10 Steps to Becoming a Highly Effective Writer

Filed in Motivation Mondays, Writing Tips by on April 4, 2016 34 Comments

Writing and procrastination might stereotypically go hand-in-hand, but no one has ever written a book by procrastinating. The only way to write a book is to write. It’s a crazy concept—I know. But if F. Scott Fitzgerald procrastinated on The Great Gatsby, none of us would even know such a book existed.

So, how do we reverse procrastination, start putting words on paper, and cross the finish line? Let’s break it down.

  1. Become a reader. The best writers are the best readers. Read anything and everything you can get your hands on—especially bestsellers in your genre. Do you plan on writing a self-help book, but haven’t read one in a while? It’s kind of hard to reach your target audience when you don’t know what they’re into. Reading isn’t about copying; it’s about learning and discovery.
  2. Observe your world. Technology has made it so easy to ignore the world around us. We can so easily turn off real life and tune into our social media feeds or emails, but by doing that, we lose the ability to observe. Some of my best ideas and free-writes come from quiet moments in which I’m watching the world move around me. Sit on a park bench on a beautiful afternoon. What do you see? Write it down. 
  3. Set goals. Goal-setting is so important for life in general, but it’s important for writing too. Are you thinking about writing a book? In order to achieve big goals, we need smaller goals to get us there. The standard book length for non-fiction books range from 60,000 to 75,000 words. But look at it this way: 75,000 words over the course of two months is a mere 1,250 words a day. Sound a bit easier to achieve? That’s because it is easier. 
  4. Protect your time. Once you figure out your big goal, it’s time to start protecting your time. How do you protect your time? First off, you have to make time. Writing has to become part of your life, not something you do when you’re bored. Just as you build your work schedule into your day, you must build writing into your day or week. Decide how many times a week you’re going to write. Then, decide how many hours on each of those days you’re going to write. Put these blocks of time on your calendar. 
  5. Find your writing space. This one may take some trial and error, but it’s important to find a writing space that works. Maybe it’s a local coffee shop. Maybe it’s the dining room table or a home office. Wherever your writing space may be, it should be comfortable temperature, well-lit, and the right noise level.
  6. Set and keep boundaries. Just like protecting time is important, it’s also important that family members and friends respect the boundaries of your writing time as well. If you have a block of time for writing on Tuesdays for two hours before bed, it’s important that no one interrupt that time: no dishes, no laundry, no “can you come here real quick.” Shutting off the world for a bit is important for efficient writing.
  7. Take care of yourself. Hydrate, get enough sleep, squeeze in a workout, use prayer or whatever helps you feel calm, clutter-free, energized and focused. When you’re at your best physically, there’s fewer obstacles to your creativity.
  8. Get online. Use a website like Scrivener or Reedsy to house your writing. This also gives you a place for collaboration if you want to ask others to help you write, edit, or get feedback on your work.
  9. Keep readers in mind. Some say to write for yourself; others say to write with your readers in mind. The writing process should actually be a little of both. You have to write something you’re going to enjoy writing. Otherwise, you’ll never finish. You also have to keep your readers in mind. Invest time in your writing if you want readers to invest their time in reading your work.
  10. Build a team. This one especially applies to those who want to publish a book: I have yet to meet a writer who can also perfectly edit their own book, design their cover, typeset their entire book, and create a marketing plan. It’s so important to build a team of experts in each field, and it’s equally important to let them do the work they know how to do best. As a writer, your job is to write, revise, and work with an editor on revisions. It’s a partnership that takes both parties to create a positive experience. Build a great team and enjoy the experience, instead of feeling weighed down by stress.

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About the Author ()

Erika Bennett has been a freelance editor for nearly half a decade. Before joining the Xulon team in 2010, she worked with several first time authors who wanted to test the waters of self-publishing. Her aim is to make sure great books find their way into readers' hands.

Comments (34)

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  1. avatar connie ngware says:

    Am grateful for the information. Thank you alot

  2. avatar Marni Tagami says:

    I’m writing a novel that Xulong will be helping me to publish. I really appreciate this blog post. It reiterates what I have come to realize are key principles if you want to be serious about your writing. I was also trying to figure out in my head how many pages or words an average novel should be, and, voila, you have it here. Thank you so much.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing such an amazing information to me, I appreciate it.

  4. avatar Trinisa Williams says:

    Thank you for such valuable information!

  5. avatar Bob A. Jackson says:

    I am grateful that Xulon Press is a Christian based publishing company. I have been looking for a company like yours for several years. This is my first experience in getting published. All of the people that I’ve been working with have been so helpful as the process continues. It has been a total learning experience for me that I hope will continue as time goes on. Sending us articles such as this one is most appreciated!

    • I’m so glad to hear that you’re already part of the Xulon family, and having such a great experience. You’re definitely right—publishing is a learning experience, and we’re so glad to be working with you. Thank you for letting us know articles like this are appreciated and helpful to you. That’s most important to us as we sit down each month to brainstorm ideas for articles.

  6. avatar Karen Horton says:

    Thank you very much for the timely tips.

  7. avatar Deborah says:

    Very helpful information as I begin writing my first book. Your tips are right on time for an amateur writer trying to get her foot in to door.

  8. Good morning, and how are you all doing, on this Thankful Tuesday? I am not even sure if I really know where or what to write. This has been a concern of mine. I am PRAYING ABOUT IT.!!!
    I am looking forward to learning more about this opportunity in writing a book. You see, I’ve never done anything like this before.
    So I would truly appreciate your help. Thank you so very much, for sharing your expertise with me. Have A Blessed Day With JESUS. AMEN!!!

