How can someone be a successful writer? One of my friends asked me this the other day, and as we discussed it, I felt like this question would be something I’d like to discuss with you and get your opinions of becoming a successful writer.
First, define success. The term success can mean different things to different people. Does “successful writer” mean someone who sat down and managed to put enough words together to call it a book? Does it mean getting accepted by a traditional publisher? Does it mean holding a printed book of your work in your hand? What about money? Is making an income enough to be a success, or does success come when you are a big name and making millions?
Once your definition of success is stated, then you can make it a goal and work to achieve it. You’d be surprised how fast you can reach your goal when you actively start working for it.
Second, have perseverance. You have to do through some dry time to reach the times when you pull in money. Some people go into writing thinking they will write one book and make it big. While this does happen with some people, this is not the norm.
If you decide to try to be published by a company, it can take up to two years just to be accepted. Depending on the company, you may have to wait another two years to see the book in print. However, I know some people who have been trying to get accepted for over 20 years. I know others who met one editor and was accepted on the spot.You can also self-published, which means you don’t go through an established publisher, but instead you chose to publish on your own. This path also needs perseverance because it’s like starting your own business. Most of the people in self-publishing say that it takes about 10 books to start making real money. The faster you can get books out, the better. We’ve all heard the tales of a person writing one book and making millions. This is possible. But I’ve also heard of people who had to get fourteen books out before making an income. I’ve also heard of authors who have over 21 released and making well over a million dollars a year. So you need both perseverance in waiting for the numbers to add up and in sitting down in a chair and typing, getting the story down.
Third, cultivate an eye for a story. What makes a good story? How to tell it effectively? Some of this can be learned, but a lot of it comes through just knowing how to tell a story. Watch movies, read books. Decide why you like or hate certain stories.
Fourth, you need an ability to learn. There are tons of self-help books you can read that will guide you through the process. They can help you learn how to develop a character, how to plot, and how to market. Most of the people I see that write poorly are those who think they know everything and never try to learn anything new.
Finally, you need a belief in yourself. Ever hear of Dick Francis? He was a jockey and then an author. He wrote over 40 books and became a well-known writer. But he never finished high school! He just sat down one day at a typewriter and began a story.
This is the amazing thing about writing. You don’t have to have a degree. You don’t need fancy education. You need a story, some passion to get the job done, and stubbornness. And, like Winston Churchill said, “go from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm” because you can learn from each failure.
That’s what I told my friend when he asked what it takes to be a successful writer. What did I leave out? What would you say if someone asked you?