Being a writer is a claim that many make, but few put the time and effort into. I know this is very skeptical of me, and even a little sad, but it’s true. I’ve met a lot of people in my time who have said they are writers and they want to write a book, but I’ve known very few who have done it.
In my time as a writer, and a leader of a writers’ group, I’ve discovered there are five distinct traits that successful writers (those that evolve into published authors) tend to have. So, in no particular order, here they are…
Yes, you need the talent to write. Not so much for the technical side, that can learnt, and we will discuss that in a moment, but you really need to have the imagination and mind of a real writer. You can have the best grammar and writing skills in the world, but if your story is lacklustre, your theme is non-existent, and the concept of the story is cliche and stale, well, no one is going to want to read it. There are ways of igniting that creativity in you. However, I genuinely believe you need at least a seed of it to begin with. This is a skill that can not be taught, but can be nurtured with the right mind-set.
Grammar, spelling and the basics of writing a decent sentence is a must for anyone looking to publish their work and have it read by others. But, my advice is, don’t get too hung up on it until you start drafting. I’m a firm believer in learning while you do and if you try to write your first draft while learning the basics of English language, you’ll find it jerky and frustrating – it’s the quickest way to destroy creativity and turn a budding author off the career altogether. Yes, technical skills are incredibly necessary, need I remind you of ‘Let’s eat Grandma‘ but make sure you bring them in at the right time of the process, to me that’s in the drafting and editing stages.
I also want to point out here, you have to know the rules before you break the rules. Many new writers think that their work will stand out if they consider themselves above the rules of the English language, they are not, and yes their work will stand out, but for all the wrong reasons.
You have to keep writing and submitting. It can be devastating to have your hard work denied time and again by publishers, but if it were easy, then everyone would do it. You can’t give it. The only difference between a writer and a published author is that the author didn’t give up. Yes, there are those once in a blue moon stories of the lucky who get a massive publishing deal straight off the bat, but these are rare and often don’t do the writer justice as it can foster complacency with their success. Earn your stripes, keep writing, keep submitting, work hard and never lose faith that you can get where you want to be if you put the time and effort into it.
I am published. I have two YA book series with a publisher and also have had over 40 short stories published in anthologies all over the world, but I’m still rejected by publishers and still can’t earn enough to live as a full-time author – this is most authors’ stories, but that can change with just one book and the right publisher; but, if you stop writing you’ll never get that deal, and that’s why I won’t stop writing and submitting my work. I want to write full time which brings me on to…
You have to love writing. It has to be your ambition and mistress. It takes an inordinate amount of time to write a book, then to edit, draft and then to submit. So you need to go into it with your eyes open. You will need to sacrifice things in your life to accommodate this. We all get 24 hours a day; you need to look at what you do, who you spend time with and decide what you need to give up to make enough time for your writing. I’m not saying that you need to become some crazy hermit in a log cabin with a laptop and broadband, but you do need hermit style sessions to get the job done. Take a long hard look at your life and trim away the things and people who are not supporting you and your dreams. This sounds harsh, but it’s the only way to ensure you not still writing that first novel twenty years after you started it.
Makinbg sure you hit deadlines is crucial when you’re a writer. I’ve spent my whole career in sales and marketing so hitting deadlines and targets are ingrained in me, but most people don’t have this discipline. My advice? Take baby steps and be realistic about what you can do. Having lofty goals is great, but if you set the bar too high you’ll never reach it, and so you’ll be more likely to quit. Decide what you are writing and roughly how long you want it to be, then set word counts each day. Smaller ones to begin with, and then build up. Make your time count and make sure you get your work into publishers by their deadline.
Being a writer/ author is one of the few dreams that does not ask you to be a certain age, race or gender. It doesn’t care if you have a disability and what your sexual orientation is. Anyone can set themselves on this path; just remember the 5 Ts and you’ll soon be on your way.