Thursday, August 21, 2008

Write And Grow Rich

Are there any writers out there who don’t want to make money from writing? Who don’t want to earn a living from their writing? Who don’t want to become rich from their writing? Well, there probably are. And that’s fine. But this article isn’t for them. This article is for you. You who knows that you can’t wake up in the morning without the itch in your fingers, can’t get through the day without putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, you who can’t listen to a conversation on a train, a bus or at a coffee shop without thinking, “I’ve got to write that down and use it in my next story”, and you who sees many things in life as great story ideas. Write and grow rich is for you. Now, this is not entirely about getting financially rich from writing. But apply the following advice and you stand a great chance of making that happen. Riches do come in many forms, one of which is money. But the many other forms of riches life has to offer are also yours for the taking when you follow the lead of the greats of writing, storytelling and inspirational thinking. So let’s have a look at the 7 essential elements that will help you to write and grow rich.

1. Desire

This is absolutely the most important step in achieving success in any endeavour, and ignoring it will mean almost certain failure. Putting it simply, you have to want it! Whatever your writing goal is – whether it’s to be a bestselling novelist, a successful screenwriter, to win a short story competition, to write for a national newspaper or magazine, or simply to finish something you’ve started, you must want it so much that the thought of it inspires a physical reaction in you, and the lack of it causes you both emotional and physical pain. Does this sound extreme? Maybe. But you must have a deep, intense desire to make your writing dreams come true. So let’s put first things first – what is your magnificent obsession? What do you want more than anything else? Got it? Write it down and let’s move on.

2. Faith

It is imperative that you believe you can achieve your goal. It is also imperative that you believe in what you are writing, and why. JK Rowling said that it was her belief in the story of Harry Potter that kept her going through 5 years of planning the entire series and then the writing of the first novel. With absolutely no promise of publication and being well aware of how difficult it is for an unknown author to get published, she could easily have let economic and personal difficulties overwhelm her and quit writing. But it was an overriding sense that she had to do right by the book that kept her going. So your second step is to examine your own commitment to what you are writing. Do you believe in the story you are telling? Does it mean anything to you personally, or to the world in general? And if you are writing non-fiction, do you believe in your topic, your point of view, and the value of what you are bringing to the world? Faith in yourself, and in your work is the one thing that has been known to work miracles.

3. Imagination

This may seem obvious, and yet it needs to be said. It is imagination that sets great writers and storytellers apart, just as it sets great artists, businessmen and movie-makers apart. Imagination falls into two categories – the creative and synthetic imaginations. And both are equally important to you as a writer. Examples of the creative imagination are of course JK Rowling having Harry Potter stroll fully formed into her mind while she was travelling between Manchester and London by train, and then spending the next four hours creating Hogwarts and the major cast of characters in her mind. Then there’s anything Stephen King has ever written, from what happens when a dead pet resurrects itself, to what would you do if you were trapped in your car when your family dog turns rabid. Great uses of the synthetic imagination (when the mind takes elements it already knows and recognises, and puts them together in new ways) are also abundant in fiction. How many variations on the classic boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl, have you read or seen? Hundreds, probably. And what about James Cameron’s epic film, Titanic? We all knew the boat would sink, we’d all seen it countless times before, but we still flocked to the cinema, enchanted by Cameron’s incredibly believable characters, Rose and Jack, and their moving but short lived love story. So if you’re a fiction writer, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to dream up something that has never ever been seen before. Simply look at what you like to read and write about, and put a new angle, or twist on it, and then go for it. For non-fiction writers, it’s open slather here. Simply pick your topic, take a fresh look at it, create a new angle and get into it. Your expertise and opinion matter certainly, but use your imagination to create a new way for your readers to see your topic, and you will have a ready-made audience.

