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The 7 virtues every writer needs to succeed

This is a post by Novel Publicity President, Emlyn Chand/ What makes a good writer?  Is it a talent for seamlessly styling prose?  A working knowledge of proper grammatical techniques?  The simple ability to write productively?

Technical skills are important, it’s true, but much more important in defining a good writer is virtue.  It cannot be denied that there are a certain number of personal traits that come in handy when the going-gets-tough, and let’s not deny it, the going is tough most of the time.

So here they are, my seven virtues of writing success.  These may look a bit familiar:

1. Reverence—The would-be writer must have a profound respect for the craft.  She must look upon the written word as something that is sacred, something that is vested with the enormous, all-important power of both entertaining and enlightening.

2. Knowledge—To be a writer, one must write.  To write, one must know how, at least to some level.  It is not for others to pass judgment on how well you understand the craft (that part comes a bit later in the process).

3. Wisdom—Beyond this basic knowledge, the writer must possess wisdom.  She must know when her writing is ready to be sent to agents and when it is not.  She must know which rearrangement of her daily routine is the most conducive to productive writing, and then she must ensure that she follows this itinerary—to not only know how to write, but also know how to make the most of her writing.  If she has this wisdom but chooses to ignore it, then she is a fool.

4. Understanding—The true writer understands that she must lose sleep, lose friends, and lose her sanity, and that even then she has no guarantee of ever being recognized as a writer.  She must understand, yet she must not dwell.  She must keep her feet firmly rooted on the ground as she allows her hopeful head to drift towards the heavens.

5. Courage—To write is to bear the soul.  It is to relay the intimate details of our inner minds, hearts, and sometimes even our bodies.  The artist of words paints her soul onto a billboard-sized canvas.  She publicizes and celebrates her own life’s secrets.  The writer must be brave and work steadfastly toward her goals.  She who can submit her soul’s work to the scrutiny of others and continue to smile, continue to believe in the value of her contributions, even upon repeatedly being told “sorry, this isn’t for us” is very courageous indeed.

6. Counsel—The wise writer takes up counsel.  She must become intimate friends with the characters she creates—for if she does not believe than to be real then who else will?  She must engage with others who understand her plight and are able to offer her support when the enormity of her task sometimes overwhelms her.  The intelligent writer will also take up the company of other writers, walking hand-in-hand with them toward their own literary lights.  The savvy writer knows that if one can succeed than others may too.  Plus, the path of karmic retribution is strong for we who write.

7. Wonder—Throughout all of the toil, the heartbreak, and the internet-induced procrastination, the writer must maintain a sense of wonder for her craft.  She must every day be overjoyed that today she had the opportunity to set pen to page and, in some small way, join the ranks of Shakespeare, Joyce, and Rowling.  The true writer will never turn her back on the craft.  She will always derive pleasure from reading a good book, from writing a snappy line of dialogue, and from sipping a steaming cup of coffee.

The writer who possesses these virtues is not far from success.  She must be steadfast in her self-belief and continue to aspire toward her dream.  For if she believes in herself, it’s only a matter of time before someone else will too.

 


Emlyn Chand, President of Novel PublicityEmlyn Chand was born with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). Novel Publicity’s mascot is a Sun Conure, thanks to her obsession with birds–and she gets to decide anyway since she is the company’s founder and president. Although her first novel Farsighted won the prestigious Writer’s Digest Self-Published Novel of the Year award in 2012 for the YA category, she now writes most of her fiction under her “real” name, Melissa Storm. Learn more or connect with her (or her Sun Conure, Ducky!) on either of her author websites:  www.emlynchand.com or www.melstorm.com. You can also friend her on Facebook, tweet with her @novelpublicity, or send her an email via [email protected].

Rhiannon Lassiter - January 6, 2011

Interesting list. Thanks for posting.

I think a healthy amount of irreverence is sometimes required. The written word, especially in English, is like an eccentric elderly aunt. Delightful, full of fun – but occasionally stuck in the 19th century.

Too much reverence and you’ll start believing people when they tell you that you can’t split an infinitive. And yet you plainly can. 😉

    Emlyn Chand - January 6, 2011

    Good point, Rhiannon. I’ll have to schedule another post about which writing rules to break and when to break them. Maybe we could collaborate on that.

Kaitee - January 8, 2011

I find that of this list, Courage is the one that I come up against the most often. And by come up against, I mean, I run into its opposite: Cowardice. I’m working on my senior writing project right now, and sitting down every day to write is the hardest part. I’ve realized within the last week that it’s not fatigue or laziness, it’s actually fear. Fear of being wrong. Fear of being right. Fear of a lot of things.

Under REVERENCE and KNOWLEDGE, I always like to add something like LEGACY. (It’s one of my favorite words and ideas.) Awareness of who came before you, how that influences you, and then where you take it. The whole standing on the shoulders of giants thing.

–Kaitee

    Emlyn Chand - January 8, 2011

    I know how you feel, Kaitee. Writers have to be full of both self-doubt and egomania to make it. It’s an odd balance to strike, and, yes, it’s a total contradiction. You need the confidence to keep going, along with an awareness of your faults. I know what it’s like to be scared…

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) - February 20, 2011

Late to the party, but thanks for this list.

On the side for building egomania it is helpful to look at a list like this, all things I admire and aspire to, and consider, Wait, this is *me*.

I like the Neil Anderson quote, “No person can consistently live in a manner that is inconsistent with how he perceives himself.” In those surges of self-doubt it helps to have a history or a list like this to use as a type of mirror to try and see me more accurately.

It’s what keeps me going, sure I “deserve” or am meant to do this even when I have a really down day.

    Emlyn - February 20, 2011

    Hi, Amy Jane! I’m glad my musings were helpful. Being a writer has some amazing highs and some severely dramatic lows. It seems this lifestyle has chosen us, now we just need to accept and enjoy the ride.

Adam iwritereadrate - March 11, 2011

Great post as always! Will RT…!

    Emlyn - March 11, 2011

    Thank you, Adam. We love “IWriteReadRate” over here. I’ll answer your interview questions soon, and then maybe I can interview you 😉

      Adam iwritereadrate - March 11, 2011

      My pleasure! Not long now until beta launch, Emlyn…! Looking forward to it. I’m obviously open to suggestions from you, and would be delighted to do an interview in the future.

      All the best

      Adam

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