Becoming an author in this day and age is “easy”. Everybody is doing it. Anybody can write a story, follow the formatting guidelines and upload whatever they have written. Ta-da!, You’re an author.
What I really want to talk about is becoming a successful author. Let’s be realistic. Not all of us are going to become the next James Patterson or Stephen King, or whomever is your flavor. But we can garner some nuggets of wisdom from these great writers.
I saw a post in a Facebook writing group today that said “How do I start writing again, when I’ve lost the ability to write?” As you might imagine, this individual received some comical comments and advice. This one post is among hundreds of its kind that I see every week. People asking questions on social media, instead of taking a class, joining a physical writers group, or studying some well developed books on writing.
There seems to be a current trend of laziness about writing. The desire to take up writing to become the next J.K.Rowling or Stephanie Meyer is all the rage. It looks so easy to start making a million dollars putting words on paper.
Comments and attitudes like these are what have inspired me to write this post.
Here are 5 “Easy” Steps – for becoming an author (successfully):
1) READ – This is the number one thing every aspiring author must do. Nearly everyone enjoys reading for enjoyment. Now, read with a writer’s eye and mind.
Notice how sentences are put together to give a powerful impact. Recognize proper punctuation and the flow, or smooth execution of the sentence and paragraph construction.
Take notes about story architecture. How does the story begin, how does it build up to varying climaxes? How does everything come together for the ending?
Pay attention to how the author develops the characters, showing their individual personalities and mannerisms. “Listen” to the dialogue. It should sound natural and authentic to each character. The movement of characters through the scenes should be easy to visualize as though watching a movie. Note that not every obvious action is described. Readers are intelligent creatures and understand implied details, without the need to read:
“I turned to my left and pulled the zipper open, reached in and grasped my wallet and then pulled it out.”
Yes, there is writing like that out in “digiland”.
In summary, as Stephen King was quoted as saying, “A writer who doesn’t have time to read, has no business writing.”
2) READ – SOME MORE – Yes, this seems redundant. Let me explain. Get some recommendations for books that teach about the “craft” of writing. What no one tells almost anyone is that most of us are not natural born writers. Oh sure, naturals do exist, but they are like four leaf clovers. But unlike like the sorry three leaf clover, we can transform our writing by developing technical skills – learning the craft.
I see many, many would be writers spend too much time on social media asking questions that really require a book length answer.
My advice is to find one, or two, or three helpful books on writing.
3) WRITE – Have you ever heard that really old called “Sing”, written by Joe Raposo? I goes like this:
Sing a song
Make it simple
To last your whole life long
Don’t worry that it’s not good enough
For anyone else to hear
Sing a song
That, my friends, is how you start writing. Just grab, a pencil, pen, or computer and start putting words to paper – every single day.
There is no mystical muse who will whisper the right words into our ear. Writing is hard work and not for the faint of heart – mind – spirit – or even body. It takes a lot to put those simple words down on paper in the right and the appealing order.
Every writer has great days and terrible days when taking to the task of doing this. I mean EVERY writer, even the successful veterans. As for me, I can find my backspace and delete buttons even without looking! We just keep putting words on the page, anyway. Even if they are not great words, they may inspire the next day.
So, how does the magic of books happen? Hours, everyday working on the story. Most will celebrate their first fully completed draft, but some will realize there will be at least two more revamped drafts that look only vaguely similar to their first. Each one coming closer to perfection.
Getting your story to tranform from a scruffy, dirty Cinderella to a dazzling Princess takes everything you’ve got.
4) BE ORIGINAL – Not THAT Original! Yes, tell your unique stories in the genres that you enjoy writing in and flex your creative muscle. However, there’s no need for extreme writing shenanigans to get the recognition you want for your story. No need to bungee jump, naked, into a pit filled with double edged swords, either.
Readers do not require bizarre non-sense, nor do the majority want it. You will serve yourself, and most importantly, your readers by giving them a story the moves them in some way, strikes a chord (good or bad), inspires, frightens, makes them laugh, etc. Originality should not lead to head scratching confusion, or be meaningless, razzle dazzle, train wreck. Our goal should be to connect with the reader, always.
5) FIGHT OR TAKE FLIGHT – Take an honest to goodness look at your reasons for wanting to write. There are a number of great reasons to write. You may do it for yourself, as a release. Or because you have great ideas and stories to share with the world. Writing is your passion and you are driven to become great at it, even if it takes years to perfect your craft. You’re a natural born storyteller and you want to share your talent for the enjoyment of others. These are all great reasons to fight on, investing your time AND money in pursuit of your writing success.
On the other hand, there are real reasons why many fail. Here are some reasons to take flight:
1. It looks like an easy living.
2. Writers make lots of money.
3. Someone said you should be a writer.
4. Can not take constructive criticism.
5. Not willing to put in the time and effort to learn the craft.
6. Do not have a drive/passion for it.
In summary, committing to a writing career is just that – a commitment. It is work. It involves constant learning and improvement. Yet, it is very rewarding on many levels.