Today’s post is by Paula Hicks.
All writers have some bad habits. What’s difficult, though, is spotting our own. We may be unaware of the bad habits that are harming our productivity.
The good news is it’s possible to change those bad habits and get into more positive ones. Your writing will show a marked improvement when you do, and you’ll produce higher-quality material.
So let’s take a look at six bad habits writers often succumb to and ways to combat them.
Waiting for Inspiration
The mistake that nearly every writer makes is to sit back and wait for inspiration. Sometimes writers don’t appreciate that writing needs to be treated as a job. You have to work at in constantly. It could be a long wait for your muse to call round!
So set aside time to write daily. Everybody has at least half an hour or an hour to spare. It could be before you go to work or during your lunch hour. Maybe you only have time once the kids are asleep. The lucky few can write while at work. The important thing is to set that time aside for writing and stick to it.
Remember that your writing doesn’t have to be perfect the first time through. That’s what drafts and editing are for. But you must make writing a habit, or you’ll be staring at an empty screen.
Write anything that comes into your head. Even apparently unpromising material can yield results later on.
Do you browse websites when you could be writing? Checking your social media or reading gossip sites won’t help your writing output. And don’t kid yourself that you’re looking for material. All you’re doing is wasting valuable writing time that you won’t get back. You’re procrastinating!
Procrastination can hide a lot of fear. Fear that your writing won’t be good enough. Fear that you haven’t got the ideas. Fear that you won’t sell your book. Fear of criticism.
But you need to confront that fear head on. Because you certainly won’t get anywhere with your writing if you keep putting it off.
If you must look at social media and other sites, leave that until you’ve completed your writing for the day. Make it your reward, if you like.
But your writing time should be a priority. Treat it as a job. Put aside an hour or two for writing. It’s just too easy to while away the day otherwise and get no writing done at all.
One of my favorite authors used to write entertaining books. Then he started to stuff his books full of unnecessary details. It was like shouting, “I’ve done all this research, and I want you to know it.”
It’s one thing getting details right; readers will notice if you don’t. But if you go too far, it looks like showing off. It‘s also tedious for the reader.
Authors can also show off by trying to be too clever. They’ll make their plot unnecessarily complicated or use grandiose words. This can make readers switch off. They feel as if they’re being patronised.
Keeping things simple can often be preferable. If you use more complicated ideas or wording, be sure it’s fully justified.
Being Too Derivative
Every writer is inspired by others. Indeed, your favorite author may have inspired you to want to write. But copying can go too far. Inspiration is acceptable if you produce something original from it. Being derivative will be obvious and damage your brand as a writer.
If you’re taking ideas from other writers, be sure to add your own twist to it. Writing a Jane Austen–style novel won’t make you stand out. But having Austen heroines fight the living dead? You get Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. This won’t please purists, but it’s a fun idea.
The jury’s out on sequels written by a different author. However, this can be interesting and fill in gaps in characters’ stories. Wide Sargasso Sea makes Mrs. Rochester more than just the “mad woman in the attic” of Jane Eyre.
Do you think there’s more of a story to be told? Tell it. But be careful you’re not stealing someone else’s intellectual property.
Self-publishing was once derided as only for writers who couldn’t get a “proper” deal. In fact, a whole industry sprang up to enable would-be authors to see their book in print. This usually came at a hefty price to the author. Nor was there any guarantee of sales.
Now, with the advent of Kindles and other e-readers, it’s far more acceptable to self-publish. But at least with the traditional version of self-publishing, the books would be checked and polished by an editor. And that’s something that many writers neglect when self-publishing.
When you’re writing in your spare time, it’s tempting to edit and proofread your book yourself. But cutting corners means sacrificing quality. Your book needs to be professionally proofread and edited—and that will cost you.
Also take the time to familiarize yourself with how to structure a novel or a nonfiction book. It’s not as easy as you may imagine to get this vital step right. Try to write without laying out your chapters first and you’ll end up with a mess.
Good authors know how important it is to get this right before writing even the first draft.
Not Believing in Yourself
Do you come up with excuses not to write? Too many writers lack faith in themselves. They really long to write. But deep down they’re telling themselves that no one will want to read their work. End result: they don’t write.
Yes, maybe your work won’t be that good. But you’ll never know if you don’t try.
You can become a better writer. Maybe you’re not that good yet. But remind yourself you can improve.
Even the great writers didn’t get it right first time. Many wrote several books before finding success. The important thing is they persisted.