This week I’m beginning a three blog series on this subject.
Recently, someone asked me what it takes to be a successful writer. My answer was work, lots of work. And it got me to thinking deeper about being a writer.
Success does require work—putting our butts in the chair on a regular basis. But that’s only the beginning.
As I pondered this, I came up with a list of Ten Commandments of a Successful Writer. I must give kudos to James Scott Bell for being the first to introduce me to this concept. After many years in the business, this how I see these commandments.
I pray you find them helpful.
1. Thou shalt write.
On a regular basis, daily if possible. Don’t buy into the line “I don’t have time to write.” For two to four weeks keep a time journal. Write down what you do during the day. Be honest. Then study it. Examine every activity from work to schlepping the kids to school and dance classes, to church and family gatherings, to watching Gilligan’s Island reruns.
From my own experience, I know you’ll find at least an hour a day you can devote to writing. Take the box your schedule has you in and blow it up. You will find fifteen or twenty minute chunks. You might find several hours on one particular day.
Be open and honest in your assessment, you’ll find it. Enlist your family’s help and cooperation with your drive to write. Maybe they can help create blocks of quiet time or time when you can go the library or coffee shop to write.
2. Thou shalt submit thy writing.
First, submit it for criticism and feedback. Find a critique group or writing partners you can trust. Other writers who you respect for their writing skill, for their critiquing ability, and for their bravery to give honest feedback.
Second, submit for publication. Find an agent. Make the time for due diligence. What genres do they represent? Who do they represent? What is their sales record? Are they members of the Association of Author Representatives? What conferences are they attending? Try to meet them personally if possible. If not, learn all you can about them. Be able to explain why you chose them.
Identify publishers you would love to see your book with. Study what they publish. Are they a good fit for your genre and style? Do potential agents have a history of working with them?
If you’re going the indie publishing route, learn the business. Again, do your due diligence to avoid scammers. There are legitimate companies that want to help you publish your work. For a price. They are a business. Contact authors who have used them for references. What can you afford?
3. Thou shalt take responsibility for thy mistakes.
First of all, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They’re going to happen. We’re only human and we live in a human world. Misinterpretation and misunderstanding are part of life.
We’ll make mistakes in the craft.
We’ll make mistakes in critiquing.
We’ll make mistakes in pitching and submitting.
The biggest violation of this commandment is not making mistakes. It’s failing to learn from them. Making the same mistake over and over expecting a different result has been defined as crazy. When something doesn’t work as we expected, make the time to examine where things went wrong. Seek advice and counsel from a mentor or writing coach. Work at making the necessary corrections.
What’s been your experience with these ideas? Please share your thoughts and comments below.