Habits for the Wise Writer: Not a Master List


Recent days of warm sunshine have inspired me to sit with all my writing notebooks and see what I’ve yet to type up. That’s always been the downside of being a pen and paper girl – the transition to an electronic format.

Bad Habit #1: Not consolidating your scribblings.

Whether you prefer to set up in a coffee shop, or write on the bus, or use a speech-to-text app on your phone, there are countless ways writers end up saving their work in several places. Make it a habit, either weekly or monthly, to check that you’ve moved your writing into your long-term storage spot.

Good Habit #1: Organization is your friend!

If you’re anything like me, you can remember a certain scene you wrote last month, but have no idea where to find it now that time has passed and you never labeled that scrap of paper/journal/napkin. If you’re a pen-and-paper writer, have some kind of container to catch all of your on the go writings when you get home.

If you’re primarily using word processing software, make sure to label your story folders clearly. This is especially important if you like to save inspirational photos, music or research while working on more than one project.

Bad Habit #2: Not backing up your work.

backupNow that you’ve got everything in one place, save it in multiple places!! Whether you like Dropbox, Google Docs, the Cloud or a back-up drive, you do not want to go through the anguish of losing hours of work to a power surge, your computer (or phone) crashing, or the myriad other ways we lose data.

Back before external hard drives, I lost three years of writing to an unfortunate laptop fall. ‘Never again!’ I vowed. I wish I could say I’ve been diligent every week to back up since then, but I do make sure to backup everything several times a year, in as many places as I can.

Good Habit #2: Using free resources.

These days there are great, FREE options for saving your files online. Some are easy to access through multiple platforms: Cloud, Dropbox, Google Docs – while others are more specifically aimed at computer users. Find what works for you and save, save, save!

Just like with consolidating your writing, set a certain time each week or month that you will go through and backup your work. The best way I’ve found to do this (without having to copy every document on my computer) is using the ‘Date Modified’ sorting tab in my file window, and seeing what documents I’ve worked on since my last save date.

Bad Habit #3: Relying too much on outside inspiration. roy-chan-07

Research binges are a thing for more than college students! A good writer is a good learner – eager to encounter new things and discover “new worlds.” Learning is crucial to improving as a writer.

HOWEVER, there’s so much information available to us now, researching something new can easily become a black hole. The internet is a tool, just like a hammer. You want to use it to build up what you’re creating, not swing it around for fun. (At least while you’re trying to write a coherent story.)

Good Habit #2: Know thyself.

This is good advice for pretty much all of life, but with writing and research, it’s best to be realistic with how much is too much.

Don’t get so caught up in the newest thing you want to include in your story at the expense of that story.* You know yourself – balance out your writing and research so they feed positively on each other.  I give this advice out of bitter experience, bemoaning the hours spent watching (mostly useless) videos about the possible trajectories of arrows.

*Unless you’ve decided to go in a totally new direction because of that research. There are always exceptions, right?



Katie, signing off

Photo credit of books: Ming Chan

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