By Jonathan Stinson
When I first started this blog, I began asking random writers a few questions about their writing habits. Now, I’m finally getting around to writing them up. There’s almost always something you can learn from studying the way someone else does something.
Here’s the first one I did with Martin McConnell. Martin has a cool story and a blog, which you can find at http://writefarmlive.com. He went from working on an oil rig to writing full-time. He’s written a book aimed at helping writers quit making excuses and finish their novel or whatever writing project they’re working on. I appreciated his no-nonsense approach. You can find a free download here: http://writefarmlive.com/free-download.
Bio: Martin McConnell holds a Physics degree from SIUE, and when he isn’t writing speculative fiction, he’s motivating other authors, stargazing, reading, or playing Kerbal Space Program. He avidly encourages everyone he meets to seize control of their dreams by driving their own plot. You can find him on twitter @spottedgeckgo, or at his website writefarmlive.com. If you would like to receive updates on the future of this series, send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have a set time you write each day?
MM: Yes, every single morning, for at least an hour. I usually drink a ton of water when I wake up, then I start on the caffeine and take care of whatever personal hygiene I feel like looking into that day (usually a shower and toothbrushing). Once I’m awake, I start writing immediately, because if the day runs long, I know that I won’t get my words in.
What rituals do you go through before you start typing?
MM: Kind of covered in the last answer, but I clean off my desk in the writing lab, and I move my laptop in there. I write in my journal every morning and lay out my picture of the day in my planner. Then I hit go and start writing. But that’s really for my paid writing. My creative stuff needs to get done early, during lunch, or after I finish. When I’m ready, I sit down and force myself to punch keys or scribble in a notebook until story starts coming out.
What helps you stick to a writing habit?
MM: I stick to my habit because I’ve decided that I have to write. I’ve gotten myself addicted to it, and I’m not pleasant if I don’t get at least 500 words per day. I have projects I want to finish, so I’ll pick one up and go with it. Then I feel better, and I sleep better.
What’s a good day for you?
MM: A good day is when I get a lot of productive hours in, but every victory counts, so 500 words and some editing, fine. But I love days when I kick it in gear and hammer out over 10,000. That number has sort of become my yardstick. Most days I get a couple thousand words, and I’m good with that too.
Do you set goals each day, week, or month?
MM: I set goals every single morning. And I plan some stuff out ahead, but it’s really about chipping away at the big ones by setting daily goals.
What advice would you give those just starting a writing habit?
MM: I’d recommend that they download “Finish the Damn Book” while it’s free, put aside all notions of writing perfect sentences in a first draft and that they make it a daily habit. I used to tell people “I’m not sleeping ‘till I get my words in.” You have to force it at first, that’s how you make a habit. I’d also recommend the writing challenge hashtag – info at writingchallenge.org- on Twitter, and join other groups too. There are groups on every social media platform. You should pick one that aims to hold you accountable for word count, not one that holds your hand and blows sunshine up your butt.