Lots of people have stories in their heads. Not all of them put them down on paper. Fewer still publish them. Want to be one of the few? Be prepared to do the work! Here are ten things you absolutely must have in your arsenal to conquer the publishing business.
1. An idea. Start there. You don't have to know every nuance of your plot, but, like you need transportation for any trip, you need a way to transport your reader to your world. You'll need a scene, a character, or a location. From that one idea, the journey begins.
2. A working knowledge of writing basics. Have no idea of the difference between a participial phrase and a prepositional phrase? No problem. You don't know that sentences end in periods and questions have question marks? Big problem. Get yourself some grammar books and start studying. You can't drive a car if you don't know the difference between the gas pedal and the brake. Learn.
3. The art of mastering time. How many people say, "Oh, I'd love to write, if I had the time"? Writers don't have the time. We make the time. Get up early. Stay up late. Turn off the television and turn on the laptop. Ignore the dust bunnies (okay...maybe that's just me) and welcome the plot bunnies.
4. A drive for completion. You can't just start a story. You have to finish it. Writing a story through to completion--no matter what the length--leaves a writer emotionally wrung out, sleepless, and probably subsisting on coffee and red pencil shavings. Can't deal with that? Get out now. This isn't a career for wimps.
5. Self-confidence. New to the writing game? When you tell people about your goal, you might hear some negative feedback. Shopping that completed manuscript around to editors and agents? You'll definitely get rejections. Don't let the bad juju override your faith in yourself. Be strong. Believe.
6. A day job (or a revenue stream). Million-dollar-earning authors are as rare as lottery winners. Sure, it could happen. But you could wind up homeless and starving--or six feet underground--if you don't have a way to pay the bills while you're striving for that big payday. I always say my day job "feeds my writing habit." But it also feeds me and the kids.
7. A strong support system. I'm grateful to so many people who've helped me along the way: critique partners, beta readers, writer friends who understand when I whine that my characters won't tell the story the way I want to write it, and a family who adapts to deadlines and creative spurts. Make sure you have people firmly in your corner. Writing is a solitary craft, but requires a team behind the scenes.
8. Tough skin. Rejection letters, bad reviews, jealous counterparts. They're all just waiting to rip you apart. Build up your rhino hide, cookie. You're going to need it.
9. Courage. By nature, most writers are introverts. And probably insecure introverts at that. But to really succeed in this business, you have to muster the courage to break out of your comfort zone. If you're shy when talking about yourself, how will you ever talk about your new release? If you can't get over your fear of public speaking, you'll lose a lot of opportunities to connect with new readers. Even when writing, you have to dare to take a risk, to try something new and different. Dream of success all you want, but you won't find it in that safe box where you normally live.
10. A love of the written word. Writers don't just write. They read, too. A lot. Inside their genre to see what's out there, outside their genre to find fresh new ideas. We're constantly dipping into the well of creativity to replenish our souls.
Did I miss any? Let me know!
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