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Book Writing Tips for Career Writers

Book writing tips. It may seem silly to even offer them.  But the habits and especially the attitudes of successful creative writers differ from those who never get published.

Career writers who live off writing or writing-related income treat writing as a vocation and a business, not as a hobby.

In a profession that can take years to be adequately rewarded, discipline and a belief in yourself are crucial. 

  • Dream big. If you want a career as a writer, set your sights on the best agent, a major publisher, and publication in a dozen countries. Don't settle. If you dream big, you'll strive harder. Successful writers spend time thinking about how to write the story at hand and they work hard without giving up, for as long as it takes.
  • Write about something that excites you. If you spend most of your time thinking about relationships, write about complex relationships. If you live for your children, write children's books. 
  • Commit to learning everything you can about writing. Author, screenwriter, and publisher Sol Stein claims that good writing is as complicated as brain surgery. I've been writing for over thirty  years and I'm still learning something new every week. A willingness to understand craft is the minimum requirement for success. Understanding what makes a book good is more important than liking it. 
  • Develop your strengths. Are you particularly good with dialogue? Then follow the example of Irish novelist Roddy Doyle and write books heavy on dialogue. If exquisite diction is your strength, think of Annie Dillard or Anne Michaels and perfect each sentence. Strive to improve in the areas you find more difficult, but  focus on what you do well. This is where you will shine and gain recognition. 

  • Accept 100% responsibility for your success or failure. Let others whine about the state of publishing, the weak economy, small advances, and dwindling readers. If your book is good enough, and you persevere, it will sell. 

  • Stay focused. In the early years, when you don't earn as much as you'd like, it's easy to get sidetracked by the need to make a living. Do what you must to pay the bills in the fewest hours possible, and devote the rest of your time to reading, analyzing, and writing. 

  • Spend time with writers who will provide respectful but honest feedback. Let your spouse or parents tell you how wonderful you are. As a writer, you need the feedback of those with enough knowledge and experience to analyze your work and pinpoint its strengths and weaknesses, particularly its weaknesses. You're likely able to see the strengths on your own. 

  • Be prepared for setbacks. Novelist and non fiction writer Annie Dillard writes: On plenty of days the writer can write three or four pages, and on plenty of other days he concludes he must throw them away. Each breakthrough in understanding creates new, difficult demands.  Persevere, and accept all hurdles with the knowledge that "this, too, will pass." 

  • Set clear goals and think about how you will achieve them. Goals are useless if you do not have a plan for achieving them. If you want to sell 10,000 copies of each book every year, write down a dozen ways that might happen. Maybe you need speaking engagements. Maybe you need more traffic to your website. Choose the most plausible action steps and do something every day that moves you closer to the desired result. 

  • Write honestly. Exceptional writers don't write what will make them acceptable to others. They write what most only think and few will say. Allow your characters to verbalize what goes unsaid in the world,  to act as many would like to act and dare not. Have the confidence to write what you know to be true. "The Emperor's New Clothes," by Hans Christian Andersen, is remembered by everyone who hears it because the little boy says what everyone knows to be true and no one else had the courage to say. As a writer, have courage.

None of these tips for writing a book is more important than any other. If you dream of publishing success, let nothing deter you. Practice these habits and keep practicing them until you succeed, as you will.

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