Writing is about the process as much as it is about the skill and creativity. This is not to belittle raw talent, of course, but talent unexpressed does no good in the process of writing a novel (or anything else, for that matter). Developing healthy habits can make the difference between potential and published. So, what habits are useful? Glad you asked.
Let’s take a look at some of the habits that can greatly benefit your writing, why they matter, and how you can develop the habit.
Taking note: This is almost inevitable. You’re lying in bed, and suddenly the greatest idea ever for a novel hits you. You turn the idea over and over, think about your soon-to-come fame, and fall asleep. The next day, that perfect idea is gone or you keep forgetting to write it down.
The beauty of the time we live in is that cell phones are perfectly equipped to keep ideas. Whether through audio recordings or typed notes, you already have the tools you need to make your ideas, thoughts, and observations stick. That may not help you at night, but it will help you keep the best creative moments alive (or the worst, depending on what you think when you read over your notes later).
Planting the bottom: You have probably heard this many times. Being a good writer means that you have to write—often. Yes, that is a tautology, but I could never stress this point enough. If you aren’t writing something creative—anything—at least once per day, then it is almost impossible to improve (keep in mind that non-fiction can be creative, too). If you are working on a novel, knock out a page or two. Or describe the water dripping in your bathroom. Or toy with an acrostic. Or map your mind. The choice is yours. You will likely not use most of what you write, but you’d be surprised how many ideas come from this. The main benefit, however, is the improvement that practice makes.
Hacking away: If you aren’t editing your work, you aren’t really writing. I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Good writing depends on revising, re-envisioning, and re-interpreting the words. Make it a habit to revisit the work that you have done. Better yet, have someone you trust take a look at it and make suggestions—or even join a writing group. Whatever works best for you. Just remember that it is very rare that a work is complete the first time through.
Going for the gold: Once you have the other habits going full throttle, the next part is to do something with the writing. There are many ways to get your writing out there—whether you choose a blog like this one (or even in comments), a website, or a magazine. The point is to make goals for yourself. Decide what you want to achieve (e.g., to be published in a magazine), set goals (e.g., to complete a story, revise, and submit it), and then move on to the next goal (e.g., to finish a novel). Having purpose and direction is essential if you are serious about writing.