How to find your best writing practices

There are writing practices, and then there are YOUR writing practices. If you were to jump on the internet right this second and Google “How to write a novel in three months” you would actually get hits, lots of hits, on this very subject.

According to Google, there are a heckuva lot of people out there with novels written in three months. And they are so proud of themselves, they’ve divulged their writing practices.

Great stuff to inspire us, but terrible advice to follow.

That’s because we aren’t built the same as writers, as individuals, as business people, as time managers — I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: What works for one writer will not work for another writer in the exact same way.

You can quote me on that because I’ll stand by that belief till the cows come home.

Do you know which writing practices work best for you? Read this post by Kate Johnston | Author & Story Coach to learn how to examine your fundamental writing forces, intention, and sense of fulfillment to build your best writing practices.

Draw inspiration and motivation from other writers, yes, please, but reconstruct that information to fit you and your life and spirit circumstances.

3 steps to YOUR best writing practices

Step 1. Take a look at the fundamental writing forces of all writers’ lives. At work, there are a combination of external forces (those which you can shape and modify at will) and internal forces (traits resulting from life experience and natural yearning):

EXTERNAL FORCES

TIME – when do you write (duration/frequency)?

HABITAT – where do you write?

GOALS – short and long term

TEAM – your support system

PROCESS—what is your writing process, from story idea to concept to full-blown manuscript?

INTERNAL FORCES

DETERMINATION – consider this philosophy: “If you’re more than 100% determined, you’re determined; if you’re exactly 100% determined, you’re slacking somewhere; if you’re less than 100% determined, you aren’t.”

SKILL – what you naturally bring to the table, and your willingness and effort to learn and grow beyond.

HEART – does writing move you, make you feel something extraordinary?

 

All of these forces are at play for every writer, but they are dependent on your intention, your overall vision. Intention is like the vehicle that carries you through your writing practices.

Strong intention = effective writing practices

Step 2. To gauge your intention for each fundamental writing force, ask yourself:

  • What do I want to do?
  • What do I want to get out of it?

-You may not intend to develop your skill, and stagnation or neutralization will be a result. How does this work for you?

-You may intend to set goals, but flail midway. What is happening to your writing practices now?

-You may not intend to write in a café on the weekends, but that’s where you end up. Is this productive for you?

Intentions can be good and bad; strong and poor; focused and misguided. They are built out of a combination of needing to act and wanting to get something out of it.

Do you know which writing practices work best for you? Read this post by Kate Johnston | Author & Story Coach to learn how to examine your fundamental writing forces, intention, and sense of fulfillment to build your best writing practices.

Of course, holding all of this together, the oil that lubes the gears, is your sense of fulfillment, or joy during your writing practices. No matter how productive or strategic you are, if you aren’t fulfilled, then you’re wasting your time.

Step 3. Perform what I call a “climate check” on your real-world and writer selves.

Make sure that, regardless of sales, word count, number of Facebook followers, you are happy, fulfilled, moving in a positive direction emotionally and spiritually.

Honestly, none of this is going to neatly or kindly or quickly sort itself out for you. Several rounds of trial-and-error might be in order as you try to figure out questions like:

  • What time of day do I write most efficiently?
  • Do I require a warm-up session before my creative center really starts cranking out the juicy stuff?
  • Can I focus on my writing when the family is around?
  • Am I willing to forsake my favorite TV show to write?
  • If I don’t have a room to myself, can I at least get an hour to myself?
  • Is my spouse going to understand why I have to set my alarm at 5 am to write?
  • Should I set deadlines? Under what terms? What do I do if I miss a deadline? Or meet one?

I’ll stop there, as the Questions. Are Never. Ending.

Thing is, before you can really answer these questions, you have to know your real-world self and have a clear grasp of your real-world circumstances. Your real-world self may never have dreamed she would wake up to go write her novel at 5am, but your writer self would, and somewhere, the two have to compromise.

WHY are you a writer? What do you want to accomplish with your writing? The answers to these questions will actually generate threads of writing practices for you.

For example, if you say that you are a writer because you love to write, well, then, that is all about HEART. There is nothing wrong with writing as a hobby, to craft stories for your own personal pleasure.

Many people have learned, after jumping through hoops of character development, 3-act structure, and theme discovery that they just want to write. That’s all. They simply want to pull a story together that is dancing in their imagination and not have to worry about plot points and stakes and goals.

Finding satisfaction and joy through writing for your own pleasure is just as important as writing for an audience. But a writer who is writing for personal enjoyment will have different practices than the writer who is hoping to be commercially published. Of the two, the latter would feel more pressured to give up a night out with friends to work on a project.

