What does it take to be a good novelist? No, I mean what does it really take? What sets a successful writer apart from one who is “not so successful?”
(And please, this isn’t the time to discuss what success is or what it is not. That’ll be another discussion! Because what is success to one person is not to another.)
Those Who Break Through and Make It
Let’s confine this discussion to “What does it take to break through and break out with your fiction?” How is it that some authors seem to make it? Not only do they make it, but they enjoy repeated success.
I could probably wax eloquent here because I do have a number of thoughts on the subject. But what I’d like to do instead is give you a few thoughts from other authors. Listen to these voices from the past and present, and see if you can put something to use in your own writing life. Here’s what these authors answered when asked about tips for “writing success.”
What Other Authors Have to Say
Don’t compare yourself to others except to learn from them – compete only with yourself, maintaining the highest standards of excellence with yourself. Rosemary Daniell
One needs natural talent, much physical energy (which calls for a strict regimen of diet and exercise), and the resilience to bounce back after the most shattering disappointment and frustration. L. Sprague de Camp
Hard work. A lot of people talk about writing. The secret is to write, not talk. Jackie Collins
Writing is most of all an exercise in determination, first to get the job done, second to get it done right. Tom Clancy
The answer to just about every writing problem is: write. What is the cure for writer’s block? Write. How do I get to page 1? Write. How can I learn to write natural dialogue? Write. My spouse doesn’t understand me, the rent is due, and just what in ever loving ____ am I supposed to do about the drug problem, the homeless, the next election, the arms race, the space race, inflation, unemployment, pollution, overpopulation and the hole in the ozone later? Write! Barry Longyear
There’s only one good reason to be a writer – we can’t help it! We’d all like to be successful, rich and famous, but if those are our goals, we’re off on the wrong foot. In the beginning when I was in my 20s, I didn’t think about fame or success. I just wanted to earn enough money so I could work at home on my writing. I eventually managed to freelance at home by taking on all sorts of extras that I could pay the bills with, while saving my mornings for fiction writing. It was many years before I could give myself wholly to my writing as I do now. Phyllis Whitney
The secret of my success is I think, the same as everyone else’s: keep working. Don’t wait for inspiration. Work inspires inspiration. Keep working. If you succeed, keep working. If you fail, keep working. If you’re interested, keep working. If you’re bored, keep working. Pretty simple advice, but it works. Michael Crichton
I knew others had more talent, and better background. If persistence could not do it for me, I was doomed. So I always listened, and worked harder. Jack Bickham
Been There; Done That
So there you go. Voices of those who have “been there; done that.” Phyllis Whitney is definitely one of my all-time favorites. She lived to be 104 years old and was still writing and being published well into her nineties!
Remember, when everything is considered, you are who you are. You must find the route that works best for you. But never forget that to be a novelist equals hard work. It is demanding, and it is hard work. That fact will never change. It was/is the same for Jane Austen, for Louisa Mae Alcott, for Phyllis Whitney, for Danielle Steel, for Tom Clancy, and for me and for you!
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