Ah, it's the end of the work week . . . what's not to love about that!
I was going through some files the other day and came across an article by Irene Goodman of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency entitled "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Authors." I thought I'd share some parts with you all.
1. Write on a schedule.
Ah, I think this was meant for me! She says, if I may quote, "Successful authors sit down and face that blank screen every day. You don’t actually have to do it every day, but you do have to do it on a firm schedule. . . . If you write only when the muse strikes or when you feel like it, you will have a very hard time finishing a book." Well, I know that is definitely true because I've tried doing that and it doesn't work.
She goes on to say "Just because it’s a calling doesn’t mean you should wait for inspiration. You must have the sense and the discipline to exercise your craft on a regular basis. This will accomplish a number of useful things. One, you will get a lot of work done. Two, you will oil your mental writing machinery very well. Even if you throw out everything you wrote the day before, you have still used those writing muscles."
So true, so true.
2. Don't quit.
Yes, this does sound simple. But it isn't to me, especially when you get that nagging voice of self-doubt, wondering if you can really compete with all the authors in your genre, both published and unpublished. I think not quitting requires a HUGE amount of self-confidence in yourself & in your work.
Goodman says that "truly accomplished authors know that all careers have their own hills and valleys. What may appear to be a valley to you might be someone else’s nirvana . . . Some very talented authors have been through some pretty tricky times. Some of them have even reinvented themselves with new names and new identities. Whatever happened, they figured out a way to go on. If you quit, you aren’t an author any longer, and that’s the end. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what you really want." Nooooo, that's not what I want. How 'bout you?
And she goes on to say "if you’re in this for the long haul, if you are truly committed to publishing books no matter what, then you will always rise and shine no matter what life brings."
3. Feedback is a gift.
She says "that means editorial letters, constructive comments, and even rank criticism."
I think she's talking to those authors who are published, but I think even us "pre-published" writers can learn from this point.
The point being that, and I quote, "it’s natural and human to become defensive about your own work. While your editor is talking, you are already forming the arguments and denials in your mind. This may be natural and it may be human, but it’s not smart. Learn to turn that mechanism off. Stop arguing in your head and just listen. If you don’t agree or you don’t understand, say so. Let her keep talking. She has a reason for thinking something isn’t working, and you need to find out why it isn’t working for her. . . . Don’t be afraid of getting your feelings hurt. Learn to separate your work from yourself. A manuscript is a product. It can be changed. It probably will be changed."
4. Know your audience, know thyself.
Again, I think she's talking to published authors here, but it's worth remembering.
She says "If you get fan letters, pay attention to them. If they praise the same things repeatedly, keep doing those things. Learn to plan your career around the things your readers like, and use those things while you grow, even if you are moving away from them. . . . Once you target your true, authentic voice, hold onto it. Don’t let anyone mess with it. Even if your books seem to change, the ultimate thing you are delivering to your readers won’t change."
5. Have a plan.
Gotta have a plan. She says "Successful careers are not an accident. . . . Without a plan, you are going to spin your wheels or just not grow fast enough. It is an ongoing process, one that begins on Day One, and continues through countless revisions and adjustments until you are no longer writing. . . . Careers that have been intelligently planned have consistency, overall growth, and a sense of order. They may not be perfect, but they have a sense of forward motion and organization that sets the stage for moving to the next level. Your agent is your career manager, or should be, and the two of you are partners in its creation."
Goodman further advises to "Take control of what you can and leave the rest to the people who work for and with you. Make sure they are the best, trust them, and then let it go."
6. Separate your work from your life.
She says that "Successful authors live well and they enjoy their good fortune. They know how to be good to themselves. . . . Your family, your faith, your friends, your outside interests, and your physical health are all a part of who you are. Give them all their due."
So basically, I guess what she's saying is that to be a well-rounded author, we should have a life outside of writing. I think that's good advice especially when you feel yourself getting too burnt-out. But I know some people will probably say writing IS their life. Because sometimes when things get crazy in your life, all you have to keep you from cracking up is YOUR WRITING.
7. When the bus stops, get on.
I think she's saying, basically, don't let fear or doubt prevent you from grabbing an opportunity when the time arises. She says, " It means taking a leap of faith. It means that you must be willing to shake up your own comfort zone and head into unknown territory."
For me, my comfort zone is revising and more revising. But I know I have to leave it soon and head out into the unknown world of querying and submitting the work, if I ever want to move forward in my writing career.
And lastly, Goodman reveals that the eighth habit is ATTITUDE. She says, "The attitude is that you have to want it, and you have to want it bad. There is too much competition to risk taking success for granted. . . . If you know deep down that you will do whatever it takes, then these habits will not be difficult for you to maintain."
Well! I think I'm re-charged now! How 'bout you? How bad do YOU want it?
If you want to read the article in it's entirety, please click here.