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What traits, if any, do good fiction writers have in common?

Answer by K.M. Weiland:

Following are ten habits of the successful writer.

1. Write every day. Treat your writing like a job, even if it isn’t yet. Writing something every day, even if it’s only a paragraph, keeps your creative pump primed and your inertia at bay.

2. Complete stories. Discipline yourself to finish every story you start. If you quit whenever the going gets tough, or whenever the shine of a new idea beckons, you’ll never finish a story. No one reads (much less buys) half-finished tales.

3. Learn the rules. Thankfully, writing is largely a craft that can be self-taught. Read voraciously: fiction, books on writing (check out my list of recommended books), blogs, workshops, and anything else you can find. Never stop learning.

4. Break the rules. Once you have a solid understanding of the principles of fiction, don’t be afraid to step beyond their confines. Experiment. Think outside the box. Fiction is based on a set of basic tenets because they’ve been proven to work, but art is an evolution. If it stagnates, it dies.

5. Create your own inspiration. Pinpoint what inspires you and surround yourself with stimuli. Discipline, creativity, and persistence are a cure-all for writer’s block. Don’t allow writer’s block to become an excuse for giving up.

6. Don’t slack on the hard stuff. Not all of writing is fun and games, but if you want to create a polished story, you have to submit to the hard stuff, as well as the fun stuff. Don’t cut corners on research, outlining, or editing. The extra work always pays off in the end.

7. Follow your heart, not the market. Art is a deeply personal expression. Write the story your heart has to tell. Conforming your work to the market, just for the market’s sake, will cheat both yourself and your readers in the long run.

8. Develop a thick skin. Criticism of our work can seem like a personal attack. But criticism—especially when coming from critique partners, agents, and editors—is a vital part of the process. Accept constructive criticism, learn from it, and use it to make your story better.

9. Set your stories free. When the time comes to send your stories into the world, learn to let them go. Your characters are yours no longer. They belong to everyone who reads them. Rejoice that you’re able to share them, say goodbye, and move onto the next story.

10. Love what you do. We writers are a blessed bunch. Don’t ever forget that. The writing road has its own set of speed bumps—isolation, loneliness, rejection—but the benefits of spinning these webs of color and fantasy are more than just compensation!

What traits, if any, do good fiction writers have in common?

Getting nervous, could be mistaken for Buddha

These extreme feelings might be quite upsetting to your rational thinking; it’s important to gain enough perspective on the current dynamics so you don’t go too far over the edge today. Staying centered is the best way you can respond to the oncoming changes.”

That was the part of my horoscope that I care to share with you today, Monday, November 10th, and no, I can’t sleep because all I have been doing lately is sleeping plenty and taking naps when I want and I can’t avoid or live in denial forever and at some point, what gives? Does the universe necessarily provide? Why do people tell you that you should think that because if you don’t then bad things will happen like all the kids finding out about Santa Claus at the same time because of bring your Parents’ Loser Friend to School because Your Parent Was Working Day.

It is clearly a cacophony around us at all times and it gets nearly impossible (or perhaps I should relinquish now, who knows what the powers that be have in store for me, really, as even the best laid plans are paved with good intentions, et cetera and so forth and I purposely misquoted that in case you were wondering and thinking to yourself that I am stupid and inane and poorly educated and that I don’t choose to ignore rules of grammar and punctuation because I actually know what they are and am conveying the drone like army of words going through one of our brains at any given moment on any given day).

The bottom line, however, is that I need work and everything has either evaporated or been the usual, typical, so over-it-bullshit and what do you do in this case when you’re not insane enough to be Van Gogh but you are as talented a dish washer, if that makes any allegorical sense to the four of you who blessedly pretend to understand me.

I hate this feeling, scroll back in time and you’ll find plenty of tales of woe, desperation, why did this happen re-tracing the steps–and none of it makes any sense. It’s not like you can flip a switch and BAM, all those troubling effects that come together as atypical maelstroms whenever you could really use a break, all those bad decisions that people hold you accountable for when they want to kick you when you’re down (but if you somehow eek by and survive, becoming a famously hedonistic rockstar, well, then they salute you–the outcome is all that matters in the end, and that is as ridiculous as they come, Thomas Pynchon comes to mind for no particular reason, and I am free associating to see how long I can keep this thought going in any structured manner and I think I have to wrap it up with a caveat, those always work, right?

The caveat is: I really don’t know exactly what to do and I want to know what to do and just do it. I am sick of trying to figure it out. I really don’t know how in a creative realm you can build on absolutely nothing, how can that be? But then again, the piece of machinery you have worked at a factory for 25 years, let’s say you’re lucky enough to be of the generation that endures the transition from factory worker to automated bot and your skill is poof, just not necessary anymore.

Or, perhaps, you’re lost in a sea of mediocrity and that’s all people actually want. They don’t want too much of anything challenging. And you’re too confusingly smart. That’s a bad thing. I wish someone had told me that was a bad thing. I wish someone had tipped me off that this was a stupid idea. That I really should have just become a high school teacher. But then I couldn’t have developed such a highly-evolved cannabis connoisseurism. Yeah, I know that’s technically not a word, but if I said it, you’d probably laugh, unless you were a complete dolt, which I am sure NONE of YOU are, but the other millions of people who don’t know who I am, probably qualify as some level of numb, vacant, oblivion of entity, where am I and what am I doing here? There is absolutely no one to talk to.

