A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
This month, I’m asking the Allsorts about their best and worst writing habits. Here’s they revealed:
My best writing habit is having lots of ideas, and yes, I am very good at scribbling them down in a notebook so I don’t forget them. My worst habit – perhaps a flip side of the same coin – is that I am very bad at making enough time for writing and seeing all my ideas through. I thought it would magically change when I was published, but I still tend to put my own writing at the bottom of the list, under the day jobs, the kids, etc.
Worse: Those annoying crutch words and phrases. Mine are felt/feels, just, then … Silly words that litter my first drafts. I snip them away like mad when I’m doing an edit!
Best: Writing fast (although I always feel I could be faster). Getting a chapter done a day and a whole draft in a few months allows me to keep the momentum up, to really immerse myself in my world and let my characters take over. Plus, I’m always impatient to get on to the next book!
I think excitement over a story fits both. Best because it means I’m enthusiastic and look forward to working on it. Worst because it makes me want to jump right in and I often end up having to stop and start again once I’ve actually stepped back and made sense of everything!
My best writing habit is that I can block out distractions in a cafe or public place to get zoned into my writing if I am mid flow and desperate to get back into the story. Harrison Ford could be tap dancing next to me in Starbucks and if I’m mid scene I’ll never know. ( I now can’t get rid of the very strange image of Indiana Jones with a top had and cane offering me a latte)
My best writing habit is writing even when I am tired / have had a hard day / don’t know what to write. My worst writing habit is not writing when I am tired / have had a hard day / don’t know what to write.
My best writing habit is also my most damaging: I am fully capable of writing for fourteen hours straight when I’m in the zone, feverishly hammering at my keys, forgetting to eat/drink/sleep/go to the toilet… the words I make during this time are usually the best, but the resulting RSI is definitely the worst. Also, the dreams I have when I eventually fall into bed at two in the morning are weird.
My best habit is very careful planning – once I’ve got a good structure in place, it’s less daunting to sit down and write a book. My worst habit is getting carried away with research, maxing out my library card and running up huge fines!
I’d say for me it’s coming up with a fun and original concept and the worst is making myself stop procrastinating and to sit down and put it all together.
My worst habit is self-doubt; it always creeps in and I always have moments where I think my work in progress is the worst thing EVER. My best habit? Well, I’m not sure I have any good habits!
I have two good writing habits. First of all I plot everything carefully and write a full chapter outline before I start. It keeps me focused, motivated and helps me put in foreshadowing, literary allusion and so on. I also set my alarm for six am. This means that I can get almost two hours done every day before the kids have to be up for school. It really helps.
My worst writing habit, as I imagine many of us will say, is slipping over to the Internet.
I’m always checking my email, checking facebook, looking on Twitter, checking the news, playing Jelly Splash and so on. Strangely if I set my alarm for six, I sit down, start writing and don’t stop for two hours. But when I start later on, I can distract myself for an hour or more before I really getting down to it. If I had any sense I’d disable the Internet, but I use it all the time for researching facts and looking up words on Thesaurus.com. Just this morning I’ve looked up atolls, Medicins Sans Frontieres, confirmed which are nuts and which are bolts (I can never remember which is which) and started research on biomass fuel (sounds like an interesting book, doesn’t it!).
My best writing habit is probably the one I picked up through years of writing while working full-time at an office job – which is being able to scribble longhand notes pretty much anywhere and in any tiny bit of spare time I have. I open my notebook, and I’m off. The worst is laziness! I’ve had to ban myself from reading new books during my drafting process, because given the choice between writing a tricksy transition and spending the day lying around reading, reading always wins.
Best Writing Habit: I’m self-motivated, which I guess comes from years of teaching. I’m used to working in the evenings/at weekends, and to deadlines.
Worst Writing Habit: Twitter. SUCH a distraction!
Best: Doggedly getting on with it during all losses of faith and actually finishing it. Not minding about rewriting large parts of it more than once or twice.
Worst: Seeing everything in a scene very clearly and then being clinically unable to resist putting it all in. Then having to take it all out again.
My best habit is to be always at my desk early, no excuses or distractions, and I’ll always write or draw something, even if it’s not very good…
My worst is talking myself too loudly, laughing too much at my own jokes, and worst of all making the same expressions as the characters I’m drawing – which looks utterly bonkers.
My best writing habit is probably speed – I can write quickly when I need to. However, that’s also probably my worst writing habit too! If I get too carried away then I make mistakes and things aren’t as well thought-out as I’d like them to be. I have to remind myself to be slow and steady.
My best writing habit (and I don’t always manage it) is not judging myself for writing badly. This means I can often produce lots of words pretty fast, which I can then rework and improve later on.
My worst writing habit is editing too early. Instead of waiting until I have a whole draft, I polish prose because it’s making me sad looking at it, all ugly and wrong, and then it doesn’t make it into the final cut. A lot of time is wasted doing this.
My best writing habit is planning. Before I start a new story I want to feel as confident as I can that it’s going to work, and my plans help keep me on track as I write.
My worst writing habit is taking too long to get going each day. Unless I have a deadline to motivate me, I can easily waste a lot of time checking my emails, Twitter, Facebook etc. before I finally open Scrivener – I could probably have written an extra novel if I added all the time together!
My best writing habit is that I start writing the second I wake up in the morning. My worst writing habit is that I do a lot of my writing in bed. These two facts are, of course, connected.
Best: Determination (and I’m pretty darn good at revisions, even when they go through round after round after round…*sobs quietly*).
And me? I think my best habit has to be that I will keep chipping away at a story when the going’s tough and the words are slow. And my worst – I have the concentration span of a goldfish! But I’m trying to overcome that by making myself write in 30 minute stints, then allowing myself a break to make coffee, play with the dog, mess about on Twitter and Facebook… but only for ten minutes, and then it’s back to work, honest!
What are your best and worst writing habits? Share them with us in the comments!
Emma Pass has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. Her debut novel, ACID, is out now and was the winner of the 2014 North East Teenage Book Award. It will be followed by THE FEARLESS, another stand-alone thriller for young adults, in April 2014. By day, she works as a library assistant and lives with her husband and dog in the North East Midlands.