Category: writing

The 3 Most Important Writing Habits of Bestselling Authors

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. This week, we’re focusing on helping you find the time in your busy schedule to sit down and write a novel next month. RescueTime, a NaNoWriMo 2018 sponsor, is here today with some helpful time management tips:

Like any major creative project, writing a novel in just 30 days takes serious dedication. But even more than that, it takes mastery of your daily schedule, habits, routines, and focus.

As John Grisham, author of more than 35 New York Times-bestselling novels explains:

“Routine is what it’s all about. You’ve got to get into a [writing] routine that is second nature.”

Our lives are driven by habit and routine. In fact, most studies agree that close to 40% of our daily actions are driven by unconscious habits. In order to write consistently, you need to build a routine that gets you writing and gets rid of anything getting in the way.

Here are 3 of the most important writing habits and routines of best-selling authors and how RescueTime—the award-winning time management and productivity app—can help you stick to them.

We’re thrilled to be sponsoring NaNoWriMo 2018! Sign up for RescueTime today and get all our Premium features for free through NaNoWriMo. Find out more here.

1. Find the right time to write each day (and commit to it)

Let’s start with a bit of basic math. To hit your NaNoWriMo goal, you need to write 11,700 words a week. That’s no small feat for any writer (even the pros). But as everyone from Grisham to Haruki Murakami to Stephen King will tell you, writing novels is all about finding your optimal writing hours and sticking to them.

When Grisham first started writing novels, he followed a specific routine of getting up at 5 am, getting to his office, and writing his first words by 5:30 am. While Haruki Murakami follows a strict schedule of waking at 4 am and writing for 5–6 hours before going for a swim.

This isn’t to say you have to wake up at 4 or 5 am to write. But rather that you need to find the time that works best for you and that you can commit to every single day. RescueTime automatically tracks the time you spend on your digital devices and helps you plan out the exact time you need each day to hit your writing goals.

As Shanna Peeples, National Teacher of the Year and author of Think like Socrates, told us:

“RescueTime is like the Weight Watchers of time—helping me become aware of how I’m using my minutes and manage them better.”

2. Block distractions to stay motivated throughout your writing sessions

Back when I was in school, a professor told me that success as a writer comes down to BIC: Butt in Chair. When you’re halfway through NaNoWriMo and your motivation is waning, it’s easy to find excuses to give up. Instead, you need to block the distractions that try to take you away from your writing.

Willpower and commitment are powerful tools, not only for keeping you on track to hit your goals, but also to help you fight the deadly inner critic and get over the myth of the muse—the idea that you can only write when you “feel inspired.” For, as writer Neil Gaiman explains:

“If you’re only going to write when you’re inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you will never be a novelist—because you’re going to have to make your word count today, and those words aren’t going to wait for you, whether you’re inspired or not.”

RescueTime helps you stay motivated and committed by automatically blocking distracting websites and social media on your computer when you’re trying to write, while also giving you real-time nudges throughout the day to help you stay on track.

3. Set smaller, realistic goals and track your progress towards finishing your novel

Writing a 50,000 word novel in a month is hard, but doable. Yet unless you can dedicate enormous blocks of time to it you’re going to have to squeeze writing time into small chunks of the day. And while those chunks add up, you need to track your progress if you want to stay committed and hit your goal.  

As author Jocelyn K. Glei says:

“Most of us make advances small and large every single day, but we fail to notice them because we lack a method for acknowledging our progress. This is a huge loss.”

RescueTime sends you weekly reports, detailing your actual writing time and progress and giving you advice on how to adjust your schedule to find time to write.

Every writer struggles with finding the time to write. Now, with RescueTime and NaNoWriMo, you have the tools and support you need to build a solid writing routine, fight distractions, and stay focused as you bring your characters and story to life in just 30 days.


Robby Macdonell is CEO of RescueTime—a time management and productivity tool used by hundreds of thousands of people to block distractions, understand their productivity, and find time to work on their most important tasks. Sign up for RescueTime today and get our Premium features for free through the month of November (with a deep discount on continuing subscriptions).

