The Secrets to Success

I’ve been fortunate to be able to go to a number of writing conferences, meetings, and conventions over the years and hear a lot of authors share their secrets to success.

Secret #1:  There are no secrets.  (Numerous books and articles exist offering guidance, and most writers are more than willing to share what they know.)

Sometimes, though, an old piece of advice is shared in a way that seems new, or perhaps the listener is just in the right frame of mind to finally take it in.  I find myself in the latter position all too often.  Life would be so much easier if I could have absorbed all the good advice I’ve been given the first time around.

Secret #2:  Keep your ears and mind open.

Several years ago at NASFIC (North American Science Fiction Convention — held when World Con is held outside  North America) Jaqueline Lichtenberg told her audience of aspiring writers that if the end of a book isn’t working, look at the first chapter.  That’s where the author makes her promise to the reader.  What kind of book is it?  Who are the characters and what is important to them?  The goals of the characters may change over the course of the book, but the dominant theme should be consistent, and if the ending isn’t satisfying, Lichtenberg said it’s because the author hasn’t paid attention to the characters’ soul deep needs.

Secret #3:  Work hard.

If you’re a Plotter (someone who works at planning everything out before you start writing), it’s probably easier to make sure your endings and beginnings line up.  If you’re a Panster (someone who flies by the seat of your pants) don’t despair.  You’ll have more work to do in revisions, but the outcome will be just as satisfying.  (Both styles of writing are just as valid — don’t let anyone tell you differently– and most writers are a little bit of both.)

Secret #4:  Don’t give up.

Another often repeated piece of advice is some variant of  “Success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.”  I prefer “5% talent, 5% luck, and 90% perseverance.”  Writing is a difficult calling.  Donald Maass, literary agent and author, once said that writers should not look  to publication for validation.  Take pride in being a good parent, a good friend, a good (fill in the blank) and write only if you love the process.  This business is too hard to hang your self-esteem on it.  But if you do love to write, don’t let anything stop you.

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