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Is There A Book In You? Ten Points That Will Help You Decide

Aug 17, 2007
The desire to have a book with your name on the cover seems universal - yet how many would-be writers really know if they have what it takes to succeed? Here are ten points that every beginner should consider.

Writing a book - and getting it published - is an ambition that is not hard to understand. Breaking into the ranks of published writers means that others, experts in the business, have decided that your talent is worth investing in. A book is a permanent thing: years from now you can take it down off a shelf and say 'I did that'. It's a solid, lasting achievement.

So, with this goal in mind, why is it that some writers get into print and others never make it? Of course you need to be able to write but it's not always the 'best writers' that get published - sometimes it is those who have the greatest determination to get into print, or who are most businesslike in their approach to publishers.

So some qualities (other than writing ability) are obviously desirable; below are ten that every writer should possess. Read through them carefully and be honest with yourself. If you know (and you will know, deep inside) that on some points you are weak, work to strengthen that aspect of your writer's persona. If nothing else, this will ensure that you are more capable as a person and the writer in you will grow also. The first point is, perhaps, the most crucial:

1. Determination. Let me be brutally frank. If you lack this quality you will simply not make it as a published writer. Remember that there are scores of people out there who are competing against you to get their own book published. Also, writing - especially novel writing - is hard and takes lots of time; most writers don't earn much money and there will be plenty of people telling you to give up as it isn't worth the effort. You must grit your teeth, tighten your belt and keep your nose to the grindstone. Nothing should matter to you more than getting your work published. Nothing! This is an absolutely core attribute for any writer - if it does not come naturally to you then work at it: take life coaching classes, read positive mental attitude books - anything to help your determination to succeed become an intrinsic part of you.

2. Support. This comes in various guises and means different things to different writers, yet the most important support is financial. Again it's a stark truth: if you have a partner willing to bankroll you during the first hard years you are far more likely to get there than if you have the additional worry of wondering how you're going to pay the rent. Perhaps the second most valuable support is that of being appreciated. If you have someone who knows how hard you work - and shows it - the difference can be crucial. They help through the blank, dark periods that all writers suffer, when self-belief can ebb away like wine from a cracked jug. On a more general level, some writers thrive in a chaotic environment, others need tea and sympathy. Whatever form it takes, you need support: never refuse it and let people know how important it is to you.

3. Presentation. Here I'm not talking about your work; I'm talking about you, the writer. Always, always think of yourself as a writer. Take lessons in self-assertiveness if you feel the need. It's part of the self-belief system that you must instil within your character so that, when you sit face to face with your first publisher, they think of you as a professional, not a nervous amateur.

4. Knowledge of your market. Most writers are avid readers and publishers will expect you to have your finger on the pulse of your chosen genre - who's hot right now? Whom do you consider the best in the field? Who's beginning to fade? Ask yourself this: do you really expect to be taken seriously as a writer if you have little or no knowledge of other published writers in your field?

5. Rejection. Every writer suffers this - the dreaded 'pink slip' dropping through the door. For the aspiring writer this can be a very bitter pill to swallow yet you must learn to accept it. It's not personal and it does not mean you cannot write. What it does mean is that this piece or work is either not right for this publisher or that you have sent it to the wrong one altogether. It can also mean that the publisher already has a full 'book' of this kind of work. So assess your manuscript, improve it if you can, make sure it's the best it can possibly be - then take a deep breath and send it to the next suitable publisher. Never give up!

6. Habit. The habit of writing, that is. It's very easy to start writing and then, a few days later, get side-tracked into something else, or your great-aunt Ethel calls round, or there's a good movie on the television. You can always write later, can't you? No. There lies the road to ruin as a writer. So prioritise your writing, write at certain set times that you let be known to all during which you can't be disturbed. Get into this routine, stick to it mercilessly and it will soon become - habit. Surprisingly, it will to others also and they will then know that you are indeed serious about 'this writing business'.

7. Subjects. Ideas for a book don't often spring into your mind in one fell swoop. I have mentioned in another article the importance of your notebook and getting into the habit of always having it with you. Write things down that interest you - maybe an overheard conversation on a train, or an advertisment that strikes you as odd or interesting. Newspaper headlines sometimes offer headlines that are downright bizarre and an idea might spring from that. Try writing about someone you know well or admire - if you like a character yourself, chances are your readers will too! Use your notebook; never let it out of your sight. It's your data mine for future work.

8. Creativity. Whilst it is true that a certain amount of imagination aids creativity, intelligent thinking also plays a significant part. The ability to present an old theme in a new way requires the creative spark to burst into flame, yet not everyone has the imagination of a Robert Heinlein or a J. K. Rowling. If you find imagination lacking then try thinking about how a situation can be presented differently - perhaps there never was a truer home for the old saying that 'there's more than one way to skin a cat'! How you put your ideas forward in your writing is entirely up to you but this is a vital part of your writer's skillset - putting your work across in the way that is of most interest to your reader.

9. Targeting. If you write what people want to read, you're halfway to getting your work published. It's essential, however, that your would-be publisher understands from the outset where your work lies in relation to others within the same field. Tell him that if people like reading writer 'A' that he has published, you reckon he'll like your work as 'A' has influenced you and your work exhibits style and content traits similar to 'A's' best work. Maybe your book is a sci-fi work that has more than an echo of a popular TV series - make sure the publisher knows the viewing figures. Don't ever be scared of presenting your case - it's all part of getting into print.

10. Publishing. Try to realise that publishing is a business. Editors are responsible to their bosses for making money on the books they accept for publishing, not to make you feel good about writing a book. Study the publishers - what kind of books are they printing? Are they right for you? Are you right for them? The more you know about how a publisher might view your work, the greater are your chances of success.

Some may find these ten points a bit 'uncomfortable'. Yet if you really serious - and I do mean really serious - about making a career from writing, or just getting that first elusive published piece under your belt, they should be the core of your attitude towards what you are doing as a writer, besides the physical act of putting words on paper. I wish you all success in your efforts - but in the end it is you alone who must make the effort in order to be a writing success!
About the Author
Steve Dempster writes fiction and informative articles for the web. Learn more about how to kickstart your writing career here!
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