Friday, March 27, 2015

The 3 Cs of Successful Authors

There are thousands of people the world over eager to write stories, some because they want a creative form of expression or to communicate a message, others because they think it is a lottery ticket to fame and fortune.

There are three main traits I believe a writer must possess to have a glimmer of a chance of winning that elusive ticket.

1. Creativity

You must possess an original mind to come up with new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no storyteller has ever gone before. A good writer has a unique way of expressing himself with words and a facility for language. You can lack this trait and still write a pedestrian story, rarely will it be a memorable one.

2. Curiosity

I’ve met people who seem to completely lack curiosity about other people and the world around them. Their world must be very … beige.

Sadly, I’ve read a few manuscripts by these people. It wasn't  pleasant.

Being a writer is about asking questions, getting underneath the skin of other people, and examining what makes them tick. It is about posing and answering provocative questions.

It is about looking at the world (and fictional worlds) with a critical eye, taking in the colors and textures, the absurdities and the pathos and being able to illustrate them with your word brush.

You can write a book without it, but it will read like an instruction manual.

3. Commitment

Writing, revising, editing, proofreading, publishing or self-publishing, and promoting are excruciating and tedious. So many people start a book then stall or quit when they realize how much of their time and soul they must invest.

Being an author requires you to do things that may not be in your nature to do, such as self-promotion and donning a public persona. You have to become a business person and build “a brand.” You have to glad-hand and network. It would be nice if it was just about the work and if that work translated into instant money and fame. It would be lovely if an agent just happend to discover you sitting on a bench in Central park, drawn to your inherent wit without having read a word of your masterpiece. Call me when that happens. I will alert the media!

A writer can spend years on a story that ultimately ends up in the trash bin. It takes a lot of courage and dedication to finish a project when there is no guarantee it will sell or sell well.

You have to believe the time was worth it and find the exercise enriching regardless of the outcome. You need to believe that it was time well spent: time you could have been with your friends and family, participating in hobbies, traveling the world, or binge-watching favorite television shows.

It is my belief that only when these three traits come together that a dabbler becomes a serious contender.


Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

11 comments :

  1. What a great reminder, Diana. Our passion for writing is so integrally tied to those three Cs, and if we lose sight of them, the work suffers.

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    1. I believe it really must be a "passion," otherwise it is too easy to let it slide in favor of the other 1001 demands on time.

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  2. Good summary, especially about the Commitment part.

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    1. I've read brilliant pieces from writers who never finished their book, much to the bookloving community's loss. It takes so much time and energy and life doesn't always allow for it.

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  3. I think I'm okay in the first 2, Diana ... number 3, not so much. I suffer from a short attention spa ... ooo, hey ... SQUIRREL ...

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    1. A lot of people quit at step 3. You aren't one of them!

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  4. Excellent post, Diana. Those who suggest that writers should get a "real" job have likely never applied the three Cs to writing a book, which is about as "real" as any job can be in terms of (mental, emotional, and occasionally physical) work.

    By the way, curiosity may have killed the cat, but it's given life to countless stories when teamed up with creativity and commitment. :-)

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    1. I do get asked what my "real job" is. :)

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  5. Excellent post, Diana. You nailed it. Also, more than getting into the heads of other people, writers must get into the heads of their characters. They must "become" them. Scary sometimes but necessary.

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    1. When a writer does not inhabit the minds of their characters, their characters are like cardboard cutouts.

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  6. I do want to clarify that writing can be a pleasant "hobby." I don't discredit it as such. It can be as soothing as knitting or watercolors or container gardening and there is nothing wrong with dabbling to make the heart happy. Not everything has to become a business. But if a writer is serious about money making, they have to make it a business.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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