What does it take to be a writer?
Is all you need to be a writer pen and paper or a typewriter or an iPad or laptop/computer with a word processor? Maybe all it takes is the latest writing tool like this:
Or is there more involved besides having the proper writing tool?
Simple answer, YES.
A writer’s journey is a solo trip. A lonely trip and no two writers achieve success in the same way.
I think, to be successful, an aspiring writer must possess, at a minimum, these things:
- A PASSION
- A WILLINGNESS TO PRACTICE
- A DESIRE TO LEARN
The most important trait a writer needs is the deep desire to write and a steadfast commitment to his passion.
“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.” Hebbel quotes
Writers must write because, if we don’t, we are miserable. The desire flows with our blood.
If you watched the Summer Olympics last month, you saw performances by athletes who had practiced and trained YEARS for the opportunity to compete in their chosen event.
A certain number of hours practice is frequently necessary to be considered proficient at so many things.
Think about airline pilots who must have a specific number of flying hours before they are qualified to solo. Teenage drivers get learner permits and must practice before taking a test to prove their proficiency and earn a driver’s license.
Writing is no different. Writing requires practice.
The exact amount of practice depends on your natural talent, how quick you learn the techniques of your craft and how much passion you have for what you’re doing.
Which brings up another question, how often should you write?
My simple answer: EVERY DAY.
But how much should you write? Does it matter?
According to James Thayer’s Author Magazine article “How Many Words a Day?” Jack London wrote between 1,000 and 1,500 words each day.
Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day.
Ray Bradbury, who authored over five hundred science fiction novels and short stories which someone calculated to be three and a half million words worth of stories, advises writers to “Write a thousand words a day and in three years you will be a writer.”
To succeed as writers, we must practice by writing something, anything every day.
On LEARNING or STUDYING writing craft
Most people wouldn’t dream of trying to build an automobile without learning about auto mechanics. Unfortunately, too many people try to become writers without learning about the craft of writing.
An idea for a story strikes, and they start writing. They never consider story structure, POV, or any of the other skills embedded in every novel we read.
This, imo, is why so many aspiring writers fail so often.
Without learning basic skills, you won’t go far as an auto mechanic, no matter how many hours you put into practicing. Think about artists. They learn to mix paint, how to prepare a canvas and color theory at an art school. Aspiring auto mechanics go to technical schools.
Learning about basic craft skills requires time and study. To me, it’s the most important aspect of being a writer.
Sure, some writers succeed without study. With study, I believe success comes faster.
Even those born with great talent rarely go anywhere without equal measures of passion and practice. Mozart was a virtuoso of musical technique and artistry, but even he needed to learn his craft. He was full of passion for music, he practiced all the time, and he studied.
There are hundreds of great books on writing. I’m sure you have your favorites. On my website you’ll find a complete list of writer resources and some inspiring quotes. Below is a short list I recommend for every writer’s craft resource shelf:
- Plot & Structure, by James Scott Bell
- Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass
- Break Into Fiction, by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love
- Story, by Robert McKee
- Scene and Structure, by Jack M. Bickham
- Getting Into Character, by Brandilyn Collins
- Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias
- The Power of Point of View by Alicia Rasley
Writing classes – on-line and at colleges and universities – also offer wonderful ways to develop writing skills. Too many classes, in fact, to list them in this post. I’ll do another blog with my recommendations soon.
Writing conferences offer yet another means to study writing craft with the added benefit of networking with like-minded people.
If you happen to live in or near Houston, Texas, there’s going to be a great writer’s conference next month—Northwest Houston RWA’s Lone Star Writer’s Conference featuring James Scott Bell.Yep—same one whose book is #1 on my recommended list.
The conference also offers a tremendous line-up of editors and agents. All for only $130.00. Check it out here.
Now you know what 3 things I believe are necessary to be a success writer so get out your iTyperwriter and GO, GO, GO.
YOUR TURN: What do you think it takes to be a successful writer?