Bad Habits

Irene Soldatos

Bad habits.

We all have them. For example, I had a deadline for delivering this article, the deadline was looming dangerously overhead, I sat at the computer, decided and determined to write it. I had already thought of – at least some – of the things I was going to say. Some of these involved adding some links to the text. So I brought them up on my browser, ready and waiting. And then I spent 25 minutes link hopping from my original search, looking at more and more options I knew I would never include here – and then somehow I ended up on Goodreads.

Which brings me nicely to my first admonition.

Read On

1) Don’t do this.

Some people can write without any access to the internet, and good for them. If you can do that, then by all means, turn the damned thing off. Go somewhere where you don’t have access. Sit down. Write. Do the research you need to do before and after writing.

I am not one of these people. Most of the time, I can’t write without internet access. I find I need to constantly look things up.

If I can’t look up that one thing right then and there, it throws me off my writing. This has a lot to do with writing fantasy set in a real historical period. It has even more to do with personality. So, this means that link hopping and going off on research tangents can’t be avoided, and it also means I am a slow writer. Can’t be helped.

But it would be very good if, say, certain parts of the internet were blocked off, wouldn’t it? If, for example, I didn’t end up for an hour on Goodreads, for no reason, or Facebook. Or Twitter. Or reading screeds on my favourite RPG forum. Happily, these days, “there’s an app for that”. And here is my curated list of browser add-ons, which led me stray earlier. They will block your access to any part of the internet you tell them to, for the amount of time you tell them to. Some are very strict and there’s simply no way to circumvent the block you’ve set. Others are less so. So, if you’re finding it difficult to discipline yourself, and, like me, writing without internet access is simply unthinkable, why don’t you give one of this a try?

Work Mode - Block all Social Media

Stay Focusd

Cold Turkey

2) Resist the urge to fudge things.

You know you’ll need to sort some plot issue out, or explain why or how something occurred but, frankly, it’s just too complicated and too boring to sort out, and you feel sure you’ll be able to get by with some hand-waving. I do this all the time. And then, much much later, inevitably, always, I find out that hand-waving will just not cut it. I’m forced into a corner, and I have to sort things out properly – the way I should have done initially. Only I now I also have to go back through everything I’ve already written (usually a lot) and adapt/change/correct it all to fit with all the new things I’ve come up with far too late in the day. So, resist this urge. Sort it out when you first realise it needs sorting.

3) There’s always that one guy.

Or gal.

The one who will know that obscure – or not so obscure – piece of information you thought you didn’t need to research and who, on reading your work, will groan, will be jerked out of the story, and will not forgive you for it. I have been known to be that guy, myself. Sorry, gal. I have, in fact, stopped reading a book because of a mahogany table in the Etruscan period.

It came after several other minor infractions of this type, which I forgave, because they really were obscure. But mahogany is from the New World. Etruscans did not have it. I know this because I almost wrote about mahogany in 12th century Europe.

I got as far as “maho”, and then something stirred in the back of my mind, a doubt. I listened to it. I stopped. I typed “mahogany” into Google and got the answer in under a second. I would forgive things like this in an age before the internet. But I don’t now.

Always check everything!

4) Don’t write for others.

Write for yourself. Trying to guess what everyone else will like is an exercise in futility. For one thing, it is impossible for everyone to like the same thing. Write what it pleases you to write. Of course we all want people to like our work, we all want our work to be successful. But the first person you need to please is yourself. What is the point of success if you’re writing something you don’t enjoy writing and you yourself don’t like? That is not success. That is a chore.

Which is not to say you should not get your work critiqued and edited by people who will be strict, conscientious, but also sympathetic to the kind of book you’ve written. You should do this without fail! You should take their advice very very seriously and trust the clarity that someone with some distance to your work has. If they say something is wrong, it most likely is wrong. But, if after all this careful and serious consideration, you find you still, strongly, disagree on some issue, then overrule them. This should be rare. In my 500 page book, I think I overruled my editor twice. She still thinks I was wrong in doing so. I still think I am right. We have agreed to disagree.

Irene Soldatos: Biography

Irene is a writer based in the UK and Greece. She was born in Greece, but grew up in England. Then she went to Greece. Then England again. Then Germany. She gets about. She has a B.A. in English and a Master’s and Ph.D. in Musicology. You can find out more about her and her books on her website: