NZ teenager, Amelia Sharting-Brenchley, recently asked what qualities I felt were important to being a professional writer. I thought this was a great question. So many folks ask 'how do I become a writer' as if they weren't one already. Amelia cut through this by realising that anyone who writes is already a writer, but that it takes perhaps a certain kind of personality to not only see a work through to its end, but then to bring it to a level where someone other than yourself may enjoy reading it.
Primarily I think you need a lot of self confidence to be a professional writer, especially if your work is not immediately marketable. This is a thing which had always been a problem for me: publishers would love my work, but wouldn't know what way to market it, and so would pass. While that's happening to you, I think you need a lot of belief in yourself and in the stories you're telling. You need to maintain a clear understanding of what you're trying to say with your writing, and you need the courage to keep saying it until someone somewhere decides to take a chance on it.
In a way, this gets even more important after you've been published. Once you're published, it's easy to fall into the trap of writing to please a non-existent judge and jury. It's hard to explain, but I guess the easiest way to understand this, is for you to pick your favourite book (I mean your absolute favourite book! The one you love!) Then go onto goodreads or librarything or one of those sites, and have a look at all the different reviews.
See how for every person who says, 'wow what a story,' there's another who says, 'this was rubbish'? Well, imagine if you had written that book. How confusing would all those conflicting opinions be? You could very easily find yourself running in circles, trying to please everybody, where in fact, you need to take the risk of writing for yourself, because only then will your work remain interesting to you and true.
At the same time, you need to be open to the people whose opinion matters: your editors, and your beta readers. These people are important. You've chosen them because you trust them and because their input is valuable to you. So you need to have the confidence to listen to them without taking their words personally.
I guess that's a different kind of confidence.
So, confidence, openness and determination: these qualities aren't guaranteed to get you published, but I'm pretty sure you won’t get published without them – if you see what I mean? And hey if you do have the personality needed to get your work finished and out there and read, maybe some day, some time, a mind-blowingly cool kid from half way around the world will call you up and ask interesting questions about your job. I hope they do, because it is, I must confess, a thrill beyond measure.
Visit Celine's blog