21 March 2013

What Does It Take To Be a Successful Writer?

A lot of folks think writing is easy. You just sit at the computer, type out a story, and Viola! You’re an author. Unfortunately, there’s a bit more to the process than that, as I discovered six years ago when I sat down and wrote my first manuscript, True Mates.
So what exactly is involved in becoming a writer? Not just a writer, but a successful published author?

This would seem to be a no brainer to many but you’d be surprised at how many people want to skip this step. People are creative in a lot of areas but to be an author requires being creative in the art of storytelling. An author has to be able to take an idea, a storyline, or a character, and develop it into a compelling story others will enjoy reading. That is a lot easier said than done.

To put it simply, commitment is the drive that keeps you going when others give up. It keeps you coming back to the computer even though the words have seemingly dried up or simply don’t make sense. It causes you to continue writing even when your emotions aren’t in it and you think everything you’ve written thus far is a piece of crap.

Once you’ve finished your masterpiece, you’ll need confidence in your abilities to submit your work out to publishers. Please note, confidence is not arrogance. Confidence says, “I believe in myself, I believe in my work, and if you take a chance on me, I believe my story will sell.” Arrogance is offensive, prideful, and a big turn off.

Rejections will come. I don’t care how magnificent your story, publishers will not always appreciate your brilliance. It takes perseverance to push past the hurt feelings caused by rejection and submit, submit, and submit again, as many times as it takes until your work finds a home.

“Hurry up and wait” is a phrase I became intimately acquainted with during my first editing experience. There’s excitement when you receive that publishing contract from the publisher. Then there’s the rush to get all the required forms in by their deadline, which somehow never seems to allow enough time. Then comes the wait. You wait, and wait, and wait. Finally, the first draft of your edited manuscript arrives in your email inbox. You work hard to meet this new deadline and send it back, thinking, “Finally, we’re making progress.” Then comes another round of waiting. This process goes on and on and on, until finally your book releases and all your hard work comes to fruition.

It’s hard to be humble when you have a chorus of thousands singing your praises, but it’s a vital component of being a successful writer. How do you know if you have humility? You’ll discover the answer to that question when you’re reading all your glowing reader reviews and then you hit a few that if not outright trash your work, call it mediocre at best. What’s your reaction to this insult? To borrow the words of an author I know, “Stay on the porch,” meaning, don’t get caught in the trap of trying to defend your work from someone’s negative opinion. You can’t please everyone, nor should you try. Let them have their opinions, even if their opinion hurts.

I think this is the hardest part of being an author. Dedication not only entails being committed to your course and continuing to write after being published, but remaining true to yourself and your values after gaining a little fame. I’ve seen many authors who once said “I’d never write this” or “never do that” cave and do the very thing they vowed they wouldn’t. Why?
Reader pressure is one reason. Readers have very definite ideas of what they think you should write, and how they believe your story or series should go. Some writers give into that pressure in an effort to please their reader base.  
Another reason is money. They see that a certain genre, say M/M or BSDM, is selling very well and want a piece of the pie. So even though that subject may go against their belief system, they’ll branch out and give it a whirl because of the potential to garner sales.  

I say be true to yourself, write what you like to read, and if you’re writing for the money, you’ve already short changed yourself.

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