One trait writers need to succeed

What traits does a writer need to succeed? Discipline, of course. Persistence. And, yes, patience—the writer’s road can be a long and bumpy one. But I think, in all of our discussion about what traits make a successful writer, there’s one we often overlook: curiosity.

Writers need to be keen observers of the human condition.

Watching how people behave and asking why they act or react the way they do makes us better writers. It’s why the works of writers from Jane Austen to John Steinbeck have withstood the test of time. They observed the world around them and wrote. Their characters feel like real people, and we’re drawn in.

We also need to be curious about the world.

Our writing might require us to research anything from weaponry to geography. Our character probably won’t be a writer; she might anything from a food critic to a physicist. Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter, but the author isn’t. She put in more than a few solid hours of research to make her character’s world come to life.

Our characters might be adept at martial arts while we’ve never taken a single jujitsu class. Our story might be set in another time, another place, and curiosity will help us learn everything we need to write a story that leaps off the page. Readers will notice if the little things are inaccurate, and it will draw them out of the story.

So, go ahead. Explore. Read about the history of Ireland, how the Great Wall of China was built, the Mars Rover, classic automobiles. Anything that might inspire a story or end up in one. Be curious.

This week’s ROW80 check-in…

Writing:

  • Finish a second draft of my novella “Good Old-Fashioned Magic.” No progress to report. I still have four chapters left to revise, but the ending of this one is tricky and I needed some distance. I think I’ve figured out the direction I want to take with revisions, though. Distance is working.
  • Write a first draft of another novella. Wrote 5,232 words this week.
  • Read a minimum of four books on the business or craft of writing. On book three of four. Continued reading “How I Write” by Janet Evanovich.

Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. Target met.
  • Blog two times per week. Target met.
  • Comment on three to five blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Target met.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop.

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10 thoughts on “One trait writers need to succeed

  1. I liked “How I Write,” but then I’m a Janet Evanovich fan (not her romances as much as the Stephanie Plum and Alex Barnaby books). Have you read her collaborations with Lee Goldberg? I hate to say it, because I like them both, but I couldn’t get into them.

    A few days off from novella 1 made all the difference? Works every time. You had a good week!

    • I haven’t read her collaboration with Goldberg. I think it would be tough to blend two different writing voices together, but there are lots of writers out there who do it and do it well.

      Yes, a little bit of distance from the manuscript was all I needed. I think I’ve got a few solutions that will make the second draft much stronger.

      Thanks, John!

    • It’s so easy to forget that we need to be good observers in order to be able to create stories that really hook readers. We need to encourage that curiosity, be lifelong learners, I believe, in order to create.

  2. I do agree with this entire post but my favourite part was how you said that writers need to be keen observers of the human condition because I so totally agree. There was a period of time where I thought I wanted to be a psychiatrist just because the human mind interested me that much. Cynthia Voigt is one of my favourite writers and I think the writer that really impassioned me to write because her books where as character focused as I wanted my own stories to be.

    • Exactly. The more we understand human nature and what motivates us, the more we’ll be able to breath life into our characters.

      Thanks for commenting, Rosalie! Good luck with your writing.

    • Yeah, research isn’t my favorite part of the process either, but it’s definitely a necessary one. It really is those little details that draw a reader into the story, so getting the small stuff right is crucial.

      You too! Thanks for commenting.

  3. You are soooo right about curiosity – I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten a great idea for something to put into a story from a place I’d have never expected. Even day job stuff sometimes! Congrats on some great progress this week, and keep up the good work!

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