30 Covers, 30 Days 2018: An Introduction

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Now recruiting all Wrimos!

Yes, it’s me again—your friendly neighborhood intern, Nick—here to announce that this year’s edition of 30 Covers, 30 Days is open!

Fall is upon us, prep season is in full swing, and November is fast approaching, which means it’s time for one of our favorite parts of NaNoWriMo!

What is 30 Covers, 30 Days?

Thirty very lucky Wrimos will be chosen to have a cover for their 2018 NaNo novel, designed by one of the many talented artists recruited by our wonderful coordinator, Debbie Millman.  

Debbie is a writer, educator, artist, brand consultant and host of the radio show Design Matters—not to mention President of Sterling Brands for the last twenty years and President Emeritus of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. So don’t worry, your novel is in very capable hands.

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We’ll be posting a new cover every day of November, both on this blog and on our forums. If you’d like to see what some of our previous covers were like, you can check them out here.

That sounds super cool! How do I sign up?

Submitting your novel is easier than ever. All you have to do is complete this form.

A few things to know before you submit your novel:

  1. Your form can’t be edited once you submit it, so please read the entire form carefully. There are ways to withdraw and resubmit, however — and you can find those details in the original post on the 30 Covers, 30 Days Intro thread. There’s more information on the whole process in that thread, too.
  2. You don’t have to use your real name. We celebrate and encourage pen names!
  3. If your novel is selected, we’ll get in touch with you, and we can all jump up and down and hug and cry together (happy tears).
  4. If you have any questions about 30 Covers, 30 Days, feel free to post in the forum, or send me a NaNoMail

In the meantime, check out the NaNo Artisans forum  to have a cover designed by a fellow Wrimo, or design one yourself.

The submission form is open until November 15. 

Now go forth and make your novel! 

-Nick Fierro, NaNo Intern

Do You Rule Your Habits or Do They Rule You?

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We’re deep into NaNo Prep Season, and we’ve dubbed this week “Time Hunt Week”! We’ll be sharing resources throughout the week to help you find the time to establish writing routines in November. Today, NaNoWriMo Executive Director Grant Faulkner shares an excerpt on forming habits from his book, Pep Talks for Writers:

“I don’t like writing. I like having written,” Dorothy Parker famously said. Writing can be daunting, frustrating, and even frightening—yet then, somehow, magically fulfilling. That’s why having a writing routine can be such a powerful writing aid. If there’s a single defining trait among most successful writers—and especially writers who reach 50K words in November—it’s that they show up to write regularly, no matter if they write at midnight or dawn, or at a desk or in a car.

“A goal without a plan is a dream,” said Antoine Saint Exupery. And a routine is a plan. A plan of dedication. A routine helps obliterate any obstacle hindering you from writing, whether it’s a psychological block or a tantalizing party invitation.

But it’s even more than that. When you write during a certain time each day, and in an environment designated solely for rumination, you experience creative benefits. The regularity of time and place serves as an invitation for your mind to walk through the doorways of your imagination and fully concentrate on your story. Routines help to trigger cognitive cues that are associated with your story, cloaking you in the ideas, images, and feelings that are swirling in your subconscious. If you anoint a specific time and place for writing, it’s easier to transcend the intrusive fretfulness of life and rise above its cacophony. Regularity and repetition are like guides who lead you deeper into the realm of your imagination.

In fact, another name for “muse” might be “routine.” When you work regularly, inspiration strikes regularly. That’s because you’re carried forward by the reassuring momentum of your progress, absorbed in a type of mesmerism.

“A routine provides a safe and stable place for your imagination to roam, dance, do somersaults, and jump off of cliffs.“

Stephen King is perhaps the perfect case study of such a writer. He compares his writing room to his bedroom, a private place of dreams. “Your schedule—in at about the same time every day, out when your thousand words are on paper or disk—exists in order to habituate yourself, to make yourself ready to dream just as you make yourself ready to sleep by going to bed at roughly the same time each night and following the same ritual as you go.”

