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The No. 1 Tip of Successful Writers

What do most successful writers have in common? One writer ends decades of procrastination and gets to the bottom of this question on her way to writing her first novel.

When I turned 50, I decided I’d procrastinated long enough.

I committed to write my first novel -- you know the one, the story that’s wandered around in your mind for a decade or two.

I gave myself a deadline. I blocked some spare (yeah, right) time on my calendar. I pulled out a few notes I’d jotted through the years.

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Guest column by Judy Christie, who writes fiction with a Louisiana flavor. She’s the author of the Green Series (Abingdon Press), about a big-city journalist who winds up running a little newspaper in Geen, La., and “Wreath,” a young adult novel (Barbour Publishing). When she’s not writing, she likes to chat on her vintage green Kitchen Couch, which probably is itself a good topic for a novel. You can contact Judy at www.judychristie.com, on Facebook and @JudyChristie. For free weekly tips on writing and various and sundry other topics, check out her podcast on iTunes.
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JudyChristie

What I didn’t know about writing a novel far outweighed what I did know. I wasn’t a scholar of the fine art of POV or pacing or tension on every page. I had no idea what head-hopping was, and I was clueless about word count.

But I had noticed bestselling authors had something in common. Despite differences in genre, style, voice, settings, or characters, they developed a writing habit.

After years of procrastination and fear, that lesson helped me write my first novel and five since.

When I flounder as a writer, it’s because I’m inconsistent with my daily writing discipline. When I produce my best stories, I rely on that basic lesson from the masters – words on the page.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that on my most rewarding and productive writing days, I use a kitchen timer, set for an hour at a time. I track how many hours I actually write -- as opposed to time spent Tweeting, Facebooking or wandering around my friends’ blogs.

You’d think at age fifty-five I wouldn’t need such a trick, but, after all, it took me fifty years to write a novel.

About a year ago, I started keeping a separate calendar to track my writing hours and my word count each day. While my ego finds that somewhat insulting, those strategies keep me on track when I’m tempted to fritter away my precious writing time. I find I have little tolerance for the zero-word days.

For me, not writing has become harder than writing. Procrastination saps my energy and creativity. I say "no" to certain things to say "yes" to these stories I want to tell.

Whether you are twenty-five or fifty-five, a full-time best-selling author or a frazzled writer on the side, there’s apparently only way to be a successful writer:

Sit down and write.

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