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Thea July 4, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Thank you. Your website is the one that has motivated me the most to write myself. I read all of your articles and try to follow them, making a few exceptions because not all brains think alike.

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Liz July 14, 2011 at 5:59 am

Excellent post. I write every day, but a lot of it isn’t writing toward my novel. I really need to find at least 15 minutes a day to write on my novel. You’ve inspired me to make that time.
Liz’s last blog post ..Post #30: Destiny

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Stephen Woodfin July 14, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Ali, these are all great tips. I think writing every day is the key because it keeps you focused on your current project and allows you to stay in the flow of the story. A simple practical tip I picked up along the way is that you should not stop your writing for the day at the end of a chapter, rather you should begin a chapter and stop in the middle of it. That way, when you sit down again you already have a scene in the works and can focus on fleshing it out. I have also found that certain times of the day (early in the morning and late at night) are the best ones for me to write, and I am sure most writers have “prime” times also. Finally on redrafting, I think the writer has to be sure not to allow redrafting to overwhelm the first draft. With my first novel I rewrote the first thirty pages over and over and never got going until I let myself not worry about getting all the words right the first time through. This freed me up to move to the end. A completed draft of a novel is one of the greatest motivators I have ever experienced. Once I reached that milestone, I felt like a real writer and the creative juices really began to flow. I’m working on number five now.

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Ali July 15, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Great tip, thanks Stephen! I try to stop in the middle of things (though it’s often tempting to finish a scene/chapter and then decide that it’s time for a break).

I absolutely agree with completing the first draft of a novel BEFORE going back and revising it. I only tend to revise drafts-in-progress when I need to take a piece to be workshopped by fellow writers…

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Abhisek July 15, 2011 at 7:54 am

Hey Thanks for these tips,… i have been in process of writing my first novel but yes I have been taking too many breaks since I am not getting the right environment as you said. I need to tackle such obstacles.

Thanks again for these points.. will keep these in mind

Regards
Abhi
Abhisek’s last blog post ..How I Wish

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Vivian August 24, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Excellent post. Regarding habit #1, does anything count as writing? Diary entries? Blog posts? I have no problem writing _something_ three or four times a week. But I can’t write fiction that often, even though that’s the kind of writing I care most about, because I don’t have enough ideas. So I wonder if I qualify as a serious writer, and if I became more serious in the way you describe, would I be more successful?

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Ali August 29, 2011 at 5:19 pm

I think, yes, anything counts! The most crucial thing is to be in a habit of writing — whatever form that takes. But personally, I’ve found that I’ve learnt and grown the most as a writer when I’ve been working on sustained projects (like fiction, or a non-fiction ebook).

In terms of having more ideas, how about entering fiction competitions? They often have a topic/prompt to get you going … plus a deadline!

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Vivian September 2, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Glad to hear all writing counts. Entering contests is a good idea. WritersWeekly.com has a quarterly contest where you have to write a short story in 24 hours, based on a prompt they give you. The fee is $5. There’s one coming up on Sept 10; I think I’ll enter it.
Vivian’s last blog post ..A Radical Restaurant Proposal

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SRB August 29, 2011 at 8:43 am

Thanks for this inspiring post, Ali. I have an MFA in writing and still need to read posts like yours to get myself going. You’re right — if even a week slips by without writing, it makes it that much harder to go back to writing. I find that I have a LOT of free time to write but I never make it to the desk. Shameful! Hoping to make a change starting tonight.

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Ali August 29, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Glad to help! And I think that sometimes having lots of free time can be a bit of a curse rather than a blessing — it means that you tend to put writing off till the “perfect” moment, rather than just squeezing it in wherever you can. (Believe me, I’ve been there..!)

Hope you manage to get into a steady writing routine. :-)

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Laura J September 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Hi Ali,

I really appreciated this post. I’ve been thinking of my novel as a whole and it was overwhelming. As a full-time law student I feel guilty taking time away from my studies to write fiction, but I see now that even writing for half an hour a day can be enough time to accomplish my goals. I don’t have to write the whole book in the next month! As my husband says: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. :P

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Ali October 5, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Thanks Laura. :-) And I love that quote … a great one for novelists!

