Ten characteristics you need to become a writer

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Underwood Keyboard via WikipediaAre writers born or made? I firmly believe that anyone can write (whether they should is an entirely different matter of course). I have been writing now for over twenty-five years and in that time have met countless writers. The vast majority of them treated writing like a job and approached it in that fashion, not waiting for the muse to move them, but moving, shoving, pushing and dragging the muse into submission.

Many of those writers displayed remarkably similar characteristics and attitudes towards their work and, out of that, I have drawn up the ten characteristics I think you’ll need if you want to become a writer.

You must be well read

You must read and not just in the fields that interest you – writers pull from an astonishing variety of sources for their work. If you do not read, you will never become a writer.  Let me just repeat that: if you do not read, you will not – indeed, you cannot – become a writer.

Imaginative

It sort of goes without saying, but an imagination is critical. Feed your imagination with books, movies, images, people, places. If you have no raw material, you’ve nothing to create with.

Critical

Be critical of your own work. Do not think that everything you write is golden. The images you see in your head may never match what you finally put down on paper … but you keep trying.

Take a typing class

Some writers still work with a pencil and paper; however, the vast majority type on a keyboard. And those who have taken a proper typing class are better equipped to get the words down on paper at blinding speed. Hunting and pecking to complete your 100,000 novel is going to be tough going.

Disciplined

This is a job. Treat it like a job. You must write every day – you may throw it away the following day – but you have to write every day. And just like any other job, the more you do it, the better you become.

Passionate

Be under no illusions: this is a tough job. No one is forcing you to do this, you’re doing it because you love it, because you have to, because it is part of you. You must be passionate about the work.

Patient

Writers ultimately must become the most patient people in the world. Everything takes its own sweet time. A book takes a year to write, publishers take 18 months to get it onto the shelves, editors take months to reply, agents even longer. The overnight successes are rare. The majority of writers create a book, send it out into the world and go straight into the next book while waiting patiently for the first one to find a home.

Ambitious

You have to want this. Really want it. There is a cost to writing and it is a personal cost: the family you do not get to spend time with, the friends you rarely see, the movies you will miss,  the television programs you will never watch,  the books you will never find the time to read.  There are advantages though – and only you can decide if one outweighs the other.

Thick Skin

Trust me, once your book is out in the wild, it is fair game for everyone. You will get good reviews and bad ones – and you will only remember the bad ones. By all means, read the reviews and if the reviewer has a point, then take it on board, but don’t take it personally.

A Good Storyteller

If you’re going to be a writer of fiction – you have to be a liar! A book is a lie – a big 75,000 words or more lie.

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