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What are some of your bad writing habits?

I have a couple of bad writing habits, a few of which are minorly problematic, and a few larger ones that I’m not entirely sure whether they give me more work, or less.

1) Not Writing Linearly

Most of the time I do write the beginning at the beginning, but often, once I get that first part down, I will jump ahead, write an emotional or exciting scene that I can’t stop thinking about. This means that I will have breaks throughout the draft, empty spaces where the words peter away. Normally, these breaks will slowly get filled in from the beginning going forward, slowly but surely soothing out the draft as I push toward the end. Sometimes there’s a specific scene that I’m dreading writing and so it sits like a gaping, festering wound. Usually those scenes are the ones I had to completely rip out of my WIP, which is the cause of my frustration.

In terms of the positives, this method means I’m getting a lot of words down on paper during the moments I’m most excited about it, adding to my motivation for the story, pushing it along.

In terms of the negatives, this means that I will be forced to do some major editing of those same scenes later one once I’ve completed every word that comes beforehand because there is inevitably wrong information because of changes I’ve made within previous scenes.

2) Not Outlining Before I Begin

Most of the time, I get an idea and I start writing. There’s a feeling involved when getting into a character that encompasses a style and voice and without that, it’s impossible to write the character. This means that oftentimes, I will set a character up with a problem, throwing them on the page and telling them to go-go-go, solve the issue! But without any clue as to how they’re going to do that.

This means that at some point, I will slam into a wall. I’ll suddenly have too many problems and have zero idea how to fix it all in a believable way. Normally, I see the wall coming as I’m writing, and can brainstorm as I write, can think about the issue on my walks, can come up with ideas and sift through them so by the time I get to the issue, I’ve already come up with the solution and things continue smoothly from there.

Sometimes I’ll have a brainstorm day. Where I just work through all the future scenes.

When I write an outline first, while it might look great on paper, I struggle to discover the character’s voice and the style of the story. This is when I will write beginning after beginning, and throttle the character in my mind because they’re not right.

I discovered that I much prefer just starting and figuring out the outline as I write rather than beat my head against the paper trying to figure out my character, wasting thousands of words on beginnings that don’t work. It does feel like less work up front, but I suspect it’s just spreading the work out over a longer period of time.

3) Jumping Between Projects

I have a horrible, no-good, dreadful habit of not staying on task (see writing non-linearly above). Which means at any one time, I will have at least a half dozen projects started, and at worst, half a million projects started.

It’s not that I don’t finish them. I do. I finish things constantly. It just…might not be what I’m supposed to be finishing.

The problem with jumping between projects is it takes time to fall back into a project, remember what you’d been doing, the story flow, the character voice, etc. That’s dead time. Required time in order to reacclimate yourself, but ultimately dead time that could have been avoided if I’d not interrupted myself within the project.

Some of this comes about because of outside interference. You’re trucking along, finishing scene after scene and then suddenly something in your real life jerks you to a stop. So when you go back to writing, you’re upset that you don’t remember what you’d been doing so it feel easier to grab a different project.

When working consistently, without interruption, this project-jumping doesn’t tend to happen quite so often. I’ve been trying very hard to craft a schedule in which I don’t project jump at all, that I stay on task until complete. It’s a process, and a slow one, because I tend to write full-length novels rather than super short ones, and I also write a lot of smaller pieces as well. So finding time for each piece and scheduling it out correctly isn’t the easiest, but I’m working hard on it.

And those are my downfalls, the things that I need to push more on, get better at. Every writer has their own struggles, their own fears that might hold them back or poor habits. I’m just thankful that not-finishing projects isn’t one of mine, because never being able to write the words “the end” would probably end me :P