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What it takes to 'make it' as an author

After four years of working as a writing coach, and having worked with aspiring writers even longer than that, I've learned what the magic ingredient is that tells me which writers have the best shot at 'making it' as authors - and it might surprise you to find out what it is.

It's not writing ability.


I've seen writers whose first chapters were incredibly rough - full of Telling, confusingly-written or jam-packed full of back story - learn and grow. Within even a short time, they've blossomed into really good writers. So if you're concerned about your writing abilities - don't be! It's not a deal breaker as long as you are willing to learn and put in the work.


It's not storytelling ability.


Though being able to create a good story, with engaging characters or strong arcs or interesting plot twists, is important, this too can be learned. Your first manuscript might be short on character development or fresh ideas (mine certainly were!) but with experience, and perhaps with the help of writing friends or a coach, every writer can craft engaging, unique stories.


It's not Voice.


Voice is that elusive quality that takes time to develop. Most beginner writers haven't yet discovered their voices, and need to first gain confidence in their writing before their own, natural voice assserts itself. Most of the aspiring writers who start coaching with me haven't yet gained that confidence to just be themselves in their writing, but that's not a dealbreaker as, again, I know that this will develop with time.


No, the magic ingredient that separates successful authors from those who are less likely to succeed is the simple act of showing up.


And this is, unfortunately, the one thing I cannot do for my clients.


I can help you set goals, I can teach you writing craft and help you develop your story, and I can encourage you to find your voice, but I cannot make you sit down and write.


It would be ableist to call this discipline. I'm one of the least disciplined people I know. With my ADHD brain, I'm a huge procrastinator and a slow writer, and I really wish I could be as productive as many other authors I know. I've learned to work with those limitations and I'm learning to forgive myself for not being as disciplined as I should be. But I've learned that even ADHD brains can focus when they want to. I've managed to write and publish 13 books to date. And even authors battling pain or chronic illness or disabilities can become successful authors.


The magic ingredient isn't discipline. It's drive. It's how much you want this. I can tell, within a few weeks, whether an aspiring author is going to make it as an author because they are passionate enough about their work to stop making excuses and to sit down and write.


You have to want to write.


Why you want it doesn't matter. There are no wrong reasons to want to be an author. Maybe you just love the act of creating stories, maybe you want to be famous and achieve recognition, or maybe you want to earn enough money to pay your bills. No matter what your motivation is, if you want it enough, it will happen.


The good news is that if you're not feeling that drive, that's okay. If the excuses are so overwhelming that you simply cannot sit down and write, then this isn't necessarily the end of the road for your writing dreams. Maybe this is simply not the right time in your life. Maybe this isn't really the thing that's meant for you. But if the excuses are piling up, and day after day goes by and you ignore your writing, then you need to take a long hard look at how much you really want this. Because no writing coach in the world is going to be able to help you achieve success if you aren't willing to show up and do the work.


When you want it enough, no excuse will be able to stop you from writing. And when you want it enough, then I know that you will make it as an author.



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