Habits to Build as a Fiction Writer

When I started writing, I used it as a way to document my minimalist journey. Read: I started a blog. It was rough at first, focused mostly on the step-by-step process, but I found that I could continually go back to that platform and test new ideas.

The more I grew there, the more I looked for ways to expand. Eventually, the next writing step was going to be writing a book.

I had no idea where to start or how to even write fiction but I was able to translate a lot of the non-fiction writing habits I had developed to fit into my new work as a fiction writer.

Here are some habits that you should build to help with your fiction writing.

Read (and write) in different genres

One thing I wish I had started sooner was reading in different genres. I stuck to the ones I was writing in and while it was helpful, I was missing out on a lot of really good lessons.

There are so many things you can learn from different genres. Though I personally write in the YA/Adult and fantasy genres, I’ve learned so much from the sci-fi, romance, and adventure novels that I’ve picked up throughout my time. Different genres bring different levels of description, dialogue, creativity, and more that you can apply to your own writing.

Just because it’s not what you’re writing in doesn’t mean you can’t learn from it.

You should also practice writing in those different genres as well. Emulate the talents of other writers and learn from their success. You don’t have to write entire novels that you don’t like but use it as a learning experience. Practice your craft and push yourself outside your comfort zone to see what happens.

Study other mediums

Often we see the ‘greatest advice’ of fiction writing is to read and write. I’d like to offer an expansion on that. Not only should you be expanding your reading library, look to other mediums for examples of storytelling.

Think about it — storytelling is all around us. We watch TV, we watch movies, we play video games… all of these things have a story. TV shows break these stories into 30 minute chunks but have an overarching story that they spread out over an entire season. Movies tell a story in a condensed time frame of a couple hours. Video games keep you interested while you follow the campaign story.

You can learn storytelling from many different kinds of mediums so don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to just books. Study the craft of others and figure out how to apply it to your writing.

Practice outlining your novel

When you outline, complex bits of your story can find their places and make sense throughout the book. You can plot out a story and make sure you get the storyline right the first time.

When I wrote my first book, I didn’t use an outline (mostly because it was already in my head) but when I started the third book of that series, I realized there were a lot of things I needed to tie together. An outline saved me from running into the same plot hole twice and helped me get an idea of where I needed the story to go.

Freewrite often

I love the idea of just sitting down with no care in the world. Freewriting allows me to test new ideas without the pressure of getting it perfect. I can talk myself through plots, answer questions or think out loud, and let my imagination run wild.How to Use Freewriting to Write Better NovelsFrom writing ideas to novel planning, use freewriting and brain dumps to finish your bookwritingcooperative.com

This method helped me finish a lot of my ideas and make them work once I sat down to actually write the novel. I’ve translated freewriting into my journaling habit at night. This helps me work through any kinks I have and jot down ideas before I sleep.

Protect your space

I have built a strong habit of loving and protecting my writing space. When I sit down to write, I don’t want to be worried about clutter or messy things lying around. While some people thrive on chaos, I prefer to have a neat desk. I make room for my keyboard, my notes, my journal or planner for scheduling, and my drink.

Build a habit of keeping your space just how you like it. You’ll look forward to sitting down and you’ll be able to focus without distraction.

Set goals and schedule your time

This has been my most successful habit to date. Every weekend, I sit down with my planner and set my goals for the week before time blocking my schedule. I have a priority list of things I need to accomplish each day to reach the goals at the end of the week.

This is also a great way to set up my publishing schedule. Between writing non-fiction and writing/editing my novels for release, I need to have a consistent schedule and realistic goals for publishing my work. Because my fiction writing is self-driven, I make sure I set and keep goals with myself for when I want my work to be done so I can actually release it on time.

Commonplace book

One of my favorite tools is keeping a commonplace book. Basically, it’s where I keep all of my ideas for later because I’m working on one at the moment. If I were to follow every new idea I had, I’d never finish a project. My commonplace book is a collection of writing prompts, quotes and materials that I find inspiring, and new ideas that I might consider following at some point.

It’s not organized but I use it as a brain dump. Sometimes I’ll do freewriting in there if I come up with an idea for a plot and need to put down some details. I know I can always come back to it later and see what ideas are worth pursuing as my next project.The Thinker’s Journal: How to Keep a Commonplace BookA collection of anything and everything that inspires you dailymedium.com

Write short stories

The best part about writing short stories is that it forces you to condense your ideas into a bite-size piece. It’s a challenge but it also helps you figure out if an idea is worth a novel-length project.

You also don’t have to show these stories to anyone. They can be just for you. Some people use short stories to write backstory for their characters. Maybe the short story will explain to you why a character behaves the way he does. If you understand the story, you can tell it to your readers better.

Short stories are also great incentives for driving interest in your work. You can give it away for an email list or you can use it as a bonus gift for people who buy your books.


Laura Winter is a self-published author dedicated to helping your authorpreneur journey. She has launched her books on little to no budget to prove you don’t have to invest an exorbitant amount of money to be successful. Find her work on Amazon, Patreon, and join her tribe to get more articles like this.
This post was originally published on Medium.

Published by Laura Winter

Authorpreneur and cat lover.

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