4. Specialised knowledge

Many fiction writers have woven their own interests and areas of expertise into their novels. CS Lewis created a world rich in Christian symbolism, to reflect his own beliefs. John Grisham is an ex-lawyer who writes compelling courtroom dramas. Patricia Cornwell is a former medical examiner, and Candace Bushnell wrote about her own newspaper column in Sex and The City. These are all excellent examples of how you can turn your ‘real-life’ career into the basis of life as a novelist. Of course there are also countless examples of authors who carry out extensive research, moving from one topic to another as they build their catalogue. Either way, to create a believable world is, for the fiction writer, as important as building credibility in your field is to the non-fiction writer. The upshot is, that one way or the other, you need to acquire some specialised knowledge if you are to write in a way that captures your audience. Whether you parlay your own knowledge into your work, or acquire what you need through research, it’s important to remember, that we are first and foremost scribes, reporting stories to the people around us.

5. Organised Planning

I am a great believer in planning. For the fiction writer, having a story plan, whether for a short story, novel or screenplay, ensures you keep yourself on track, not winding off down dead ends and blind alleys. For the non-fiction writer, it’s a matter of doing your research, gathering your notes, and writing an outline before you set about the main task of writing your article or book. But organised planning for the writer means much more than planning the story, book or article you are writing right now. It also means planning for your own success as a writer. Travelling back to the first point, desire, you had to write down what you wanted to achieve as a writer. Have a look at that now. How are you going to get there? What steps can you take, starting now, that will move you in the direction of your goal? Saying you want to see your screenplay nominated for an Academy Award is a fine aspiration, but if you don’t even have an idea yet for your story, how do you think you’re ever going to be treading the red carpet? So putting together an organised, step-by-step plan to get you from where you are now, to where you want to be, and adding a timeframe for your goal’s achievement will be an important step to getting you where you want to go. A great way to do this is to work backwards from your goal, imagining what came immediately before the goal, and then before that, and then right before that, until you have the step that you need to take RIGHT NOW to move you forward. It may be something as simple as buying yourself a special notebook to jot down your ideas, but whatever it is, it is one important step toward you achieving your writing desire.

6. Persistence

It has been said that persistence outstrips all other virtues, and when it comes to achieving success as a writer, I truly believe that, other than being ready when your opportunity comes, persistence is the one quality that will absolutely guarantee your success. JK Rowling would never have been the phenomenon she became if she had never finished her first book, would she? And remember she wrote several adult novels that never saw the light of day, before Harry turned her life on its ear. Stephen King wrote several novels before he hit pay dirt with Carrie. Jonathan Livingstone Seagull was rejected more than 200 times before being published. Matthew Reilly began his career as a self-publisher and is now one of Australia’s most popular authors. His persistence, and self-belief paid off. So whatever you are writing, stick with it. Persistence is the one thing, along with a thick skin, that you’ll need in abundance to crack it in the competitive world of publishing. And remember, the so-called “experts” don’t always know it all. The man who handed JK Rowling her first advance, a mere £2,500, advised her not to give up her day job as “no one makes any money out of writing children’s books”. 12 years and over $1 billion later, I think she’s proven him wrong. Who are you going to prove wrong?

7. The Sixth Sense

This may seem like an unusual thing to suggest, but I truly believe that those who achieve great success as writers have an intuitive sense about which stories are the ones that are worth pursuing and which ones are better off left behind. I advocate that you should pursue the ideas that “scare you a little, and excite you a lot”. This is a simpler way of describing the ‘sixth sense’ idea and also may be easier for many of you to measure. As an example, JK Rowling said that when Harry appeared to her on that train journey, she had an actual physical response, unlike anything else she’d ever felt before with her writing. She felt quite light-headed when she got off the train, and likened the feeling to that delicious feeling at the start of a love affair. Is this the sixth sense? The case could be argued either way. I am merely suggesting that the more in touch you are with your intuition, the more likely you are to be able to distinguish between the “Harry Potter” ideas and the “dead horses” that Bryce Courtney describes having experienced, when he just knew that an idea had run out of steam for him. So those are the 7 steps to Writing and Growing Rich. Type them out, paste them up near where you write and refer to them often. And as you advance confidently in the direction of your dreams, may you experience success unexpected in common hours.
by: Suzanne Harrison


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