Bad Practices, Good Practices, Best Practices

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From David Farland, Story Doctor:

I was speaking with Forrest Wolverton about a writer we both knew who “couldn’t seem to write.” He’d written well before, but now just wasn’t getting the words on paper. He felt blocked. Forrest asked him to remember back to times when he had written easily three years earlier, and he described how he would sit down with a cup of coffee, open his word processor, and then begin to compose.
However, he’d changed his routine back then. He’d decided that he would check his email before writing. So before he began to write, he checked his email. Then he’d go on Facebook, since he often had messages there. Then he’d “play a videogame for a bit.”

Therein we found the problem. This string of behaviors that delayed his writing actually ended up sabotaging him.

He’s not alone. I know one New York Times bestseller who recently told me that he had gotten addicted to a videogame that cost him three years of his life. Another one spent eight hours a day on social media. A third drank beer after beer while waiting for inspiration.

It seems that all of us, from time to time, can fall into bad habits. Most people with bad habits don’t publish often. But just because you don’t have terrible habits, doesn’t mean you’ll do well. Some people who manage to write consistently at a high level still don’t have stellar careers.

. . . .

I ask our authors about their writing practices, how they publish, and what works for them. Sometimes it has surprised me to find one author’s indie tactics have worked at all. There are more ways to make a living in this business than I imagined. As I listen to their publishing methods, I’ve discovered that nearly all of them—and nearly all of us, I’m sure, fall short of our potential. Authors typically find a way to write and sell books, and then they settle in at that plateau.

I’ve sometimes suggested things the author could do to boost his or her sales, but many feel they are already working about as hard as they want to.

It raises a question: Are you satisfied with doing what works, or would you prefer to change a little and do what works best?

For example, instead of opening your email before you write, could you wait for three hours and do it on a break (setting a time limit to answer)? Instead of just putting your books up on Amazon and advertising to your mailing list, would you consider some targeted ads that might double your income?

Link to the rest at David Farland, Story Doctor

10 thoughts on “Bad Practices, Good Practices, Best Practices”

  1. Personally, I like to clear the decks each morning before I dig into my writing/editing. Emails, blogs (like this one!), news, whatever… I deal with it, check it off, and then “do the work of the day” in a halo of focus. If that stops working, I’ll try something else.

  2. Many years ago, a teacher told me there are morning people, and there are night people, and opposites should never marry. Some of the best advice I ever got.

    • Like all generalised advice, this is to say the least dubious, as you can always find examples that contradict the rule, and no-one can ever quantify the opportunity cost of obeying it (though no doubt you can also find plenty of people who will be happy to tell you what it cost them when they ignored the rule).

      • Sure. The path not taken always looms. And given all that, we have to make decisions. I followed the advice.

    • I didn’t follow the advice and it worked out perfectly. I grew up on a farm. I like to get a jump on the sun. I’m usually up before 5a; in the summer, often before 4a. My city-bred wife is only up before noon for morning appointments. That gives me a solid 7 or 8 hours of uninterrupted work followed by an afternoon of playing the attentive husband.

      People vary, routines vary. Compatibility is a mystery.

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