But, wait, aren’t artists supposed to be freewheeling, undisciplined creatures more inclined to follow the fancies of their imagination than the rigid regularities of a schedule? Doesn’t routine subvert and suffocate creativity? Quite the opposite. A routine provides a safe and stable place for your imagination to roam, dance, do somersaults, and jump off of cliffs. Think of your routine like a giant bouncy house.

Also, routines don’t have to be overly routinized. I have a tradition of buying a new hat for each new novel I write—a hat that fits the theme if possible—just to change my writing energy a bit. When I put on the hat, I get into the character of the novel and signal to my brain that I’m ready to write. For one macabre tale, I wore a “coffin hat” (a short version of a top hat). For another one, I wore a derby. This year’s NaNoWriMo novel is calling for brightly-colored visor.

Make your routine like a hat you put on each day.


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Grant Faulkner is the executive director of NaNoWriMo. He received his B.A. from Grinnell College in English and his M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. He has published stories and essays in The New York TimesPoets & Writers, Writer’s Digest, The Southwest Review, The Rumpus, Gargoyle, and The Berkeley Fiction Review, among dozens of others. He’s also the founder and editor of the lit journal 100 Word Story, and has published a collection of 100-word stories, Fissures.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Stuart Rankin on Flickr.

Road Trip to NaNo: Writing in the Heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains

NaNoWriMo is a worldwide event, and we’re taking a Road Trip to NaNo to hear about the stories being written every year in our hundreds of participating regions. Today, Linda Bennett, Municipal Liaison for the USA :: South Carolina :: Greenville region, shares how her region has shaped her writing:

My region, Greenville, is a county tucked up near the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the northwest corner of South Carolina. The county seat is also named Greenville; it’s a busy, lively little city situated just north of the county’s center. But it didn’t used to be so busy or lively.

Greenville’s history is one of textiles. There were cotton mills studded all around the city, creating little neighborhoods or mill towns with their own stores, clusters of homes, and even their own baseball teams. The remnants of that era can still be seen in the names of the neighborhoods and the tall water towers that marked each mill.

But the textile industry died in Greenville and the city almost died with it. The city was depressed, the downtown full of closed shops and restaurants.

Then a mayor named Max Heller had a vision. He saw the downtown as a European city, with museums and shops and restaurants all within walking distance. So he did what mayors do to raise money and brought that vision to life. He took two traffic lanes of Main Street to build wide sidewalks and parking for cars. He planted trees along the sidewalks. He built a public art museum and a public library next to it, then a theater on the other side.

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It worked. People came downtown. Shops and restaurants opened up. New industry moved in. Old buildings were renovated. New buildings were built. Slowly, the city came back to life.

Each successive mayor has carried on that vision. One even demolished a bridge to expose a thirty-foot waterfall, then built a park around it. He replaced the traffic bridge with a unique suspension pedestrian bridge, making the park a great place for families to gather. There’s even a baseball stadium downtown now, right on Main Street. The one library is now the hub of our marvelous county library system and three more museums have been added to what the mayor called “Heritage Green”.

When I think of Greenville’s past and present, I think of that mayor’s vision. He had an idea of what Greenville could become. He pursued his vision. It had a beginning, but he knew he might not see the end of it. Because rebuilding a city or a county takes time.

Do you have a vision for your novel? Do you have a beginning? Do you know where it’s supposed to end up? I’m a pantser, not a planner, so planning out my novel ahead of time isn’t something I’m used to doing. I don’t prepare detailed outlines or character sketches.

But I do have a vision. I know how my story is supposed to go, where it begins and where it ends. I know who my main character is, what they look like. I see my opening and ending scenes very clearly. The dialog. The surroundings. The action. These things I can jot down ahead of time.

I also keep a pad of paper and writing implement by my bed. The best time for inspiration is when you’re just about to go to sleep. The problem is, I don’t remember what I’d thought of when I wake up! So, make it a habit to write down any inspiration you might have. It’ll add to your vision for your novel or save you from writer’s block down the road.

