Five Tips for Breaking Bad Writing Habits

Even though writing should be fun, it isn’t free from the tedium and distractions that lead to bad habits. So we’ve rounded up the best tips for defeating the most common bad writing habits before they prevent you from writing that masterpiece you know is in there.


1.     Establish a routine. Let’s just get this out of the way: what’s the number-one bad writing habit? (You’re squirming in your seat because you already know the answer. It’s the reason you’re googling “breaking bad writing habits” instead of writing that next chapter.) Procrastination. Every writer procrastinates, whether out of laziness or nerves. Setting a writing routine, whether it’s committing to opening your journal at exactly 8:00 a.m. every morning or designating a specific chair and coffee mug for your weekly writing session, will give your brain the signal to switch gears and get in the writing mode automatically, so that checking your Facebook isn’t the first thing you think of when you think about writing.


2.     Seek support. Even when you have a routine for working down, getting the emotional motivation to work on a long-term project isn’t always easy— if you find you’re having a hard time doing it by yourself, seek out some kind of support network. Join a writing group (whether in person or online), to share in the joys and woes of toiling away at the keyboard together, or just enlist a friend to look over your work periodically and give you feedback you can trust (hint: your mom is probably not the best person for this job).


3.     Set deadlines (and make them). It’s always good to set goals, but it’s even better to set deadlines. The thrill (terror) of a looming deadline not only keeps you from procrastinating, but also keeps you accountable to yourself in terms of the quality of your writing. Deadlines force you to pare your concept of your story down to the essentials, which will put your book––and how to write it––into a much clearer perspective.


4.     Edit as you go. While you generally want to save a major revision till you’ve finished a first draft, many writers find it incredibly helpful to edit the previous day’s work at the beginning of each writing session. Making this part of your routine is a surefire way of getting your brain in the writing mode, and also teaches you to identify and correct parts of your book that just aren’t working, or writing tics you didn’t realize you suffered from.


5.     Ask yourself what you’d want to read. Even though the idea behind your book is wholly your own, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of emulating other writers’ styles, or constantly imagining your book’s future audience. Readers can tell when your voice feels inauthentic or when they’re being pandered to, and writing what you think you should write instead of what you want to write sucks all the joy out of the process. Writing can be painful, but it should never be boring. So if you find it is, ask yourself what you would want to read, not what you think others want to read, and use that as your guiding light.

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