In the world of publishing, why does the recipe for greatness elude so many?
There is no limit to differences in prose, but there are five important characteristics common to all successful authors.
Aspiring writers often ask me how I began the process of publishing a book once I decided to do it.
As a new author, an important aspect of that process was researching what the most accomplished writers have in common.
Understanding that there are many factors that make an author successful, these five characteristics were true of all.
- Regardless of whether you write fiction, non-fiction, ‘how to’ or children’s books, if you don’t have a passion for your material, stop right there—you are wasting your time and everyone else’s. For example, the best seller, Platform, by Michael Hyatt may not sound like a vacation read, but if you think he doesn’t have passion for the subject, you’re mistaken. For every aspiring author, it is a must-read.
- Writing is a process—it’s hard work. Occasionally the words flow so easily it’s hard to keep up on the keyboard. But getting to that point means we have done our homework. Some have plenty of time to write at their leisure—others carve out a few precious hours whenever they can from an already busy schedule. No matter how they go about it, discipline got them there. They have made a plan and stuck to it, even when they didn’t feel up to it.
- Distractions are part of life, but the focus I am talking about pertains to sticking with your writing plan, or at least to your intended goal. It’s easy to become sidetracked and head down a rabbit trail that adds nothing of value to the work. In fact, it can easily be distracting to your readers. I use an outline that constantly reminds me of my goals and purpose during the creative process. Keeping on track is essential, although if my characters take an unexpected path, I follow it. After all, they write the book—I just record what they do.
- Not faithfulness to do the work—that falls under the heading of discipline. This refers to being faithful to the work itself—no watering down the message or softening the blow of difficult material. It is a matter of being true to the spirit of the work, regardless of how painful that may be. An excellent example of this is David Platt’s Radical, which carries an extremely challenging message.
- Regardless of genre, great authors compose for others. When it would be easy to write with ulterior motives, or for the purpose of gaining attention—writing for the benefit of others is the purest form of the art. Jeff Goins, author of You Are a Writer, and his most recent best seller, Wrecked—When a Broken World Slams into your Comfortable Life is uniquely adept at bringing clarity to the writing process. He is an excellent source of expertise for all professional writers.
I have learned that, although I start with an outline, I am a dynamic writer in that I am not certain what is going to happen in the story until I begin to write. I am amazed at times when one of my characters does something I didn’t expect, and changes what I thought was going to happen.
Other writers stick to their outline and never digress. Whatever your approach, be sure to use one that allows you to maintain your focus.
Above all, don’t give up. Remember—writers don’t quit.