As far as the mechanics of the craft, I follow a daily writing regimen called Speed Writing. I’ve been doing it since freshmen year in college. My English Composition teacher made us write in a notebook for 10 minutes, never lifting the pen from the paper until the timer sounded. Most of it was crap, random thoughts and rants on how much the class sucked and how I wished I was somewhere else. But then, without fail, an idea pattern would form at the seventh minute. I start zipping across the paper like crazy, and just when it started to get good, “Time’s Up! Pencils down; notebooks closed, please.”
Albeit the ultimate tease, the lesson was profound. Now, many centuries later, I still apply the practice, but for a longer period of time. With the aid of an egg timer, I do about 60 minutes in the morning and 60 in the evening; never stopping until the hour is up. And then I WALK AWAY, typos and run-on sentences galore, but the idea is preserved, raw, and perfect under the gibberish. With each day, it builds and after a week or so, I look back and assess my progress.
This exercise isn’t for everyone, but some level of consistency has to develop in order to establish growth. It’s like building a house. The details can wait, lay down the foundation first, that rough but finished draft. Why obsess over the curtains and drapes when you have no walls or windows? Why nit-pick over light fixtures and wall paper when you have no roof? People get so caught up in the smaller aspects of writing they lose sight of what really matters, and they wonder why they get frustrated mid story or never complete a manuscript.
If I could give anyone advice on writing, it would be this: WRITE!! Break loose; go wild! It may be ugly, but it’s only a first draft, so no one is going to see it but you. Don’t make writer’s block your long term excuse. Take a short break then write again. There is no going around writer’s block; you can only go THROUGH it. Train yourself to plow forward, don’t care how it sounds, how it’s spelled. That’s what editing is for. You will spend most of your time editing anyway, so why employ that contractor ahead of schedule.
Talent is good to have but it doesn’t mean jack shit if you’re not disciplined. Follow a strict “write first, ask questions later” policy that can take you much further in your work than agonizing over each chapter. FINISH IT. Build your house THEN decorate accordingly.