Saturday, May 17, 2014

12 Tips to Succeed as a Writer

By: Brad Cotton

I often get asked what it takes to be a writer. Clearly, this is not a simple question to answer. There are several things you must do if you want to be successful, and most of them take time, hard work, and patience. If you are willing to commit, here is a list of things that will certainly help you on your way.
1. Be true to yourself.
Write from your heart. Sure, vampires and wizards may be all the rage, but don’t write what you suspect the public wants to read. Find your own genuine voice. Never try to emulate an author you love. If you strike out on your own and establish something original (emphasis on original), you will eventually find an audience.
2. Immerse yourself in the craft.
No writer is an island. (Except maybe Hemingway, but you’re not Hemingway). Network with writers, readers, publishers, agents, old people, dogs… whoever can help you learn something new about what you do. You’ll be surprised what little tidbits you can glean here and there that will help you be a better writer and storyteller.
3. Read, and don’t stop.
This is perhaps the most important one of all. Never stop reading. Read books you otherwise wouldn’t. Read books you’ve already read. Read restaurant menus with a critical eye. Language is an art – master it to the best of your ability.
4. Write, and don’t stop.
Writer’s block doesn’t really exist. If you’ve reached a point in your manuscript where you’ve hit a roadblock, write something else. Write a song, a poem, a love letter to your high school crush. Get the words flowing and your mind will no doubt follow. Writer’s block is most often your brain telling you that you’re off in the wrong direction. The solution: change direction.
5. Learn new things.
Life is all about knowledge, and so is writing. Learn about science, art, piano making, lawn care, water purification, sneezing, whatever! Knowledge and curiosity are the greatest foundation for writing. You never know where and when inspiration will strike.
6. Throw convention out the window.
Use good grammar, structure a proper storyline, make it interesting, and off you go. Don’t feel like you need to follow a formula, and certainly don’t copy someone else’s.  Readers are always starving for something new. Make something new.
7. Forget about money.
If you’re writing to make a million dollars, or even to make a nice living, you’re not writing for the right reasons. Becoming a better writer should be your only motivation. That, and proving your parents wrong.
8. Share your writing.
I can’t tell you how many would-be writers are afraid to let others read what they’ve written. This is a big mistake. If your grandmother wants to read your manuscript, deliver it to her by hand (because she can’t figure out the email machine). Let your friends read it, your boss, other writers, avid readers — anyone willing to read your writing is a great place to start. The longer you keep your writing to yourself, the longer it will take you to become a better writer.
9. Don’t take reviews to heart, but listen to them.
All your friends love your book! Well big deal (and no they don’t). Likewise, reviewers are not always right either. Some people will like your book, and some will not. Get used to that idea and embrace it. Crave it. Writing is an art. If your writing provokes the exact same response from everyone that reads it, you might have done something wrong. Listen to what people say about your writing, and when you start to hear a theme emerging, you may be on to something.
10. Be prepared to doubt yourself.
Only bad writers think they’re awesome writers. Have confidence, but know that there is always much to learn. Don’t think so? Read P.G. Wodehouse and see if your language skills stack up. Be the best writer you can possibly be. Make other writers love you and hate you at the same time, because if you’re really, really good, they will. Make that a goal.
11. Be prepared to market yourself.
As a new writer, or even as one well established, you will need to do everything you can to help get the word out about your books. Blog, tweet, stand on the corner with a sandwich board and bell – whatever helps. (If you are John Grisham or J.K. Rowling, you can ignore this one). Be prepared to be your own best advocate and salesperson. There are many tools and tips you can find out there to help you out with marketing. Spend some real time seeking them out, and find which works best for you. And, don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice.
And lastly,
12. Whatever you do, don’t ever give up writing.
I don’t need to explain this one.

Brad most recent release, By All Men’s Judgments, is available now at all major online retailers, including Amazon.

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