Are you a writer?

Just putting words down on a piece of paper or computer screen does not necessarily make you a writer. Writers are known to have certain traits. You don’t have to have all of them, but most writers have most of them. Some of these traits, if you don’t have them, you probably should if you want to be a successful writer. I include five here and I’ll finish this off with five more next week.

These are not in any particular order. Enjoy!

  1. Tenacity. To be a writer you need to write—no matter what. That means that if you don’t feel like writing, you still need to sit down and do it. That means that if you don’t have an idea in your head and have absolutely no idea what you want to write or what you should write, you still need to sit down and put words on paper.

It also means that when you’ve written something and the world comes back to you and says it’s a piece of crap, you still need to sit down the next day and do it some more – or perhaps go back to what you wrote and see what was wrong with it and fix the stupid thing.

No matter what, a writer writes.

  1. Self-discipline. This goes along with the tenacity. Not only do you need to sit down and write no matter what, you have to have the time and determination to do so. That means you make a schedule and stick to it.

It’s easiest to decide on a time when you will write than just say, “Every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday I’m going to write.” When on those days will you write? For how long—will it be for an hour or until you reach a certain number of words? Decide in advance and don’t stop until you get there.

Without this sort of self-discipline all the tenacity, hopes and dreams in the world won’t get your book written.

  1. Anticipate the future. How can anyone possibly anticipate the future, you ask? Well, by going through all the possible outcomes you can think of. And why? Because when your character does something, it’s going to have consequences. You have to know what those consequences might be. Consider all of the possible consequences of their actions and have your other characters, or your world, behave accordingly.

Happily, most of the time, you get to decide which consequences actually happen, and which don’t. But remember, if you don’t think about this beforehand, two things will probably happen: 1) you’ll be caught off guard later when you go write those scenes where those consequences will be felt/seen, or 2) you’ll have readers screaming at your book or worse, closing it and not picking it up again because they see what the consequences should have been and that isn’t what you wrote happened.

One side note to this: actually making a list of all the possible consequences of your character’s actions is a great way to plot and figure out what’s going to happen in your story. Just remember to take into account how your character also needs to grow and try to make their growth tied to those consequences.

4. Neurotic. Writer’s hear voices in their heads. We see people who aren’t actually there. We watch movies that no one has made. People who don’t actually exist talk to us and argue with us—and they demand to be heard. If you’re a new writer, welcome to the nuthouse! 😊

5. You love People and telling people what to do. I have yet to meet a writer who doesn’t find people fascinating. We need to in order to create them. We need to delve deep inside of the people of our creation. We need to know what makes them do what they do, how they were damaged as a child and how they can grow and get beyond that hurt.

And, need I mention, that as a writer, you are constantly deciding what your characters are going to do. Now, they don’t always listen to you (see #4), but you can try and might even need to try to tell them what to do.

Come back next week for five more traits all writers have (or should!).