Have you ever wondered why some authors succeed and others don’t?
Sometimes we spend so much time obsessing over a book, or an idea for a book, that we don’t see the bigger picture. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to take a breath and have a look at our behaviour. There may be things we could be doing differently to improve our writing.
These are the 10 things I’ve watched successful writers do:
- Live in the present and look to the future. They don’t dwell on rejection. They start writing another book as soon as they finish rewriting and editing the previous one.
- Take chances. They don’t think there is only one way to do everything. They are willing to try a different genre or a different viewpoint. They enter competitions, and start a blog – even if they’re terrified.
- Listen to advice. They respect people who have worked in the industry. They are willing to learn the rules so that they can successfully break them. They don’t think they know everything, and they realise writing has been around for a long time. They are prepared to take a writing course, or join a critique group. They do not obsessively quote one or two famous authors who claim they did not take advice.
- Put in the hours. They know that first books are seldom good, but they are a rite of passage that most authors have to go through. They also write every day, even if it’s just a poem, or a note, or a blog post. They don’t buy into The Myth of Writer’s Block.
- Keep an open mind. If an editor, or a publisher, wants to make changes, they will consider what they have to say. They are not precious about their work. Being stubborn can become tiresome if you don’t have a good reason to dig your heels in.
- Embrace change. If they have a book that nobody wants to read, they will write another one. They realise a book can only be a commercial success if people want to read it. They understand they can’t force the public to like their writing. They learn when to let go of ideas that are no longer popular. They start writing new books. After all, they can always come back to the book that 50 publishers have rejected, in a few years.
- Focus on strengths. If they are brilliant at plotting, they write books that are plot-driven. However, they are willing to work on improving characterisation and sentence construction. Similarly, if they are brilliant at writing beautiful sentences, they are happy to write literary fiction, but are willing to work on improving their plotting techniques.
- Practise patience. Writing is a process and learning how to do it properly teaches them to be patient. It takes 10 000 hours to become good at anything. Becoming successfully published is a result of many years of hard work and constantly improving your techniques.
- Learn from mistakes. They learn how to write query letters and synopses. They target the correct literary agencies. They realise they need to learn about self-publishing if that’s the route they choose. They do not blame the industry, readers, or the Internet for their failures. They are happy when other authors are successful.
- Persevere. They don’t give up. Successful authors carry on trying if writing is truly important to them. They set goals and deadlines and pursue them until they succeed.
© Amanda Patterson
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