10 Habits of Successful Authors

Still haven’t made your New Year’s resolutions yet? The following list is an excellent place to start, whether you’re jumpstarting your writing career, or whether you’ve been writing for years and need to scrape off some rust. If, by the end of the year, you can cross the following habits of successful authors off your checklist, you’ll be a force to reckon with in the literary world!

1. Successful Authors … Write Every Day

Treat your writing like a job, whether it is yet or not. Writing something every day, even if it’s only a paragraph, keeps your creative pump primed and your inertia at bay.

2. Successful Authors … Finish Stories

Discipline yourself to finish every story you start. If you quit whenever the going gets tough, or whenever the shine of a new idea beckons, you’ll never finish a story. No one reads (much less buys) half-finished tales.

3. Successful Authors … Learn the Rules

Thankfully, writing is largely a craft that can be self-taught. Read voraciously: fiction, books on writing (check out my list of recommend books), blogs, workshops, and anything else you can find. Never stop learning.

4. Successful Authors … Break the Rules

Once you have a solid understanding of the principles of fiction, don’t be afraid to step beyond their confines. Experiment. Think outside the box. Fiction is based on a set of basic tenets because they’ve been proven to work, but art is an evolution. If it stagnates, it dies.

5. Successful Authors … Create Their Own Inspiration

Pinpoint what inspires you and surround yourself with stimuli. Discipline, creativity, and persistence are a cure-all for writer’s block. Don’t allow writer’s block to become an excuse for giving up.

6. Successful Authors … Don’t Slack on the Hard Stuff

Not all of writing is fun and games, but if you want to create a polished story, you have to submit to the hard stuff, as well as the fun stuff. Don’t cut corners on research, outlining, or editing. The extra work always pays off in the end.

7. Successful Authors … Follow Their Hearts, Not the Market

Art is a deeply personal expression. Write the story your heart has to tell. Conforming your work to the market, just for the market’s sake, will cheat both yourself and your readers in the long run.

8. Successful Authors … Develop a Thick Skin

Criticism of our work can seem like a personal attack. But criticism—especially when coming from critique partners, agents, and editors—is a vital part of the process. Accept constructive criticism, learn from it, and use it to make your story better.

9. Successful Authors … Set Their Stories Free

When the time comes to send your stories into the world, learn to let them go. Your characters are yours no longer. They belong to everyone who reads them. Rejoice that you’re able to share them, say goodbye, and move onto the next story.

10. Successful Authors … Love What They Do

We writers are a blessed bunch. Don’t ever forget that. The writing road has its own set of speed bumps—isolation, loneliness, rejection—but the benefits of spinning these webs of color and fantasy are more than just compensation

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! What do you think is the most important step in becoming successful authors? Tell me in the comments!

10 Habits of Successful Writers

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. I love this post… very helpful, as usual! =)

  2. You’re welcome! Thanks for commenting.

  3. Great post! I think “Love what you do,” is extremely important. “Follow your heart and not the market” yeah that’s a really good one too :o) I think that is great advice for all parts of your life!

    I hope your New Year’s was great :o)

  4. Being an artist is one of most fantastic ways I think of to spend my life. But it’s not necessarily an easy lifestyle. If you don’t love it, I really don’t think it’s worth it.

  5. Informative and inspiring, as always! Your is my favorite blog that I follow. 🙂

  6. Why, thank you! I appreciate that very much. 🙂

  7. I need to work on Numero uno! Thanks for the uplifting post. :O)

  8. In my opinion, writing every day is the single most important habit of a writer. Consistency is so valuable.

  9. Great advice. My major problem is time… my job interferes with my life! I know that sounds ungrateful in these economic times but nevertheless, it does 🙂
    Love your stuff!

  10. This is all so very, very true. Wonderful post!

    Elspeth

  11. What a perfect list of habits. I especially love follow your heart and love what you do. So important along with all the work and thick skin and all.

  12. @Elspeth: Thanks for reading!

    @Angie: Writing is very much a business. But, above all, it’s an art. It’s so important to remember that.

  13. @Lorrie: Yeah, jobs (and life in general) have an annoying of sucking away a lot of time. But writing consistently doesn’t necessarily require huge blocks of time. If fifteen minutes a day is all you can spare, then fifteen minutes is enough!

  14. Thanks for this post. I’m in the process right now of printing it, and will post it where I can’t help but see it every time I open Spider Solitaire in lieu of writing.

  15. That Spider Solitaire – it can be addictive, can’t it? 😉

  16. Thank you, Katie. This will be my 2010 list of rules to abide by. Thank you for spelling it out. Very helpful, as usual.