How to get started on finding your best writing practices

Take each of the above fundamental writing forces (time, habitat, goals, team, process, determination, skill, and heart) and journal your current status, your intention, and your sense of fulfillment.

Let’s use TIME as an example:

-If you intend to write one hour a day, are you?

-If so, how does your intention make you feel? (Productive? Energetic? Positive? Encouraged? Or perhaps you are feeling neutral or not as happy with your time commitment as you hoped you would feel.) Even if you are hitting your intention, it’s possible you might not feel fulfilled or satisfied. When that happens, review your intended action step (in this example, writing one hour a day). You may have set the wrong intention.

-If you aren’t writing one hour a day, what can you change or shift in your life to allow for this practice?

Once you get a strong grasp of how you perform in all of the fundamental forces and what you DO to make them so effective, you have developed your very own system of writing practices.

Keep in mind that as life changes (emotionally, physically, or spiritually), that your writing practices will likely need revising. Checking in on things every few months or so will help you stay on track.

What are some of your writing practices? Do they stay consistent or are you changing them frequently to keep up with Life?

Have a writerly day!

 

22 thoughts on “How to find your best writing practices”

    • Hey Andrea! Yes, it’s an ongoing process and one that changes depending on what Life throws at us. So important to keep checking in with ourselves to make sure we’re happy and making the progress we want.

  1. Great advice here, Kate. We all approach things differently, whether it be writing or something else. If we didn’t, we’d never have any innovation in this world.

    My writing practice is that I try to get at least one scene written/revised per day, at least five days a week. This is usually anywhere between 1,000 to 2,500 words. I can do more, but if I at least do this, I’m at a good pace. I’m disciplined enough that if I don’t have it done by later evening, then I skip my downtime TV and write instead. Well…usually… 😁

    Of course, there are times life gets in the way. I didn’t get any writing done for the first two weeks of January while I was away helping my mother. But we need to roll with things and not let it discourage us. We’ll just get back to it when we can.

    • Hey Carrie,

      Sounds like you have a great system in play, and one that is flexible enough to withstand the test of Life’s unpredictabilities. One of the worst pitfalls for creativity is discouragement. If we aren’t careful, it is dastardly enough to take us down. Comes down to our mental game, and you have it right–we need to roll with things and we’ll get back to it when we can. Well said!

  2. These are great questions to consider. I have a goal of having short stories published. And unfortunately, I don’t always have the time to sit down and write, so I settle for writing in my journal. But I need to overcome my fear of writing stories and get to them.

    • Hey George,

      As far as I’m concerned, writing in your journal is just as important as writing your short stories. All the writing you do adds up to practice and experience.

      I know what you mean about overcoming your fear of writing + publishing your stories. You’re at a tough crossroads.

      The first step you’ve already taken, which is to write anyway, even if it is in your journal. The second step is to take any action that unnerves you. Once you take that action, you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone and you now have solid evidence to show you that you CAN do this. It is pushing through the fear that will help you overcome the fear. 🙂

  3. Kate, This post gives me so much to think about. As a writer, I’m sure this is all so logical and engrained in your writing life. I’ m going to have to chew on a few pieces of this at a time… starting with my time management and identifying who I’m doing this for ( just myself? Others?)
    As I write this, I’m sitting at my small desk and looking out the window at the Bigelow range in the western mountains of Maine. When we built this home 10 years ago, I chose this room as the space where I would someday sit and write. It would have made a beautiful master bedroom. But I was selfish. I had another plan for it.
    How lucky am I?

    • Hey Nancy,

      Time management comes through your determination. How determined are you to tell your story? This will set the stage for creating a daily or regular schedule that will help you move forward.

      Your audience comes through your heart. Who are you telling this story for? Yourself (which is totally fine), your family (also fine), or a wider audience? Once you decide your target readers, you will have an easier time deciding on the story problem and how you want to explore it.

      I think you’re very lucky to have such a wonderful space for writing. Make sure you take a picture of it…I’ll be asking about writing habitats in our Facebook group, #Team Writer, and I’ll want you to post a picture of it!

    • Hi Dorothy,

      There is A LOT to ponder in writing, isn’t there? Sometimes, it can feel overwhelming. But if we get a good handle on how we work best in different kinds of situations, we are more able to adapt and continue on our course. 🙂

  4. I know that your talking about writers who are writing books here, but much of what you said rings true with me, a blogger. I agree with your recommendation to adjust what you’re doing in order to reflect your “life and spirit circumstances” as they are now.

