Charlotte Rains Dixon  

7 Practices to Create Your Best Writing Year Yet

Fotolia_74702492_XS (2)I write a lot about motivation here.  Yeah, ostensibly I write about writing, and I do, but when I look back over all the articles I've posted, many of them are about techniques for getting words on the page.

That's because I have a cement-firm belief, based on my own habits and years of teaching and coaching writers, that the hardest part of writing is getting your butt in the chair and keeping it there long enough to rack up a word count.  You can be the best, most elegant and clever stylist in the world, and if you can't get yourself into a regular writing practice, nobody is going to read those elegant words.

Last year I wrote a lot.  I finished a 90,000 word novel, wrote 25,000 words on another fiction project, and completed lord knows how many words total in blog and newsletter articles.  At the same time, I worked with writers one-on-one through coaching and teaching and in workshops.  So along the way I've figured out a few things about how to write regularly.  (Though these are subject to change–after all writing is a process, a vital, fluid process.)  So here are my recommendations for best practices to make 2015 your best writing year yet:

1.  Plan.  I mean this in two ways.  There's overall planning for you career.  What kinds of books do you want to write–memoir, romance, mystery, fantasy, YA?  What book will you commit to write this year?  And second, there's planning for individual scenes.  I've found that I get way more writing done when I know where I'm going.  You may be a pantser, and god bless you if you are, and swear to me that you can just write and see what happens, but I am more productive when I know what's up.

2.  Pre-write.  Often it is as important to write around your project as it is to write on it.   Write in your journal or do Morning Pages.  You may resist this, thinking why should you take your precious writing time to work on something other than your WIP?  Because you need to get all the distracting crap out of your brain, for one thing.  Jettison the carping voice of the inner critic in your journal and you'll be in a much better frame of mind for writing the real stuff.  And because you also will be amazed at the ideas and information that will flow through your fingertips, including tons of good stuff for your WIP.

3.  Schedule writing time.  As I've written a gazillion times, I love to get up and write first thing in the morning.  I write Morning Pages and then go right to my WIP. (Lately I've also been scheduling at least one two-hour block of time on an afternoon as well.)  My buddy J.D. is a night-time writer.  If he tried to rise at 5 as I do and write he'd be miserable.  And if I tried to write at night like he does, I'd be asleep at my desk.  So figure out what works for you and do it.

4.  Separate the writing process from the rewriting/editing/revising process.  They are two different stages of writing.  Period.  You'll make yourself crazy if you try to perfect every word as you go, and you'll lose sight of the bigger picture, too.  Later, after you've gotten all your words down into one gloriously messy first draft you can have fun honing and perfecting your scenes and words.  But only later.

5.  Write fast.  This is my single best tip for success, guys.  Once you know where you are going and are working in rough draft mode, let it rip.  Don't read over what you've written, don't stop, write as fast as you can.  I believe that we all know way more about our stories than our conscious minds let on–and if you write fast you're going to get all that good stuff from your unconscious out onto the page.  Writing fast is also how you will discover your voice.

6.  Find the joy.  It's supposed to be fun.  Lord knows, most writers don't make enough on their books to quit their day jobs, so enjoy it for goodness sakes.  It is easy to get into the grind of a writing practice and see only the daily word count.  But pause for a minute in the midst of writing and remember how cool it is that you are a writer.  Because it's the coolest thing in the world to be, bar none!

7.  Rewrite.  I know, duh.  But you'd be surprised how many rough drafts I've seen through the years–words on the page obviously written fast (a good thing–see #5) with no attempt to go back and straighten things out.  I do see writers getting stuck in the Rewriting Forever Syndrome, loathe to let their babies go out in the world, and that's not good either. But it is the rare piece of work that does not need at least one rewrite.

That's all I've got for you.  It really is about sitting down and putting words on the page–that simple and that difficult.

What are your best recommendations for a regular writing practice?  Please share!

Image from fotalia.

0 thoughts on “7 Practices to Create Your Best Writing Year Yet

  1. Dyoung

    I’m officially committing to 30 minutes a day!
    In this advice give/take, I must admit my selfishness and say I’m only a taker right now:)

  2. J.D.

    When I first came to this blog, I was in the let her rip camp. Now I plan . . . outline. Begin with a one page synopsis and a character list. Stage imaginary interviews with the characters or something but come up with a solid description of each. Then write a 25,000-word outline. Rewrite that into a first draft. Of course, I haven’t followed that plan. LOL. I’ve done parts of it and it works. I’ll bring it all together for my next one–this time I swear. As for my “career,” I want to continue to write mysteries/thrillers. And short stories. It is so easy to forget them. Finding an acceptance letter for a short story will give you such a boost. Though fruitless from a money standpoint, get one story in someone’s magazine or anthology and you can look in your morning writing mirror without wondering if you are an idiot. I hear people with no respectable writing credits talk about how they don’t want to write for free (many short story markets don’t pay or only give you copies). Foolish. Even if you can’t get published, you will learn a ton from the process.

  3. J.D.

    Great advice! Putting up walls around that 30 mins is fantastic.

  4. J.D.

    What is it the Eurythmics say: Some of them want to use you . . . . Sharing is never a problem in the community of writers. We all float in the same sea.

  5. Charlotte Dixon

    Yay! Go, go, go! We are all cheering you on.

  6. Charlotte Dixon


  7. Charlotte Dixon

    Fascinating process, J.A. I write up good descriptions of my characters as well, and a loose outline and then a let her rip first draft. And I agree with your take on short stories. I think anything you write and can get published gives you more knowledge about the process!

  8. Dyoung

    Confirming I said MINUTES. NOT PAGES! Is 30 pages/day even possible if I also want to eat and sleep?!:)

  9. Maggie King

    Write First!—before email and social media. Don’t even have them open—those little chirps will lure you away from your writing in a flash.

  10. Don Williams

    Seven fantastic points Charlotte. I would also include ‘visualization’, or simply dreaming of what and where you want to be when it comes to your writing. If you visualize that your going to go places with your writing the more likely you’ll be motivated in applying all of the great points above!

  11. Charlotte Dixon

    Oh God, so damn fast I don't even realize what has happened–until I've wasted an hour.  Thanks, Maggie!

  12. Charlotte Dixon

    Ooh, good addition, Don!  That is really helpful.

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