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  • Writer's pictureJ.B. Manas

3 Traits Every Author Needs

I read recently that one thing it takes to be a successful author is perseverance. And it got me thinking. Is it really perseverance that's needed: the refusal to stop writing and pitching, and not letting rejection get you down?

Sure, that's a good trait, but I think there are three things even more fundamental that are prerequisites to that. Otherwise, it's like Alanis Morissette sang in Mary Jane, "Well it's full speed, baby... in the wrong direction."

To me, the three most important things every writer must have are:

Empathy: the ability to put yourself in the shoes of your heroes, your villains, and your readers (It's so important that I wrote a whole blog post about this one topic). Think about what your characters are feeling and thinking at every point in the story. Think about their backgrounds, their state of mind, and their inner flaws and fears. Don't think about what you would do; think about what they would do and why. And think about how you want your readers to feel, and how you'll keep them in suspense and anxious to get to the next page.

Curiosity: the driving desire to know how things work, what makes a character tick, why they are the way they are, why past events took place, what a character might do and why, and what would happen under various alternate possibilities. Three of the most useful questions you could ask are: "What if," "Why," and "How." Otherwise, you'll feel like a salmon swimming upstream trying to create surprising and interesting content. Why do salmon swim upstream anyway? I'll have to research that.

Dedication: the absolute commitment to being a writer.

"Wait a minute," you say. "Isn't that the same as perseverance?" Not really. Perseverance merely implies not giving up. Dedication means committing time to write regularly (even if for 15 minutes if that's all you have on a given day). Research and planning are great but beware of using them for procrastination. As Harlan Coben instructs in his workshops, "Only writing is writing." Dedication also means committing to learning the craft and continuously improving, including understanding the tropes in your genre. Likewise, it means conducting the proper due diligence to make your story reasonably realistic. If you're writing about a cop, try to talk to a cop.

By all means, if you have empathy for your characters and readers, you're curious by nature about people, places, and things, and you're dedicated to taking the time to write, learn, and research, then perseverance will take you the rest of the way!

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