    In blogging, I see people who latch onto one idea/group affiliation, and then only do their blog that way… forever. I don’t get it. In my opinion, at some point you gotta change your intention, your content, and your writing style– or be doomed to repetition, become tedious. And who wants that?

    • Absolutely Ally! Blogging falls under this umbrella, as do many pursuits that we want to take seriously. I have seen the issues in blogging that you speak of. Those blogs become tiresome and predictable. A writer’s skills grow naturally the more we put them to use, so it would stand to reason that the container in which we grow has to expand as well.

      I wonder if those bloggers who remain steadfast with their presentation aren’t considering the reader’s experience. Such bloggers would be in for quite a shock, I expect.

  5. Lots of good food for thought here Kate, but not pizza, lol. I think if we’re going to be writers we have to at least have good intentions with structuring time for our writing. Now, that said, life does throw curve balls and crap does happen which causes us to alter our good intentions, but not abandon them. Like right now, my life is a bit chaotic and I seemed to have lost my writing mojo, so instead when I can’t focus I at least work on blog posts and visit other blogs, like yours! Helps me feel like I’m still part of the community while I’m not actually writing. 🙂
    Question: I noticed I’m still getting your email notifications from your other blog and re-directed over here once landed. I’ll assume that eventually WP will stop linking the old blog to the new and I don’t want to miss your posts, but I noticed you have 3 different signups here and wondering if they are all the same – the one on top to sign up for blog posts, the one that pops up for museletters and another at the end of your post. I’m trying to avoid duplicates because I’m already having so many duplicate emails coming from blog email, lol. Lemme know which dotted line to sign. 🙂

    • Hey there, Debby!

      Yes, Life’s curve balls often–daily, in fact–throw me off my course. And having a plan B in the back pocket is a huge help. I’m the same as you — I require a different kind of energy for my fiction and non-fiction writing as opposed to writing blog posts or commenting on blogs, so I choose between the two types depending on various circumstances. As long as I’m doing something proactive, then I’m fine with restructuring my day.

      Ahh, yes, the craziness of changing blog homes. OK, WP.com (4amWriter) only notifies you that I’ve posted here because that is what I’m setting up on my end. I am doing that to catch the stray blogger who has yet to know that I have moved. I plan to stop posting those notifications on 4amWriter around March, at which point the only notification you would get that I’ve posted on THIS site is if you have signed up for my blog posts.

      You can do that in one of two ways, either in the banner in the footer OR in the widget in the margin. You won’t get duplicate notifications for blog posts, just the one from Mailchimp, and then you’d click the link within that Mailchimp notification to reach the post directly. (Although, you would get an additional notification from 4amWriter until about March. To avoid that, you could unsubscribe from 4amWriter.)

      My museletters are separate from my blog posts where I include more writerly information, including announcements of upcoming books, courses, etc. Basically the big difference between the e-letter and the blog is that I give special discounts and early-bird specials to e-letter subscribers and I don’t always announce them in the blog.

      Let me know if any of that is still confusing!! 🙂 Glad you’re willing to power through the change. 🙂

  6. I’m having a tough writing day, today, so (climate is stormy) it was nice to come here for a visit and remind myself why I do this. Thank you.

    • Hi Jilanne,

      It’s good to know my post helped you navigate the storm in your writing climate. 🙂 Reminding ourselves of our “why” or purpose usually does the trick. Hope things sort themselves out for you soon!

  7. These are great questions, Kate. Although I’m commercially published now, I still write for the enjoyment. I’m hopeful that will never change.
    “What works for one writer will not work for another writer in the exact same way.” I completely agree with this statement. The worst thing a writer can do is to compare yourself to other writers.

    • Hi Jill!

      I think you are one of the lucky ones–to be commercially published and still write for the enjoyment. You obviously have done something right!

      Too often, I see writers getting excited over learning the process of a famous author, thinking that if they copy that famous author’s habits, routines, and approaches, they too will find success. Couldn’t be farther from the truth. Much better to search within and examine our real-world selves to learn how we write to our fullest potential.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! Have a writerly day.

  8. Excellent advice, Kate, and those are all important things to consider as a writer. I find that I need about six months per book, and it took a while to come to that place. New writers especially need to experiment, find their own way, and avoid setting expectations that will result in discouragement.

    • Definitely! Many beginning writers don’t realize how difficult it is to write a book. When they finally sit down, whip out a draft, and share it, they are often shocked to the core at the suggestions that follow. More writers give up at that point than any other. But if they had taken the time to understand that it is a *process*, they are more likely to pay attention to what practices are working for them.

      Thanks for your comment!

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