Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

10 things successful writers do...

I stole these from a South African blog, of all places. Successful writers...

1. 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. (like I'm doing now)

2. 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. (God, have I ever...)

3. 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 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. (Did this a lot in LA; harder to do in Buffalo...but I am sending my work out to be critiqued and edited, so...)

4. 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. (I've put in the hours...times ten...)

5. 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. (I'm better about this, but once something in the story's right, in my mind, God himself couldn't get me to change it.)

6. 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. (Check)

7. 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. (My strength is writing people; plotting isn't my best ability...but I'm working on it. Maybe that's why I'm writing mysteries; they're more plot dependent.)

8. 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. (I've been at this since 1980, so no effin' comment)

9. 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. (Not sure about this; you can take too much responsibility for failure, too...)

10. 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. (see my comments in # 4 & #8)

We'll see how this goes for the next year...

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