Do you ever wonder why you’re writing your book? Does it seem more of a chore than anything else? Sometimes, we fall in love with the idea of being a writer, rather than loving the writing itself. Over the years, I’ve watched people who write, and finish, their (many) novels and they seem to share these qualities.
7 Qualities You Need To Become A Novelist
- You have to have a passion for stories. This is more than having a passion for books. You need to love the sound and shape of words and the way they can be used to intoxicate, persuade, and change people. You have moments when you’re reading and you stop because a sentence is so exquisite it takes your breath away. Your mind is probably never quiet, filled as it is with all the situations you could turn into stories.
- You need to create. Fiction writing is not about you. You need to have something to tell that it is not autobiographical. You should be writing a memoir if that is the case. To become a writer of fiction, you should have a fantastical story populated with unique characters that keeps you up at night – a story that makes you daydream and believe that you could actually become a novelist. You should love the idea of creating something that was not there before.
- You need your imaginary friends. You probably have an inner voice that narrates the life you experience around you. You will find yourself wondering what your protagonist would think about somebody you’ve just met or somewhere you’ve been. You constantly think about all the ‘what ifs’ you could throw her way. You shop with these characters, create worlds for them, and live through joy and tragedy with them.
- You cannot be afraid of a blank canvas. This can be terrifying if you prefer to have more structure in your life. Even if you have planned and plotted your novel, you have to take a leap of faith and do it. You will spend long periods alone without anybody who can help you. The book will not write itself. [Suggested Reading: So You Want To Be A Writer?]
- You have to be comfortable with your voice. The only way to do this is by writing many, many words. A daily writing prompt is a must for writers who want to become novelists. David Eddings says: ‘My advice to the young writer is likely to be unpalatable in an age of instant successes and meteoric falls. I tell the neophyte: Write a million words–the absolute best you can write, then throw it all away and bravely turn your back on what you have written. At that point, you’re ready to begin.’ If you write every day, you will develop a style that is uniquely yours so that you get on with telling the story instead of stumbling on the mechanics of the writing itself.
- You need to love the process. Yes, writing is difficult. It could even be the hardest thing you will ever do, but you need to love the act itself. Many authors say they write because they can’t do anything else. Most authors say they write to find out what they think. Writing teaches you more about yourself and the world around you than you could ever imagine. [Suggested Reading: 10 Things Successful Authors Do]
- You have to do the time. The ability to work alone, setting deadlines, and reaching word counts is not for the fainthearted. This is where learning the craft of novel-writing can really help you, because it teaches you structure and discipline. Sue Grafton advises writers to slow down. She says, ‘I don’t know that people are spending the time and attention on learning how to write — which takes years. Everybody sees the success stories. So instead of taking five years to learn how to write a decent sentence, they’re writing a book proposal and asking who your editor and your agent are. So I find it a little infuriating that there is not more care given to the issue of being wonderful at writing.’ If you can learn the rules, write the words, set a goal and reach it on a regular basis, you will probably be able to finish writing a novel.
There are many more qualities you could and should have, but these seven seem to be an intrinsic part of a writer’s make-up. Please add the qualities you think novelists should have in the comments section.
If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg.
by Amanda Patterson.