    • It’s definitely important to have a purpose for the book before it’s written. Otherwise, the writing can go down rabbit-holes and the material isn’t streamlined. Think about what you would enjoy writing, first. You’re going to spend a lot of time writing the book, so make sure it’s something you enjoy writing. Second, the book has to serve a purpose for the reader as well. So, begin to think about that purpose. Sometimes, we have to do some work and heavy lifting before God can give us more direction. Keep praying, and it’ll all come together in God’s perfect timing.

      • avatar Michelle Nuzzi says:

        I’ve always been good at writing poems, short stories, creative writing and also really good at proofreading!!! The “typos” just jump out at me in National periodicals, text books, novels, websites etc., etc. It’s no surprise I became a secretary at age 17 and my gift of grammar and attention to detail was utilized for the Executives I worked for! Well, now in my 50’s I just know in my heart that I’m suppose to write a book — I began telling people this at age 10….but not sure what it should be about…praying about this. I find that journaling is a BIG part of my life as I’ve spent much time with the Lord due to being ill for 20 years — maybe it’s a devotional; I just don’t know.

        Erika, your comment about doing some work and heavy lifting really hit me! Thank you dear. The fact that I’m reading these posts is a huge step for me; I know the Holy Spirit is working in me and guiding me.

        I seriously think I should be working for a publishing company or local newspaper as a proofreader and then other doors will open up. We shall see where God leads.

        God Bless you all and thank you for your wisdom.

        • Michelle,

          Wow! It sounds like God has definitely been preparing you throughout your life to write a book. There’s no doubt about that! Journal writing is very beneficial to writing. It can serve as inspiration for a fiction book, allowing you to go back in time, and pull from life experiences you’ve experienced. Journal writing is also beneficial for writing a devotional, as short anecdotes or personal stories on life have become a big part of devotionals. “Savor” by Shauna Niequist is one of my favorites because she pulls back the covers and shares real stories from her life and finding peace when she’s turned over the gritty parts of life to God.

          Remember, everything happens in God’s perfect timing. When it’s time for you to sit down and write, you’ll know it! Until then, keep praying and thinking about what you’d enjoy writing. We’re here if you need us!

          • avatar Bernadette Thompson says:

            Thanks for this as I have been trying and praying for years about writing a book and devotional. The Holy Spirit lead me to this blog! !

  9. avatar Ron Walker says:

    Enjoyed the program !!!

  10. avatar Alfred says:

    Thanks Erika, I too am a first time author and wish to publish my first book. Your tips here are truly valuable. How I wish you could still help me in testing the self-publishi waters.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the tips. I’m not sure where you’re at in the book writing/publishing journey, but feel free to give us a call and chat with one of our consultants. You can reach us at (866) 381-2665.

  11. avatar LB Yates says:

    Now that I have (you have) published my book, I read the 10 tips! Mine was a non-fictional work on the humanity of Jesus, so I could study and teach it (to my adult Bible class) every Sunday before I wrote it. The inspiration came from… READING. in 1990 I came across a truth in the gospel of John while reading a 40 day devotional on the works of Andrew Murray. And that spark in 1990 was finally ignited (after a number of small fires along the way) in 2014… book published. It was never intended to be a best seller, but has become a best giver-away. The satisfaction that God used my pen to write His truth about Jesus is overwhelming. And I am certain, He is not finished with it all yet. God can use, “unlearned and untrained men” [and women] as He did John and Peter before the Sanhedrin, as long as you, ‘have been with Jesus’ (Acts 4:13).

    • You are so right! God can use everything for good, and we’re so glad you’ve been able to share God through your book. Congratulations on finishing your book—it’s such a special accomplishment!

  12. avatar JohnWeaver says:

    Erika, thanks, very helpful as I continue to work on my 2nd book via Xulon. Psalm67, JohnWeaver

  13. Very insightful tips. I plan on being rigorous in implementing these right away. I also look forward to more articles from you.

  14. avatar norma vought says:

    poetry book publishing
    I wrote a poetry book it has 70 pages and my poetry word count whole

    document words 10827. can you help me publish my book for free
    is your book contest free if so can I mail my manuscript to you

    my email is Norma.Vought@gmail.com

    the story of my book

    the book is about me, my feelings, what I have

    experienced and what I have seen. writing this

    book has helped me accept things that my heart would

    not accept like family and friends dying or leaving me

    behind and understand things did not make any sense to me. it helped

    with my thoughts and feelings too, so I hope this book may be able to

    help other people with their problems in their lives like it helped me.

    broken hearts

    broken hearts that does not always heel will take time to mend

    back together. broken hearts need one another to help out along the

    broken hearts are the stronger ones.


    thank you

    this is away to say you appreciate what they have done for you

    and what they have given you



    lying only bring you tears. lying is what you have learned well enough to

    lie to everyone you know about what you feel inside I’m not about

    pretending to be who the others person wants me to be, but being able to be

  15. avatar Gershom Jere says:

    Valuable information that I will follow as I am writing my first Fiction novel in an African setting of the
    Savannah Grasslands.

  16. avatar Terah Fortner says:

    Thank you all for your postings, it has helped me a lot. I am getting ready to try and write my first book.
    I have wrote many poetry but never have tried to get them published.

    • Hi! So happy to hear you are ready to start this exciting journey! We can definitely help you publish and give you more information on this process. Please call 1-866-381-2665 during business hours (Monday – Friday,8:30-5:00 pm, EST). We look forward to hearing from you!

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