Writers' Treasure Magnetic Writing Six habits of more effective writers

Six habits of more effective writers

This is a guest article by Michael McPherson. If you want to submit a guest article of your own be sure to read the guest article guidelines.

Effective writers are writers who are proficient with effective writing. And the goal of each and every piece of writing is to make it effective. So who are these writers? And what do they do? Well, they have some habits – which are easy to learn. Which are easy to understand. Which can make you an effective writer as well. Which you need to learn if you want to be a full-time writer. They are…

1. Learn to touch type

An effective writer can touch type at a very fast rate. No matter how fast you think you are, if you are not touch-typing then you are not fast enough. You need to write as quickly as possible because it helps lower the chances of burn out and helps you get your ideas into words as they appear in your mind, (so that you miss as few ideas as possible).

2. Plan every single piece you write

This is vitally important because it helps structure your work, makes your work easier to follow, and it ensures you do not miss anything. It helps you ensure you stick to the point or that you include all the points you initially wished to add.

3. Do not break your flow

In the movie “As Good as it Gets,” Jack Nicholson gives a big speech about how he doesn’t want to be disturbed and how even if his mail is piling up and there is a funny smell coming from his flat that they still shouldn’t disturb him. The screenwriter of the movie was well aware of how important it is to stay in your groove, flow, or whatever you want to call it.

Stopping and starting is the worst way to write. You need to make a start and maintain a momentum. If you are distracted, you will become infinitely less effective.

On that note, it is impossible to be an effective writer if you are trying to multi-task whilst writing. Amateur writers will play music when writing, but besides distracting themselves through the music, they also stop and start to switch between songs they do and do not like. Learn how to get a flow going, build your personal momentum, and then let nothing distract you.

On that note also, you should assign yourself break times. If you want to work with momentum, you need to stop yourself at the right time. If you try to work until the job is done in just one sitting you will burn out.

4. Learn how to avoid burn out

When you burn out you find yourself unable to write or even think about your work. You become utterly sick of the idea of writing and you may even start looking for another job.

Sounds familiar? You’d be surprised to know that many famous authors, among them – Franz Kafka, Ian Fleming, A.A. Milne – sometimes felt the same. It happens if you push yourself too much or if you work under the wrong conditions.

Think of your brain as a big sponge and it absorbs the feelings you have every day. If you do a good task – it can be anything good – and you have nothing but good experiences, then your sponge brain is soaked with positive feelings about it and it is a sweet smelling and clean sponge.

Now imagine you spend a lot of time forcing yourself to do something under horrible conditions. Your sponge will absorb all those negative feelings about that task and soon your sponge is foul smelling and dirty–that is what burning out is.

Why a sponge analogy? Avoiding burn out is like avoiding a dirty kitchen sponge. You use your kitchen sponge, but you wash it, you apply bleach, and you ring it dry. If you wiped and wiped without doing such things then the sponge becomes filthy and you do not want to use it (and it is horrible at its job when you do).

Just like having a dirty sponge, it can be just a temporary thing. You can get yourself out of a burn out in the same way you can clean a sponge, but it is better that you never burnout in the first place.

5. Do not amend until the very end

Allow yourself to make spelling mistakes and typos as you work. Ignore the squiggly red line underneath your words. Come back at the end, use your spellchecker and proofread your work. Stopping to amend your work as you write will break your flow, slow you down and make you a far less effective writer.

The only time you should go back and amend your work is if your typo spells correct word, such as writing “dune” instead of “done.” Or, you should amend the work if the sentence meaning is skewered and would be difficult to correct independently at a later date.

Moreover, there are many words in English that are confusing and might not fit right into the sentence although they make sense grammatically. You are more likely to easily spot these words if you proofread your text at the very end.

6. Never stop improving

Always work to be a faster writer, better planner, better researcher, and always keep working to find your voice. Your voice is your style of writing. It makes your writing unique so that people can recognize it without being told who wrote it.

Editor’s Thoughts

A truly excellent article. It may be that, even though you’ve acquired all five habits of effective writers, your writing still sucks, or it’s not being effective at all. That’s okay, what works for one may not work for another. There’s a thing called balance. That’s what we’re all trying to learn here. It’s not easy… but it’s doable.

Have Your Say

Know more habits of effective writers / got any agreement or disagreement with this article? Be sure to submit these in the comments!

Michael McPherson is a graduate student from Boston University, freelance blogger and a regular contributor at www.topreviewstars.com. You may follow him on Twitter: @McPhersy


4 thoughts on “Six habits of more effective writers”

  1. I agree with most points but am lukewarm about the second one when applied to fiction (I insist on fiction).
    It is important that your final product is structured and can stand on its feet, but planning everything ahead is the best way to make your story stiff and lifeless.
    I’d recommend writing a first draft freely, then cutting its flesh to reassemble your story properly around a good structure (a second draft is also the best moment to dig out your theme if you haven’t thought it out beforehand).

    Then again, it could vary from writer to writer and a loose plan never hurts, but beware of the trap that is over-planning – it could kill your story.

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