How to be a Successful Writer
The Keys to Success for Any Writer
Yes, I said any writer!
Whether you fancy yourself a writer of novels, a writer of non-fiction books, a magazine article writer or just a writer on sites like HubPages, this one is for you.
I am reaching across the broad spectrum of literature with this article. There is something here for all of you, so pay attention. Get comfortable. Go ahead and put your feet on the furniture and find a position that feels all cozy and fuzzy. I hope you have a notebook with you because you need to take notes.
There now; are you ready? Let’s begin.
I started toying with the idea of being a writer way back in my college days in 1966. At that time I had visions of writing for a major newspaper, so I got my first gig writing sports articles for the Seattle University Chieftain. Life, however, had other plans for me, and the detour was a long one, but three years ago I chucked my full-time job and decided it was now or never.
Since then I have written over 750 articles, two novels, and I’m just getting warmed up.
During that time I have been an observer. I have read some incredibly bad articles, and I have read a handful of great ones by some very good writers. The great ones all had common elements, and I’m going to share those elements with you today. Conversely, the bad articles and books all shared one common element: they were poorly written.
Where are you on that spectrum?
The First Key to Success
The King of Comedy said a mouthful with that quote.
To be successful in writing, you must want success more than you fear rejection.
Develop the thick skin of an armadillo and plow forward. Yes, you will be rejected. That is the nature of this business. Ask any successful writer and they will tell you stories of their rejections, and the many times they were told that they were not good enough.
Keep moving forward!
This is not like elementary school where every kid gets a gold star. You do not get trophies just for showing up. Writing is a dog-eat-dog business where millions are vying for very few rewards. The numbers are stacked against you, so accept that fact and decide that you don’t care about the odds, that all you care about is succeeding.
Keep moving forward!
The Second Key to Success
I’m going to share a four-letter word now, so for those of you who are sensitive to dirty language, please excuse me.
The four-letter word is WORK!
Writing….literature….these are THE ARTS! They are considered art for a reason. They are considered crafts for a reason. There is beauty in a finely-crafted sentence. There is flow and rhythm, a synchronicity if you will. Language, when used properly, is like a melody sung by an angelic voice.
That kind of mastery does not happen overnight. It is the product of continual practice and hard work.
In other words, if you are not willing to put in the time to learn your craft, you will never succeed.
Malcolm Gladwell, author of the non-fiction book “The Outliers,” explains that the key to success in any field is working twenty hours per week in that field for ten years….in other words, the 10,000 Rule.
So I ask you: how many hours have you worked, so far, to improve as a writer?
I had to stop and do some calculations for my own efforts. In the past three years I have written forty hours per week, so my rough estimate comes to six-thousand hours so far.
Success is waiting for me. I just need four-thousand more hours of hard work to reach it.
The Third Key to Success
A unique voice cannot be taught to a writer. This can only happen over time, and it is the result of the second key to success, namely hard work.
Think about some of the great writers over time. I don’t care if you choose Erma Bombeck or Henry David Thoreau. What they have in common is a unique writing style. Their works are identifiable because of their writing voice.
I have been told that I have an easily identifiable writing voice, that reading my work is like having a casual conversation with a friend face-to-face. I like that description. It means I am on the right path and that my hard work is paying off.
Is your writing voice unique?
Listen, there are millions of writers in the world today. Imagine the advantage you would have if you developed a writing voice that stood alone among those millions.
Let me borrow a line from the movie “Field of Dreams”…..build it and they will come.
Develop your unique writing voice and the readers will come.
The Fourth Key to Success
I know that some people think that I don’t like recipe articles. That simply is not true. What I don’t like is reading the same type of recipe article day after day after day. Show me a new approach and I’ll be on your doorstep eagerly awaiting your next recipe.
I am a lover of mysteries. I have read at least a thousand mystery novels over the years, and that number is conservative. However, I can only think of a handful of truly unique mystery writers. The rest are just average at best. Some are downright poor. The ones I do consider excellent all approached their craft in a unique manner.
Whether you become known for quirky characters, or stunning scenes, or an exquisite use of the language, to be truly successful in writing you must find a unique approach. Even if you are a recipe writer!
If you want to write about movies, then find a new approach. If you want to be an environmental writer, find a new approach, and yes, if you want to be a cookbook expert, find a new approach.
Otherwise, you will remain a tiny fish swimming in a very big ocean, and sooner or later the sharks will feast upon your carcass.
How’s that for descriptive?
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Tips for success for any writer
And Now You Know the Secrets to Success in Writing
Oh, I’m sure someone will comment with some other “key to success,” and that is fine and I’m happy for you, but these four are crucial. Learn from your failures, work hard, develop a unique writing voice, and develop a unique approach in your writing.
Do those four, and success will be within reach. Don’t do them, and you might want to take up another hobby.
I am not trying to discourage you. Far from it! I want you all to succeed, but I also want you to be realistic as you set out on this journey. I rub shoulders daily with people who think they can write an article or two each week, put in five or six hours, and success will come knocking on their door…..then they are discouraged when it doesn’t, and eventually they fall by the wayside.
I don’t want you among those on the wayside. I want you leading the pack and frolicking in success.
Follow these rules, and let me know how you like the view from the top.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”