Half an hour a day is absolutely enough — or you might try setting aside two hours twice a week, if you struggle to get into the novel in a shorter session. Best of luck! :-)

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Jennifer Jensen October 11, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Hi, Ali. I found your blog from a tweet and am browsing around. I love this post! Editing has always been easier for me than writing the scene/story in the first place, but my current WIP is women’s fiction with three characters who alternate being the narrator. I have a bit to go on the rough draft, but I”ve already started the condensing/cutting/moving of some huge chunks. More than I’ve ever had to do with a novel-length manuscript before, but this has been more complicated than I expected. Can’t say how grateful I am for computers that cut and paste, instead of re-typing everything!
Jennifer Jensen’s last blog post ..Weekend Writing – Story Starters that Ask What If

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Ali October 13, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Welcome, Jennifer! :-) I’ve got multiple viewpoint characters in my WIP (though it’s third-person, which makes things a tad easier) — it is indeed tough, and I’ve done loads of cutting/condensing/rewriting/adding across various drafts! Cut & paste (and find & replace…) are invaluable!

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Bina Biswas November 21, 2011 at 4:32 am

Oh God! I do almost everything and still feel am not a serious writer.

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Ali December 29, 2011 at 5:20 pm

I think most writers probably feel that way…! Keep going, you’re doing all the right things. :-)

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Launa December 28, 2011 at 6:52 am

Omg.. Great article! Really useful for me. I’m a beginner author who wants to become a great author.
I really love ur blog becuz i love writing too! Thanks for the sharing :)
Launa’s last blog post ..Mari Merenung Sejenak untuk Menjadi Pribadi yang Lebih Baik (Part 3)

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Ali December 29, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Thanks, Launa, glad this helped — and best of luck with your own writing journey.

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Josh Sarz December 29, 2011 at 12:41 am

You’re right. One of the biggest problems that writers face is actually just finding the time to write, especially if you have a day job to tend to. I’ve worked on it, and I noticed I write better in the mornings. Since my day-job is kinda flexi-time, I can adjust my work hours and prioritize writing after I go feed my dog.
Josh Sarz’s last blog post ..The After-Reading: Every Bush Is Burning

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Ali December 30, 2011 at 12:06 pm

That sounds like a great plan, Josh. When I had a day job, I used to get up early and write before work — that was much easier for me than writing in the evenings.

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Donna Amis Davis March 26, 2012 at 7:03 am

Hi Ali (love that name, by the way),

I’m kind of late to the party here, but want to thank you for this post. I’m at the stage of getting serious about my novel. I started it a year and a half ago and am 10,000 words into a first draft. These are terrific tips.
Donna Amis Davis’s last blog post ..Boat to Small Palawan Island – Cover Ideas for My Novel

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Ali March 27, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Thanks, Donna! (I like my name too … I’m “Alison” in full, but I never liked that ;-))

Best of luck with the rest of your novel draft; I think the first 10,000 words are the hardest! Hope you can make some serious progress with it this year. :-)

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Rasoul November 30, 2012 at 9:58 am

Dear Ali. This is great. Thanks a lot for very useful information about writing.
Rasoul’s last blog post ..مرحله عملیات محسوس

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Jeff February 5, 2013 at 2:38 am

Ali, thanks for an excellent article. I’ve quoted your 7 to highlight how I’m using them in my writing life.

Best wishes for the next stage of your life. I hope you’re stocking up on unpublished posts!
Jeff’s last blog post ..Do You Have the Habits of a Serious Writer?

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Compra Venta Valencia February 10, 2013 at 5:10 pm

These 7 habits really got me inspired. I haven’t written anything for quite some time already… I will give it a try again tonight. Thanks a lot!

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Ruth Livingstone March 6, 2014 at 9:17 am

Hi there. Great article. Just written a similar post (but from the point of view of an as-yet-unsuccessful writer!). Please to see we have 3 out of our 7 habits in common :)
Ruth Livingstone’s last blog post ..7 Habits of Successful Writers

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