Give Your Writing the Gift of Structure & Discipline - Writer's Digest

Give Your Writing the Gift of Structure & Discipline

Publish date:
Image placeholder title

I loved school growing up. I didn't know it then, but I thrived on the structure and discipline of study. I always felt more productive when in school. (Work later served the same purpose—feelings of creativity and productivity.)

But I have exactly the opposite inclinations in my personal life. No structure, no restrictions, no discipline; leaf blowing in the wind, moving with the stream, going wherever the mood takes you.

(Which is why it is probably so very dangerous for me to be without a formal office or job! But that's a blog post for my personal site.)

So, when I want to get serious about an endeavor, I have to set up a structure or a system to hold me accountable. Even if it's something I'm passionate about, I can't leave it to my whims, desires, or However-Whenever-Whatever mantras.

And I was struck by the universality of this as I served as executive editor of NOVEL IN 30 DAYS, a special Writer's Digest publication that will hit newsstands in mid-January 2011.

One of the reasons novel-writing systems are so popular (why NaNoWriMo is so popular!) is that you have to dedicate yourself—you have to really commit yourself—to accomplishing something.

I used to think that obsessing over commitment was silly—that it did not free you at all—but I'm changing my mind.

(Find some more thoughts here, as well as here; this is an issue where I keep a healthy internal debate going.)

Teaching at a university is transforming how I see the issue, too. Playing free and loose with a class will result in sloppy student work. While everyone wants the freedom to be creative, we also need expectations set, for which we're then held accountable.

Which is why I want to share this message with you:

If you want to accomplish something in your writing life, you have to set up a structure if you want to succeed. Maybe it's morning pages, maybe it's a weekly word count goal, maybe it's sitting down for 15 minutes at least one time a day, even if nothing gets written.

But somehow, you have to decide and commit, or else you're not serious about it. And (maybe worst of all), other people won't take you seriously, either.


10 Epic Quotes From Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Here are 10 epic quotes from Watership Down, by Richard Adams. The story of a group of rabbits who escape an impending danger to find a new home, Watership Down is filled with moments of survival, faith, friendship, fear, and hope.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Quintilla Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the quintilla.


Plot Twist Story Prompts: Fight or Flight

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, it's fighting time.


Vintage WD: 10 Rules for Suspense Fiction

John Grisham once admitted that this article from 1973 helped him write his thrillers. In it, author Brian Garfield shares his go-to advice for creating great suspense fiction.


The Chaotically Seductive Path to Persuasive Copy

In this article, author, writing coach, and copywriter David Pennington teaches you the simple secrets of excellent copywriting.

Grinnell_Literary Techniques

Using Literary Techniques in Narrative Journalism

In this article, author Dustin Grinnell examines Jon Franklin’s award-winning article Mrs. Kelly’s Monster to help writers master the use of literary techniques in narrative journalism.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 545

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a cleaning poem.


New Agent Alert: Amy Collins of Talcott Notch Literary Services

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Amy Collins of Talcott Notch Literary Services) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.


5 Tips for Writing Scary Stories and Horror Novels

Bestselling and award-winning author Simone St. James shares five tips for writing scary stories and horror novels that readers will love to fear.