Having a vision for my novel, seeing it in my mind’s eye, makes me want November to arrive! How about you?


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Linda Bennett (Co-ML of South Carolina::Greenville) is a domestic engineer and crazy cat lady wannabe. She has the crazy part down already. She holds two degrees, a  B.Sci in Graphic design and an M.Ed in English Education. In addition to her two cats and granddog, she lives with her husband of 30+ years and two of her three grown children. She’s been at this NaNo thing since 2005 and the ML gig since 2008.

“We we kissed I felt everything and he felt nothing. who felt more? -Demetra Demi”

“We we kissed I felt everything and he felt nothing.

who felt more?

-Demetra Demi” -…

What kind of NaNoWriMo writer are you? We’ve put together this…

What kind of NaNoWriMo writer are you? 

We’ve put together this handy-dandy chart to help you figure out what kind of writer you (and your friends) are. Tag yourself or your writing buddies!

[text description below]

The Well-Equipped One

  • has a magical Mary Poppins bag filled with chargers, snacks, and pens
  • probably has strong opinions about the best kind of pen
  • very, very likely to become a Municipal Liaison or already is one

The Cheerleader

  • so proud of you for doing such a great job!
  • is available on a moment’s notice when you’re in need of a pep talk
  • is basically a real-life “YOU’RE CRUSHING IT” gif

The Researcher

  • already has everything that is going to happen in their novel planned out
  • gets so distracted by research that they sometimes forget to write
  • has a bullet journal to keep track of their bullet journals

The Snacker

  • always has the good snacks, is willing to share
  • has elaborate snack-based reward systems for their writing achievements
  • is eating a snack right now while reading this

The Easily Distracted

  • updates their word count on the NaNoWriMo site every 50 words
  • has 30 documents titled “chapter one”
  • definitely did not stop reading this halfway through to tweet about it

The Social Butterfly

  • is at every NaNoWriMo event, may possibly possess a time turner
  • knows everyone’s name and what their novel is about, yet also somehow super on top of their own writing
  • always first to RSVP

The Problem Solver

  • has 15 potential solutions for that sticky point in your novel and will talk through all of them with you
  • also there to troubleshoot if your personal life is causing you trouble
  • should probably be an advice columnist or possibly a life coach

The Juggler

  • comes to write-ins between work,rehearsal, school, volunteering… and might start writing another novel
  • has a supernatural ability to fit in writing in 10 minutes between tasks
  • might actually die if Google Calendar goes down in November

The Procrastinator

  • will be working on their novel like, RIGHT away… after this other thing
  • very important that they spend 15 minutes picking out the right font
  • somehow manages to write 18,000 words on the last day

“What I would tell my teen self about mental health 1. Mental health will become a “trend” in a few…”

“What I would tell my teen self about mental health

1. Mental health will become a “trend”…

“Your heartbeat is my favourite lullaby!”

“Your heartbeat is my favourite lullaby!” – poeticfashion6 

Just Write! With The Great Courses Plus

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Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. While it may seem like your list of questions about writing, editing, and publishing gets longer every day, The Great Courses Plus, a NaNoWriMo 2018 sponsor, is here today with some courses to help you write your way through November:

50,000 words.

FIFTY.

THOUSAND.

WORDS.

If you’ve committed to NaNoWriMo, you’ve signed up for one month to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Don’t panic! Deep breath. You can do it. And The Great Courses Plus is here to help.

The countdown to November has started, and now is the time to prepare. With The Great Courses Plus, you can get motivated by looking at what first sparked your love of writing as you gain illuminating insights about beloved books and authors. Dig deep into visionary science fiction, heart-stopping mystery and suspense, or the beautiful and terrifying worlds of utopian and dystopian literature. No matter what genre you’re working in, discovering how your favorite writers write and breaking down why your favorite works work is both inspiring and edifying.

You can also step back and examine the technique of great writing at a higher level, from the nuts and bolts of grammar and vocabulary, to crafting the perfect sentence, to putting it all together and getting your works published. You’ll gain expert tips, tricks, and techniques that help you take your writing to the next level, move past writer’s block and other common obstacles, and apply a critical eye to your final product.