    Happy writing to you!

  17. Definitely got to work on writing every day. I can’t always wait on my muse for inspiration, but I also have to have the energy to write, too!

  18. @Cynthia: Here’s to getting all ten checked off your list in the next twelve months!

    @Liberty: I have an amazing amount of respect for moms who find the tome to write. You ladies rock!

  19. Very good. Thnaks for the post.

  20. Thanks for reading!

  21. Annie Lynn says

    The tip that caught my eye was number 2…starting what you finish. Great reminder – thanks!

  22. Starting a story is easy; finishing is hard. If you can finish a novel, you’re already way ahead of most writers!

  23. I am always motivated by each one of your posts. This post was overflowing with encouragement and motivation. All 10 of these successful habits are just what I needed to hear. Thank you for your wisdom and insight into life as well as writing.

  24. I’m so glad you were encouraged! Here’s to making 2010 the best writing year yet!

  25. Slacking on the hard stuff (revising, for me) – that’s my downfall. I’m working through it, just slowly. 😉

    Excellent advice, as everyone else has already said.

  26. Revising isn’t exactly my favorite part of the process either. But it’s a necessary evil, to be sure.

  27. I have already made the resolution to write everyday. I even set aside a block of time to do it in.
    Sarah

  28. Good for you! Scheduling is key in consistency, I think.

  29. I absolutely love this post 🙂

    So glad to have come across you blog. I want to sell my screenplay soon so I can use all the advice/inspiration I can get!

  30. Glad you found me! Best of luck with your screenplay.

  31. I am also glad I found this blog, and I am book marking this specific page. I may just copy it into my own composition book!

  32. I am also glad I found this blog, and I am book marking this specific page. I may just copy it into my own composition book!

  33. I am also glad I found this blog, and I am book marking this specific page. I may just copy it into my own composition book!

  34. Thanks for commenting, April! I’m tickled you enjoyed the post so much.

  35. #7… words to live by. Write what you love and it will shine through!

  36. If you don’t love what you’re writing, how can you expect your readers to?

  37. Happy new year 2010 to you

  38. Numbers 4 and 7 have just lifted my spirits. Thank you for this list, it is useful and inspirational for me.
    Happy Scribbling
    Glynis

  39. @Pak: To you too!

    @Glynis: Writing can so easily be looked at as a set of rules. But art is never about rules – only structure. And not even that sometimes!

  40. Nice Post
    related to that how to complete a story writing step by step to complete it….

  41. A novel (or even a short story) can seem daunting at first glance. But when you break it into pieces and tackle it one piece at a time, it’s very doable.

  42. Wonderful advice! So true about the rules – there were many things I knew by “instinct” but once I learned the basic rules, it helped me to see my work in a completely new light –

    great post.

  43. Me too on the instinct thing. I absorbed so much through osmosis, thanks to my reading, but I never really *got* fiction writing until I started reading the “rules.”

  44. i do music and your advice really applies across the board.
    never knew writing is just like music production so am gonna write em look this;

    1. at least i make a music track or write a song daily

    2.once i start making that music track i have to finish all the beats etc not just leaving them half way …if am writing a song same applies

    3.learn the rules-listen to as many songs as possible to get ideas if i want to make a rock track i listen alot of rock 😀

    4.new idears i gat to break the rules ..i love trying new ideas

    5.my inspiration ..mmmhhh i knw that

    6.i shouldn’t slack on hard stuff

    7.FOLLOW MY HEART NOT THE MARKET!! i have been thinking bout that this morning and i concluded unlike before when i used to do song for money[i have to make a song for my fans] now its different i want to do my thing and i know pple will buy my originality that’s a super point

    8. thick skin..i haven’t met any, am still young in music…but i have an idea of what happens..critics can make me grow and mature in what i do

    9.set my story free…mhh mo any ideas there ..it applies in writing largely

    10. love wht i do..men i love music ;=))

  45. Thanks for stopping by! I’m tickled that my writing tips were helpful to a songster!

  46. So helpful! This is something to put on my desktop and constantly remind myself of. We tend to forget these important tips. Thank you for sharing, K.M.!
    Cheers!
    Kelly

  47. I have a plan in the back of my mind to make this post available as a little poster for folks like you who might find it helpful to put above their computers. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  48. Wonderful article. I was actually thinking of making a post it notes and spread them around my desk so that I can see them whenever I feel compeled to go crazy ( lonliness sidrom too)

  49. Glad you enjoyed it! I’m in the process of producing a fancy little bookmark featuring this post. So maybe your Post-Its can be spared!

