To Be a Successful Author
It has often been said that everyone has a story. So why doesn’t everyone write? At school, students are taught the mechanics of writing, of language of narrative, but that does not mean they are able to tell a convincing story others will want to read. But something more is needed than just being able to string a few sentences together. So what is it that a writer or someone wanting to publish, need, in order to be successful?
Look at the following formula
I firmly believe that everyone has ideas. How to translate those ideas into a coherent, fluent, engaging piece of writing, that others will want to read is the hard part. So, assuming one has an idea that is at least interesting enough to investigate, what else is needed.
You must be able to write and have at least a fundamental understanding and grasp of language and the way language is constructed to form meaning. You can only get this kind of skill through instruction or teaching. This kind of instruction starts early in life and continues into adulthood. The true writer (whether or not they are considered gifted), continuously extends and increase their vocabulary and applies the skills they have learnt in multiple genres of writing, from rhyming verse, to sonnets, from simple narrative to engaging, multilayered text and subtext.
Look back over the first stories you wrote; the ones you were so proud of in junior high school or even earlier. I will bet you read them now with a mixture of fondness and loathing. You feel fondness because they are like your children. You created them. But you feel loathing because, by any estimation, they are simply terrible. With experience, you have begun to see those stories not as the perfect pieces of work that scored you that A or B from a sympathetic teacher, but as the flawed, disjointed, inaccurate, misspelled, grammatically incorrect pieces of lovingly created tripe they really are. And so you should. True growth is not being able to look back at the mess you created and declare it a masterpiece, but looking at your masterpiece and seeing only a mess.
Knowledge comes from actively learning about your world, at a local level, then broadening out to include the whole world. It involves more than a basic understanding of your native tongue and history and certainly at least a familiarity with some of the better known languages and cultures of the world. French, Italian, English, Greek, Latin, Mandarin, Japanese and German are a good starting point. Knowledge of the physical world and how it works is helpful, especially if you are including any science, even if it is a pseudo-science such as alchemy. Knowledge of the visual and performing arts is also helpful, as is an understanding of cultures and geography. When I started writing my larger work, The Four Edged Sword, I had to teach myself about maps and map making and learn to use mapping software. When I decided to invent a new language, I took inspiration from other writers such as Tolkien. Never stop learning, for your knowledge of the physical world and its peoples, will help people your created world with realistic cultures, languages, names and places.
(Map for The Four Edged Sword drawn in pencil and converted to a digital image)
Everyone has one. Not everyone uses it. Some very powerful and influential people are completely devoid of imagination, or at least, they do not know how to tap this hidden resource. Here’s an exercise I have used with students:
Close your eyes. Start with something simple, like a waterfall. Picture yourself underneath it. Add to that picture the sounds of birds, first familiar and then more exotic. Add an echo to their sounds. Then add other detail with your mind. What color is the sky? Is it Earth, or somewhere else? Are there strange creatures flying above, or swimming in the water? Are they dangerous or friendly? Do they have scales like a fish or fur like a sea lion? Do they sing or trumpet or squawk.
See how easy it is? Now write all that down using as descriptive a narrative as your experience and knowledge will allow.
You cannot ever be any good at anything without practice. This is as true playing sport as it is for driving a car and it is certainly true of writing. Challenge yourself. Increase your word knowledge. Critique yourself then ask others to critique your work. Read your writing out loud, or better still, invest in a text to speech program and have that read it out loud. You will immediately identify what is wrong. Too much repetition. Did I really say “like” six times in that last paragraph? Too many adjectives, where one good one is sufficient. Not enough detail. Too many long or run-on sentences. No pauses. Dialogue sounds forced etc.
Keep writing. Write something every single day of your life. I try to write at least one chapter, one short story or one poem every day. I now have over a thousand poems alone online. And they are just the ones I felt worthy of putting online. There are perhaps another thousand I would not even read to my dog Soxy. Read often. Read widely. Write often, write in multiple genres. Find out what you are best at (mine is juvenile fiction) and hone those skills. Test your work on children and their parents. You cannot practice too much. But you can certainly practice too little.
I’ve often been “accused” of being too obsessed, of investing too much in my work. Rubbish. You can never be too obsessed with writing. You can never be perfect enough. In fact, even the best known writers often say they are never satisfied with their work and the end result is always a compromise between the vision they had for the story and what can be achieved in the telling of it. I am obsessed with writing and proud to be. I want to be perfect. I fear I never will be, but it doesn’t stop me from trying.
True success is not found in the glory of recognition, but in the value one places on the meaning implied in their own stories. The best stories are the ones we already know in our hearts, but have not yet told. Real success is in the gratifying response of a reader who simply acknowledges how delighted they were to read your story and that they read it again and again. They are the reason we write. Anyone who says they write for themselves is either deluded, lying, or have misunderstood the purpose of writing is to communicate. If we wanted to tell ourselves stories, we would simply close our eyes and listen to the eternal monologue of our mind. We would never have need to put pen to paper. Everyone who writes does so hoping someone, somewhere, somehow, will find their story and take it to heart. It is the dream of the writer. We don’t write stories to read ourselves. We write stories so that others will know and understand the content of our heart, through the voice of our imagination and the pen of our steady hand.
Books by Paul G Day: Young Adult and Children’s Fiction
My novels and stories are about growth, about challenges too great for the individual, but which must be met or grave consequences will follow. My characters are drawn from a life’s worth of experience in a large family, going to school, then university, working with children as a Teacher, having two careers spanning 30 plus years. My stories are about identity, loneliness, resilience, of struggling in an indifferent and sometimes cruel world. But my stories are also about hope, about overcoming hurdles, about overpowering those more powerful than ourselves. My stories touch on the uniqueness of the individual, set against magnificent backdrops, whether travelling far from Earth in Star Child: The Cosmic Birth, or in the swamp lands of a race of dragonflies or the gardens of rare fairies. I inhabit my characters through a simple red bear, a little green hen, two small dogs, three magical fairies or a little black fairy. These are my stories and I love nothing more than sharing them with others. Aside from novels, I have produced an Audio Book in the form of a DVD as a companion to The Black Fairy and the Dragonfly and several children’s books. All my books are available on Amazon at the address below. It is my sincere hope that everyone who reads my books, finds meaning and familiarity and genuine creativity, along with a sense of originality in each and every tale
6 thoughts on “Guest Author Paul Day”
I think Paul hit all the important points. For myself, the most important of these are: using my imagination to create something unique and fresh; improve my writing in every new book; help my publisher to promote my books every single day on every platform I can; read my books aloud to myself to make sure they resonate and flow; listen to the feedback from my readers — kids, parents, teachers, librarians. All in all, while the writing is certainly challenging, it’s the easiest part of being a successful author.
Thank you JZ and everyone else.
Thank you everyone and thank you Chris. 😀
Wonderful blog with a lot of information, Paul. Great job putting it on here too, Chris.
Loved your ‘formula’ and you hit all the high points. Thank you.
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