I always just focused on speaking/listening yet this year I have switched to writing and reading.
However, writing characters is a very slow process but good to know them!
Do you have some suggestions on how I can improve the quality of my writing sessions? I am trying to learn more characters and vocabulary.
There are several ways to help learn to write Chinese characters. Obviously, you need to use them.
There are two main approaches you can take. I am sure people can come up with some additional approaches, but I think there are two main ones:
1. Learn how to write what you can already say.
This has the advantage of being linked directly to things you already know, so many people find it easier to do. This has the disadvantage of potentially introducing complex characters when you are still trying to learn how to write characters correctly. Writing Chinese characters is very different from writing letters in an alphabet and it takes practice.
2. Learn characters separately and integrate them into what you've learned.
There are some excellent books out there that can help you learn characters in a good progression, taking into account the difficulty of writing the characters as well as how often they are used. My personal favourite is "Reading and Writing Chinese - Simplified Character Edition" ISBN-13: 978-0-8048-3509-1 ISBN: 0-8048-3509-8 by Tuttle publishing.
To learn vocabulary, you can follow a textbook or you can look at the things you want to be able to discuss and learn those terms. For example, most Chinese language textbooks won't tell you how to say "malware" (malicious software). 恶意软件 but because I am a computer security professor, that is a term I need to know. Find a native speaker with similar interests so you can learn the terms you need to know.