Led by renowned authors, writing professors at top universities, publishing industry experts, and more, this carefully-curated selection of Great Courses gives you a myriad of resources at your fingertips that provide help, inspiration, and encouragement for every step of your process.

The Great Courses Plus provides more than just storytelling help. Need to know the historical chain of events to make your story authentic? Looking for the exact chemical compound that will make your spacecraft fly? Want to throw in a line of Spanish or French from a native speaker? We’ve got more than 10,000 videos across dozens of subjects to help you access all the information you need for whatever you’re writing about.

As a NaNoWriMo participant, you’ll have access to stream all these courses for a month for FREE, PLUS you’ll get 50% off the first two months of your membership—just in time to get published!  Be sure to use the code NANO in the checkout to receive this offer to The Great Courses Plus.

Take another deep breath. Immerse yourself in captivating, advantageous, and entertaining resources that are guaranteed to make this journey easier, so that when November 1 rolls around, 50,000 words will feel just right.

How to Grow a Writing Community

As we prepare for November, we’re asking members of the NaNo community for their best advice on writing and making the most of the month. Today, writer K.A. Magrowski shares what makes having a writing community to grow and cheer with so great:

Despite the what the doomsayers may tell you about the changing face of publication, writing and storytelling is more important than ever. Humans have a need to tell stories, from the time of our ancestors sitting around a fire over a fresh kill, to the Greek poets, to today, where our screens have replaced the roaring fires and more people have access to books than ever before. Happily as well, more people are writing books, short stories, poems, scripts, and plays than ever before. And while writing is often thought of as a solitary endeavor, it doesn’t need to be. A local or virtual writing community is a writer’s beacon in the storm.

Growing a writing community isn’t easy. You start slow and small: you put up an ad on a library wall, or in a local bookstore if you’re lucky enough to have one. Then, a few writers gather in a dusty library room or a small corner of a bookstore. Maybe you trade manuscripts, or read passages aloud; you may exchange personal stories of rejections and, with luck, an acceptance or two. Newbies and pros alike flock to your group, looking for someone who understands.

They’re asking the same questions you are. Why do you need to write stories? Why give yourself homework for the rest of your life? Why spend your time hunched over a computer, coffee stains on your mousepad, typing furiously in the middle of the night, or in the morning before anyone is awake? Why write for the whole weekend when everyone else is binge watching something on Netflix?

It is with the help of your writing community that you can find the answers.

Small intimate gatherings may swell to large groups, or they may remain small. Regardless of size, a sense of community and family will develop, and no matter what the outside world throws at you, know that your group has your back.

As a long-time member and current president of the South Jersey Writers’ Group (SJWG), I have seen many new members come through our doors. They’re nervous, eyeing us up like prey wandering into a room full of predators; I have to laugh a little, because, after all, most of us have heard the horror stories of writers’ groups full of bloated egos and relentless back-stabbing.

But that’s not representative of the writers I know. Most are more than happy to share their knowledge, to cheer someone on, to commiserate over rejections and a hair-pulling revision process. In our group, we all contribute by sharing our experiences in writing, or publishing, or a particular field of expertise. Each is generous with their knowledge and time and ready to answer questions because that’s what’s we do.

And that is what building a writing community means and what it looks like: we support and build each other up. It’s not about competition, not about tearing others down, not about the stabbing of the backs. We are there for each other. Sometimes with knowledge, sometimes with a hug, sometimes with a friendly, but honest critique. You don’t need to be a famous published writer to build your community. You just need the passion to write and a few other writers who want to share a journey with you.


K.A. Magrowski is a self-styled Gamer / Geek / Triathlete / Bibliophile / Cat Lady who hails from the haunted wilds of South Jersey, home of the Jersey Devil. Fueled by coffee and wine, she writes speculative fiction for children and adults. Her short work has appeared in Dreams of Decadence magazine, and the anthologies Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey, Reading Glasses, and We Walk Invisible, as well as online sites.

Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash