Even the most famous, successful, prize-winning authors face challenges when it comes to writing, so however experienced you are – whether you’re a first-time novelist or starting work on your fifth book – there’s always time to take on board advice to improve your writing process.
While there are plenty of resources to help with grammar, character arcs, narrative structures, and other aspects of what you write, it’s just as useful to consider how you write.
The following writing tips should be considered suggestions to help you adapt part of your creative process. It could be following a routine, trying out a new piece of software, or being aware of how to beat writer’s block. All of these will improve how you approach writing, so that when you sit down in front of a blank page the words flow more freely.
1. Establish a routine
Just like any creative process, writing takes time and dedication to improve and get projects finished. Without a certain level of discipline, your idea for a novel won’t ever come to fruition. This is where establishing a routine can be paramount to getting things done.
For some, writing can be a full time job. In this case, it should be treated just like any other job. You can even work nine to five, but make sure to clearly set up boundaries between your work and personal life. Writing shouldn’t spread unendingly into your free time.
For many others, writing will be a hobby or part-time pursuit that needs to be worked around a main job. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a routine. You might benefit from setting aside an hour or two after work in the evening. Some writers even get up early to write for an hour before work.
2. Know when to stop
Along with following a routine, it’s important to know when to stop. It may be tempting to work endlessly in every bit of free time to get your ideas onto paper, but it’s not healthy to tirelessly dedicate every moment to it.
While it’s important to not procrastinate, the benefit of having a routine is that it allows you to pause your work without feeling guilty. Make sure to set aside time for other hobbies and pursuits. It’s also important to reach out to friends and family, because as a writer it’s all too easy to spend too much time by yourself.
3. Take regular breaks
As well as separating your time between writing and other hobbies, it’s just as important to take breaks during your writing sessions. Just like with any job, adequate breaks should be taken regularly throughout the day for the good of both your mental and physical well-being.
It’s not healthy to spend hours sitting in a chair staring at a screen. Get up periodically to stretch your legs, rest your fingers, and let your eyes focus on something that isn’t a foot or two away from you.
This can just be a five minute break to move around a bit, or it could be a good excuse to make yourself a cup of tea. You might even want to do some quick exercises to get your heart pumping and stimulate your creativity in other ways.
If you’re planning on spending the whole day writing, then you should take a longer break too. Make sure to eat a proper lunch, and go for a walk outside. Even a quick stroll round your neighbourhood or local park can do a world of good and leave you feeling refreshed and ready to write once you’re back at your desk.
4. Have a comfortable workspace
One thing every writer should have is a comfortable workspace. It may be tempting sometimes to lie in the comfort of your bed, typing on a laptop, but if you’re spending hours a day over weeks and months then you need to look after your body.
Ideally you should have a desk with a keyboard, monitor and mouse. If you can, invest in an ergonomic chair. As you may well spend the majority of your day sitting in it, your back will be thankful. While you write, don’t forget about keeping a good posture.
5. Know how to beat writer’s block
Every writer will have to compete with writer’s block at one point or another. It may appear when you’re least expecting it, and it can be demoralising to be thrown off your rhythm. However, there are numerous techniques to defeat writer’s block.
Knowing how to overcome an obstacle like this is an important tool in any writer’s repertoire. You could try taking a walk, try out a scattershot approach to writing, or even spend some time discussing with other writers on an online forum.
Whichever method you try, it’s important to find one that works for you. This way, you’ll be well-equipped to defeat writer’s block.
6. Find a writing platform that suits you
Just like any other aspect of writing, it’s crucial to choose a platform that best suits you. This may be a free option like Google Docs, which allows for quick and straightforward syncing across devices, or you might prefer the ever-popular Microsoft Word. For some writers, paying for more specialised software like Scrivener is a necessary investment.
It’s worth trying a few out to find whatever feels most comfortable for you. At the end of the day, you should use a platform that provides the easiest experience to get words on a page.
You may even try different options for various stages of your writing. For example, you might use a notes tool like OneNote to get the first draft completed, and then move on to Microsoft Word to put it all together and start making edits.
Getting rid of any unwanted distractions is paramount for any writer completing their project. Try logging out of social media and closing unnecessary tabs on your computer. You could even try a focus mode if your chosen writing platform has one.
For a more extreme measure, you might consider turning off your phone to remove the disruption of notifications and deny yourself the option to start scrolling social media sites.
For those wanting to go another step further, you could even turn off your internet temporarily. That way, you won’t be able to go down rabbit holes of researching online, and instead you’ll have to spend your time writing.
8. Use apps to assist you
There are also numerous apps you can use to help with your creative process. For example, you can try Forest, an app that lets you set an amount of distraction-free time in which you can’t use other apps. It motivates you by growing a digital tree if you’re successful, and over time you can develop a massive forest. If you’re dedicated enough, your achievements can even contribute to growing trees in real life.
Forest is just one example, and there are many other anti-distraction apps you can explore. You can also find apps for other purposes that will help you in different ways, such as memo-taking and research.
9. Have one place to store all your notes
As a writer, being able to take notes and, more importantly, find them at a later date is crucial. Every writer should have one location that’s quick to add a new note to as well as easy to then search for your notes.
For many, apps like Evernote and Google Keep make notetaking easy. Everything is saved in the cloud and syncs instantly across devices. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages, so you should find one that best suits your needs. They all provide a way to take notes that’s easy to use and accessible on your phone.
For a more old-school approach, you could try using a physical notebook. While it may not be as easy to edit, rearrange, and search for individual notes, some writers still find it much more reliable to carry around the good-old paper and pen duo.
10. Set mini challenges and milestones
For some, establishing constraints can actually be conducive to creative writing. Try setting yourself a limit of 10 or 30 minutes, for example, and you might be surprised at how many words you can write when you’re racing against the clock.
Additionally, you can set yourself mini goals to help yourself along the way. If you’re aiming to write a novel of 80k words or more, it might feel like slow progress and demoralising to see how much is still remaining before finishing a first draft. In this case, it’s important to look back and recognise your accomplishments so far.
One way to do this is by challenging yourself to try and break up the daunting length of the entire project. You could set a target of completing 1000 words in a day, or to complete 3 chapters in a week. By doing so, you get a sense of achievement once you meet those milestones, and this is crucial to helping you remain motivated.
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Writers are all unique in how they work, so not all of these tips may be useful to you. You can check out our blog on how to improve your writing skills for even more advice. Whether you’re just starting out on a new novel, or if you’re close to finishing a first draft, it can be useful to try out a few of these suggestions to really help you write.