Like any craft, learning how to write and become an author is a lifelong process. I constantly get asked the question, “how can I become a published author?” There is no “get rich quick” answer to becoming a successful author overnight.
I have been working towards becoming a writer ever since I learned how to write. Now, you don’t need to start at an extremely young age in order to be a writer. Anyone can begin writing, but becoming successful at it takes a few essential qualities. Here are 6 things that every author must have.
1. An Avid Reading Habit
Stephen King said, “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Not only does reading open up new worlds, expand your creativity, and broaden your horizons, but it also allows you to learn more about your craft. Reading a book—whether it’s good or bad—can teach you so much about how to write. Even if the characters are flat, the plot is slow, or the word choice is clumsy, you can learn what not to do. If you don’t have a lot of money, go to the library. If you spend an hour or more in your car every day, listen to audiobooks. There is always a way to introduce more books into your life.
2. Dedication and Passion for Writing
If you want to be the next J.K. Rowling without doing any work, this is not the profession for you. Writing requires a lot of hard work every day. If you don’t have a passion for it, it’s not going to be worth it. You have to be willing to practice every day just as you would practice to become a better basketball player or a better swimmer. If you get stuck, there are a ton of resources online where you can find great writing tips, prompts, exercises, and more. Try Daily Writing Tips or CreativeWriting-Prompts.com.
3. The Ability to do Research
Once you have finished a book, the next step will be to find a literary agent or find a publisher who accepts unsolicited submissions (manuscripts directly from writers, not agents). You can use QueryTracker.net to find agents and/or publishers that are appropriate for your book. Look at books similar to yours and find out who those author’s agents are or where they were published. Make sure you take the time to look at their websites to find out about them and read all submission guidelines carefully. If they only want the first chapter, do not send them the whole manuscript. If they are looking for upbeat, lighthearted middle grade books, do not send them a gloomy, dystopian young adult novel.
4. A Good Query Letter
Once you have found your list of agents or publishers, you need to write a good query letter. There is an art to summarizing your book in one page. Agents and publishers receive many submissions per day so if you don’t have an engaging query letter, you are bound to get lost in the slush pile. Be succinct and to the point. Tell them who you are and what your book is about. AgentQuery.com is an excellent resource for crafting your own query letter.
5. Understanding How to Use Feedback
Every time I have been in a writing workshop—whether it was in college or grad school or a writing festival—there have always been writers who got personally offended by feedback and constructive criticism. Feedback is an essential tool that can help you to grow as a writer and improve your storytelling abilities. Do not take criticism personally. Ultimately, all art is subjective and any feedback is going to be someone’s opinion. Have an open mind and take in the feedback that inspires you and will really improve your work and throw out the rest.
6. Patience and Determination
Writing is not easy. There is a lot of rejection involved and a lot of waiting. For my debut novel, it took me a little over six months to get a literary agent, and it has taken even longer to get a book deal. But I would never dream of not writing because it is simply in my blood. I have to write, even if no one else ever reads it. In order to be a successful author, you have to be able to look at the rejection letters, throw them in the trash, sit down and keep writing.
For more help with your writing, Sara is offering her eBook, The 30 Day Writing Challenge: Begin or Enhance Your Daily Writing Habit totally free for the next week.
If you're still looking for your calling in life, come on over to Sokanu.com and take our free career test. We want to help you find a career that matters.
About the Author
Sara Crawford is a Renaissance woman from Atlanta, Georgia. She is a freelance writer and marketer by day, author, poet, playwright, and musician by night. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans, and her upcoming young adult novel is called The Muses.Follow on Google Plus Follow on Twitter More Content by Sara Crawford