How Freelancers, Nonfiction Writers, and Novelists Succeed

This website – The Adventurous Writer – isn’t just about my successes and failures as a freelance writer and book author. That’s secondary, because I dislike writing about myself. Rather, this site is about how to succeed as a novelist and nonfiction writer!

How writers succeed is as easy (and as complicated) as one thing: commitment. And maybe self-discipline, too.

“Few novelists play golf, go bowling, or watch much television,” writes James N. Frey in How to Write a Damn Good Novel. “The writing of a novel takes a great deal of time and emotional and mental energy. Time normally spent with friends and loved ones will have to be sacrificed.”

Commitment is the number one way freelancers, nonfiction writers, and novelists succeed. (and maybe self-discipline, too).

“You must make the kind of commitment that will effectively subordinate almost every effort and interest (in your life) to the mastering of the craft,” writes William C. Knott in The Craft of Fiction. Everything comes in second to writing – which is hard if you have children, a day job, elderly parents who need you, or other time-consuming responsibilities.

Most successful writers lead dull lives. “They spend most of their time squirreled away in a basement or an attic with a word processor, writing and rewriting, paranoid that the public might find their finished product silly, trite, or stupid,” writes Frey. Indeed, here on The Adventurous Writer I wrote about being Learning to Write Without Fear and Trembling – and how my determination to succeed affects my husband.


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Writing is a lonely process. Sometimes it flows, and writing is a wave. You ride it! Other times, it requires you to wrestle with self-doubt, anxiety that you’ll never be published, anxiety that you will get published, and fear that you’re not good enough. These are lonely thoughts – even if you connect with other writers on Twitter, writers’ forums, or in writing groups. Ultimately, you write alone. You’re born alone, you die alone, and you write alone.

Writing doesn’t require talent. “Talent just gets in the way,” writes Frey, “because if you have talent you expect writing a novel to be easy and it isn’t, no matter how much talent you have.” For more info about what you really need to be a writer, go to Key Writing Tips from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, on Quips & Tips for Successful Writers.

Writing requires sacrifices. How do freelancers, nonfiction writers, and novelists succeed? They sacrifice the time they normally spend with friends and loved ones. For instance, I didn’t go to a party last night (that I really wanted to attend — there was a live band!) not only because I wanted to work on my Quips & Tips blogs, but also because I didn’t want to wake up feeling sluggish, tired, or hungover. I don’t go out for dinners, meet friends for coffee, or spend hours on the phone. I’m lonely!

Writing requires certain personality traits. “Commitment, ambition, desperation, a passion for creating, a willingness to sacrifice average gratifications and expectations are all part of the writer’s character,” writes Leonard Bishop in Dare to be a Great Writer. Successful writers have specific personality traits, which I describe briefly in 7 Traits of Successful Writers.

If you want to be a successful writer, are you willing to do what it takes? Will you make the necessary sacrifices? You can start by ensuring that everything you do takes you closer to your writing goals (not farther away).

If you have any thoughts or questions on how freelancers, nonfiction writers, and novelists succeed – please comment below! Especially on that last sentence about making sure everything you do moves you towards achieving your goals…is that really possible?

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