  50. the article charged me up thoroughly, it seems there’s writier inside me and now onwards this writer will follow your rules to become better. 🙂

  51. the article charged me up thoroughly, it seems there’s writier inside me and now onwards this writer will follow your rules to become better. 🙂

  52. the article charged me up thoroughly, it seems there’s writier inside me and now onwards this writer will follow your rules to become better. 🙂

  53. Thrilled to hear it! Happy writing and best of luck.

  54. thanks for the great insights

  55. Thanks for reading!

  56. I love all these tips. They really make me feel like a writer, and hopefully if I keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll be a successful author someday.

  57. I liked the 7th one best. Other than that, all of them seems pretty useful. And I absolutely love your advice “read voraciously” 😀

  58. Jan Satterlee says

    Just found this blog and #5 caught my eye. Whenever I run low on creativity I go to my private well of inspiration–my daughter. She’s the most witty, creative person I know, and she always comes up with something great–like I needed the name of a band for my MG novel, and right off the top of her head she said “The Traveling Mumps.” It’s hilarious, fun-sounding, and just a tad yucky–exactly what I was looking for.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Love that! Always awesome when we have someone in our lives who can give us the creative feedback we need.

  59. Thank you loads for this post! Just to say I really enjoy your blog as it is very helpful and informative. Am a novice and your site is like an everflowing river of information and guidance.
    More power to you!

  60. What is helping me is trusting my vision for my work. My story may take twists and turns I hadn’t expected, but the style is consistent. It keeps the framework sturdy for the kind of writing I do. Thank you for your wonderful posts! You have helped me so much over the last several years. You’re my go-to girl!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Trusting that vision is important, because there are only about a gazillion voices out there trying to have input. And while it *is* important to remain open to changing that vision as we strive for ever-greater objectivity, at the end of the day, the vision is, and must be, ours and no one else’s.

  61. Cecelia Chittenden says

    I can’t answer your question, but I can tell you a goal I have for myself that I hope will make me more successful: I would like to write more concise, so I tell the story better in fewer words.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I hear you! Having just completed a monster of a 200k manuscript, that’s my goal right now too. :p

  62. “I think, therefore I am.”
    “I write, therefore I am a writer.”
    Hardly a good comparison, but each quote speaks bucketsful.
    Having dabbled at writing throughout a long life, but distracted by life’s necessities, like earning a living, being happily married for 51 years, etc., I settled to writing my first novel at age 91. My second at 92 followed by a third before 93.
    The next thing to do, of course, is to become a publicist and a marketer.
    I know I am up against youngsters like you and your contemporaries, but I shall give it my best shot.
    Having said all that – I shall not consider myself a successful writer until my books are sought-after, and the shekels come rolling in. My aim is for my Great Grandchildren to get the royalties.
    Many thanks for the grammar tips – it is a long time since I was at school. But, you know, I had a very good English/History master.
    Kate, is it? Although of a different gender (viva la difference!), You are admirably following in his footsteps.
    Ronald

    • Christy Moceri says

      Ronald, if you’re still reading this site, I had to say you made my day.

      Here I am at 33 years old, kvetching that it’s going to take so long to learn to get good at this. You made me feel downright silly (in a good way.) Best of luck to you and your writing aspirations. If it’s any consolation, I consider you a success whether you’re published or not.

  63. Thank you for posting these! It’s the best collection of writing advice you can give anyone who enjoys the craft of writing, whether new or veteran.

    Charlie

  64. I started following your blog a while back, just after I wrote my very first novel. I soon realised that I wasn’t going to be able to stop, but I also realised that if I wanted to write what moves me, I have to move me. I downloaded all the recommended books, bought the 10 you recommended (not sorry) and I have seen a huge improvement since.

    Don’t stop, you are my Shero! These 10 resolutions are perfect, I have learnt to do most of them, my only downfall… not finishing, not because I get stuck or something, but because the mind is a wonderland of ideas and distractions, and I’m like a cat near a christmas tree… I need to explore!!

    So, my resolution, is to go and finish those stories, which I have every intention of doing… and to share this with the people I know.

    Thanks Ms. Weiland

  65. If the keyboard is wearing you out, go to an antiques shop and get one of the old time typewriters, along with a jug of white-out experiencing what the writers of not that long ago had to contend with, then …. well, it may come easier. You could also get a quill pen and jug of ink to write that story on a roll of brown wrapping paper. Then call your editor. I often visualize myself finding and pouring through library books seeking references of research, then the search engine on this plastic machine becomes a real blessing.

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