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Thursday, September 1, 2011

5 Habits of Successful Writers

A writing career is born the moment we make a serious decision to write a book. I was very naïve when I began this process—blissfully so—and then reality set in. I joined a critique group and learned one eye-opening thing: There was an excellent chance I was delusional. I hadn’t written the masterpiece I believed I had. In fact, my first manuscript was far from even being good. But I was lucky to find a critique group with a mission to be honest but kind. Some of the early members took me by the virtual hand and walked me through the great mystery of how to become a better writer.

(Just to get on my soapbox for a moment… Anyone who says she doesn’t have time for a critique group, I’m not disputing the claim. But my comment back is this. If one doesn’t have time to commune with other writers to build his or her craft and build connections, there probably isn’t time for that writer to be published either. Publishing is a huge drain on a person’s time, even though it’s exciting.)

Because I was so fortunate to benefit from the experience of my fellow writers, I wanted to share some of this wisdom with others. I posed this question to my critique group this week. What are the most important things a writer should do for his or her career? Here is what we have to say.


1. Networking –

Networking is not about promoting yourself, in my opinion. It is about forming genuine connections with other industry professionals. Other writers may or may not be your audience, but they are definitely your peers. Treat them with respect and as your equals. ~ Samantha Grace

Join RWA and a local chapter if possible. Networking is uber important. I think our critique group is an example of that. We all have strengths and weaknesses and help each other out - and we expand our circle. ~ Ava Stone

I agree whole heartedly with the importance of networking. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to anyone and everyone. Don't be a pest, but do put yourself out there. ~ Erin Knightly

Support other authors. ~ Heather Boyd

Find at least two other writers whose writing you admire and build a strong critique relationship with them. These people will be invaluable and will also become good friends. ~ Julie Johnstone

2. Craft Building -

Learn your craft, invest in your career by taking courses to make your writing better. Crit partners are great teachers but sometimes you learn a thing or two you didn't know inside a writing class. Some of my classes have been invaluable to me. ~ Suzie Grant

Write every day. Then write some more. ~
Aileen Fish

When you finish writing a book start the next soon after. ~
Heather Boyd

Read other authors most recent books that you love and learn from them. Invest time in studying some craft books. They really can help. ~ Julie Johnstone

Learn to write, or you will never have the tools to be published. Keep writing, or you will never have a complete book to sell. Be open to suggestions, or you will never make it past your first sale. ~ April Dawn

I think it is important to have a strong critique group that you trust also so you can have your manuscript polished as best as it can be before you submit it to anyone. ~
Jane Charles

Learn to write a synopsis, query letter, a blurb and how to pitch an idea. These are skills you will use over and over again. I have taken several classes by Laurie Schnebly (a repeat guest blogger on Lady Scribes), and it is no secret how helpful I have found her classes. ~
Samantha Grace

Don't worry if the first draft isn't perfect. Hemmingway said, "The first draft is always crap."
~ Ella Quinn

3. Professionalism –

Learn to write to a deadline before you have a deadline. ~ Catherine Gayle

Try never to badmouth another author, an agent or editor, or even a genre. You never know when a prudently held tongue will pay off. ~
Erin Knightly

Mentor new writers. You were once a complete newbie and you might be surprised what you can learn from someone new. ~
Julie Johnstone

Don’t react publically to a bad review. ~
Heather Boyd

Don’t blog about rejections from an agent, badmouthing other writers/publishers, refusing to accept a critique or bad review gracefully. Don't argue and attack someone who gave you a bad review. ~
Marquita Valentine

Giving back to the writing community is a must. ~
Suzie Grant

4. Attitude and Determination –

Develop a thick skin! (As in, learn that criticism of your work in any form is NOT personal. It is about the work. As such, take it for what it is worth to you. IF the suggestions are helpful or perhaps have merit or are something you can see with your gut as valid - then give them some credence. If they strike you as petty, invalid, not helpful then jettison them immediately and DO NOT allow yourself the luxury of ruminating over them. Negative thoughts are a luxury a write cannot afford.) ~ Louisa Cornell

Don't stop writing while you are learning. Too many writers stop because someone told them they need to learn the skills. ~
Ella Quinn

When rejected try and take a calm perspective to analyzing the rejection and seeing what, if anything, you can use from it. ~
Julie Johnstone

5. Know the Business –

Write what you want to read and what you're passionate about. Writing what you think someone else wants to read is a waste of your time and energy because if your heart isn't in it, readers can tell. ~ Ava Stone

Read in your own genre and in others. Be willing to learn from another source. ~
Suzie Grant

Have a career goal, and a plan to accomplish it... this can be finishing a manuscript, sending out your work , etc. ~
Ava Stone

Attend at least one RWA convenvention. It was an eye-opener to me to realize the scale of the business we are in. What a huge industry! ~ Samantha Grace

I would like to add one additional category to our collective list, and that is to take care of yourself. It is easy to get caught up in deadlines and marathon writing sessions, and our bodies suffer. We want to be able to enjoy our success and that means maintaining our health.

What do you consider important for success as a writer?


  1. As usual, great blog! I already gave my two cents, but I will say I completely agree with the taking time to care of yourself. It is far too easy to get caught up in wanting to write, write, write, that you have to watch not to let life and health pass you by.

  2. Awesome blog, Samantha!! Ditto on taking care of yourself. I failed to do that *once* and I will never, ever do it again. It took months of chiropractic care to get myself back to rights! LOL!

  3. Great blog! Thanks for the quote and giving me lots to think about.

  4. Julie and Jerrica,

    You are both great inspirations for practicing good self-care. I've let it fall by the wayside, but I saw my photos the other day and thought, "Holy cow! I need some sleep."

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom. As a multipublished author, you have quite a bit to share. :)

  5. What a great post, and great advice! Loved all the quotes although I dunno how successful I am...yet being the key word lol. Thanks Samamtha!