Everybody wants to know the secret to success, and writers are no exception.
We often talk about all the things one must do in order to become a successful writer, and the list never ends. From studying grammar to sending out query letters and building a platform, writers have to wear many hats and stay busy if they hope to succeed.
However, most of those tasks are irrelevant (and success is impossible) if a writer hasn’t acquired the basic skills necessary for doing the work. There’s no reason to worry about submissions, queries, contracts, and marketing if your writing habits and skills aren’t up to the task of getting the project done.
Today let’s look at the three most crucial writing practices that are necessary to any writer’s success.
Crucial Writing Practices
I believe that success and opportunity go hand in hand. In order to succeed, we have to prepare ourselves so that when opportunities arise, we’re ready to grab them.
For a writer, every idea is an opportunity. However, if your writing skills aren’t up to par, then your ideas won’t matter because you won’t be able to execute them. You may have a great premise for a story, but if you don’t know how to write a story, you’ll never be able to bring that premise to life, at least not in a way that is effective or meaningful.
So it’s essential for young and new writers to focus on skill development, and the single best way to develop strong skills is by adopting a few simple writing practices.
I’m always surprised by aspiring writers who don’t read. I mean, if you don’t read, then why would you want to be a writer? That’s like making yourself a meal that you’d never eat.
When you don’t read, it shows in your writing. First of all, grammar, spelling, and punctuation are usually a mess. But there are more subtle indications too. Sentences are awkward, stories lack cohesion, poetry is riddled with unnecessary words and phrases. No matter how much writing practice you’ve had (and no matter how much you revise), if you don’t read, your writing will always be stuck at the amateur level.
So set aside some time to read. You can read one book a month or read for an hour every night before bed. Get up early and read articles and essays. Spend a few minutes every Sunday evening reading a poem. It will do wonders for your writing.
Bonus tip: make sure you occasionally study grammar and read about the craft of writing.
2. Daily writing
Okay, you don’t have to write every day, but you should get in a good, 20-minute writing session at least five or six days a week. If you can write for a full hour, all the better.
While some writers get by on binging (writing profusely for short periods, then not writing at all for a while), consistency will help you develop good habits while strengthening your skills. Think of it this way: if you exercise for five hours every Saturday, you end up sore. By the following Saturday, your muscles have weakened again, so you have start all over. On the other hand, if you exercise for an hour a day, five days a week, you’ll build up your muscles. The soreness will subside and you will get stronger and leaner.
Your writing practices are not unlike your diet and exercise habits. You’ll get the best results if you start slow and develop a regular routine.
This doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing every day. Sure, you may be working on a novel, but you can take breaks to write poetry or essays. If you don’t have a project in the works, then do some writing exercises. I have found blogging to be an excellent way to ensure that I write consistently (especially between projects).
Bonus tip: you’ll have better luck turning daily writing into a habit if you do it at the same time every day.
Normally, I say there are only two things a writer must do: read and write. However, if you want to succeed, reading and writing are not enough. You also have to learn how to produce the most polished work possible.
That means rewriting, editing, and proofreading your work.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: don’t ever show your work to anyone unless you’ve gone over it for at least one rewrite, one edit, and one proof. Nobody wants to see your typos. Not even your mother and certainly not any agents, editors, or readers.
Bonus tip: When you revise, use a style guide and make sure you keep resources handy so you can look up grammar questions.
What Are Your Writing Practices?
What do you consider your most important writing practices? When you’re crunched for time and have to choose between reading or writing, what do you do? Are there any essential writing practices you would add to this list? Is your writing regimen missing any of these critical tasks? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.