Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Characteristics of a Successful Author

Hi everyone,

As the author of the Mystery Writers Unite blog, I have had the opportunity to meet authors and review books on their behalf. I’ve noticed that most (if not all) of them seem to have certain characteristics that have contributed to their success.

Let me start by saying that authors are hard working individuals! Many authors today don’t just write for a living nor are they all by themselves in some remote cabin writing their book. They have full time jobs, families and are giving back to their communities while continuing to write novels that move and entertain us.

So, what does it take to be a successful writer? I believe the following characteristics are critical:

LOVE OF WORDS: Successful authors utilize the English language to the greatest potential possible. They use rich words that don’t just tell a reader what is happening; they let the reader experience what is happening. This is an essential element to any story.

OBSERVANT: In order to be able to write about something, you first need to understand the nuances to any given situation. A writer will notice things that people say or do and they will store these tidbits and use them later as material in their story. This skill is practiced and perfected.

IMAGINATION: Obviously if you are going to write a fictional story, this particular quality is not an option. Many times when an author is writing a fictional story what they are writing about has never been experienced by them directly OR it has never been experienced by anyone ever. A writer’s ability to take a scene and make it “real” to the reader is critical.  

HAVE SOMETHING TO SHARE: Most writers feel compelled to write – they have things in their mind that they are just itching to share with others. Sometimes the story idea that comes to them is so intense that they have no choice but to get it down on paper and share it with the world. I thank God every day for people like this because I love reading the finished books they write!

LIFE EXPERIENCE: All authors, whether they are writing fiction or non-fiction, draw on their own life experiences when they write their book. Sometimes this is a very conscious and intentional while other times they do it without even being aware of it. It is our life experiences that shape who we are, how we think and how we react so there will always be a piece of “us” in our work.

SELF-CONFIDENCE:  Anyone that has released a novel knows how hard it is to let go of your work. Will people like it? Will they buy it? Will someone be able to relate to the story? It takes a lot of self-confidence to release a novel and share it with the world.

STAMINA: Think about it – most authors today don’t write full time in a cabin in the remote part of where they live. They have full time jobs; they have families; they have other things to require their time and attention. So how long does it take to write a book? Based on a 60,000 word book, if you write 250 words per day, 5 days per week it will take about 48 weeks to complete a first draft. Then you need to revise, edit, publish and promote your work.

DISCIPLINED: I’m sure all of you reading this have had days where you had something to do and you “just didn’t feel like it’. An author can’t wait to feel like writing or they will never get the story written. Successful writers usually flex their writing muscle as much as possible and will schedule time to write into their busy lifestyle.

PROFESSIONAL ATTITUDE: Have you heard the phrase “fake it until you make it”? Successful writers don’t act like amateurs – they tell themselves “I am a professional writer” and then they behave like one. They approach their work seriously, they work hard to perfect their story, their image, and their brand.

KNOW THE MARKET: Successful authors don’t only write for themselves, they write for their market. They research and understand what their particular market niche thrives.

What other characteristics do you think successful authors have?

Have a great day!



Kate Burns said...

Discipline: Check. hahahahahhahahahahaha!!!!

THAT'S what I need!

Written Words said...

Great points, Becky. I think a lot of people who want to be writers, or think they know about writers, miss the aspects of stamina and hard work.

And don't forget the ability to work without much prospect of reward!