There was a time, I am told, when writers went to Paris and stayed on the property of Gertrude Stein who was an enigma, perhaps just to me, she seemed very stern, and I was more interested in Hemingway and then Baudelaire so I moved on rather quickly – she seemed bitter sometimes to me, out of reach at others. Emily Dickinson, Jane Eyre, some lonely girl on the top floor am I, but now, looking to jump.

It’s so silly to be sitting here when I could be better put to use. I have done the right things. I have certainly done the wrong things and there are plenty of people lined up to tell you what they think those things are, but many of them live by different standards anyhow so their opinion is based on values to which I do not adhere. If my humanity is expected to be removed from the situation, I will fail the test of wills and I will stand for what very little I do have that I can say has been consistent. I don’t want to use the word that defines this sentient decision-making strategy because it sounds so fucking pretentious. I am a messed up fool. I try to operate with integrity. I am constantly mindful of it. I attempt to be mindful of my humanity all my conscious waking hours. I fail at this miserably. However, I treat people with respect. Not that that would outweigh a damn thing, but the fact that it accounts for nothing is a bit of a downer.

So be it. Sharkfest among shark tank on shark week for shark lovers. I wish I had the resources to get out, whatever that means. When people say ‘out,’ unless they are in a mental institution or prison, then they are really just full of shit. A pre-born baby would also qualify if anyone ever asked them, what were you thinking? LET ME OUT. Or do we believe, like Wordsworth, that it’s more like, NO, NO, NO! I DON’T WANT TO GO OUT THERE!

I guess it depends on whose belly you’re in. If she’s a crack whore who has run out of crack, your odds are better on the outside, I would say, just making an educated guess. If, on the other hand, as soon as you are born, you get to starve in Africa, well, then perhaps, sleeping and then drifting off, bypassing the pain and suffering on earth, would be the OUT that those little souls may seek.

Whatever softness falls, so be it. I have given up my dreams, long ago, and that saddens me to no end, and yet, I press on, and I know why and I am not sure it’s enough, but the fact that there’s no alternative, if you believe in the potentiality even one bit, if there is any inkling of that bastard hope still left in the shredded beefsteak of your heart, if you can even stomach the thought of being human, well, then you go to sleep, watch your worries pile up and your happy times come fewer and farther in between.

We are on a downslide. They say. Things are changing. We have to start somewhere. Ever notice how there are a ridiculous number of takes on the post-we-are-fucked scenarios from zombies to droughts to juvenile delinquents who are way too good looking to be believable & who apparently must put their fingers on a pulse and say “he/she’s dead” at least 2x per episode, to viral pandemics and bot-run infrastructures where man is incidental, doomed, pretty much not worth saving.

Or so said Arch Angel Gabriel sitting at the bar, throwing down one last cold one before Michael came in, he knew he would be there right at 3 o’clock like he always was, before shift change. They were tired of saving us. Tired of reporting back to the Maker that Mankind was proving to be a worthy experiment. Not a waste of time and effort. Throwing good carbon after bad. Bad seed from the start.

CASE IN POINT: Who comes us with the notion of mutually assured destruction, I ask you? When I learned of that sometime in my middle to high school years (I read a lot because I did not have a boyfriend and lived in the country; most of my friends had boyfriends and did not study on Friday nights) about the policy that came about with Department of Defense wizardry – I forget the name – and I am surprised, but that is how much I have been forced to capitulate any fire I once had, any thought that I could withstand with my ferocious stamina the ubiquity of insolence, the measure of meaningless that comes with the turf.

The surf and turf. I cannot resist saying stupid shit like that. I have missed so many callings it just makes me sigh. A journalist being shot at or even better a photographer, why didn’t I ever pursue that? Because I thought of it as a hobby. I was never professional enough in my own mind or I didn’t think it was a career? Who knows? I stupidly discovered moving pictures and that’s when the photographic memory came back into play after the more pragmatic side I wish I had listened to now, but if I had, I’d be dead inside, so who knows what the right answer is, after all, until we actually die, IF THEN, because how are you supposed to convey whatever that realization might be in the time that you have to communicate in a human convention — language or some other form of show and tell. Because the time-space continuum is really what’s at play. [Can we trust the people who died and came back? Maybe that’s a whole ‘nother stage entirely and the other category is die, bam, realization of oneness with the universe that you cannot ever articulate to those you loved. Hopefully you can’t see them, like in Ghost because that would be heart-breaking on top of all this shit.]

I need a job, I have needed a job since my last one abruptly, inexplicably and capriciously just evaporated. There are no guarantees. I held out longer than I thought. 6 months so far. I was hoping for 2. I was still insane after 2. Around 3, hitting stride, feeling groove, last lap, right at the moment when damage was purged and focus was being re-built, derailment happened. Now we hope that some good can come of that to limp along for a little while longer, but the idea is really that the talent and resources be used up and appreciated and not left to squander and die because of pettiness, incompetence and ego that run rampant like a scourge, that if, I am not careful, can swallow me whole, once again.

I don’t want that. I want a job. It should not be this ridiculously stupid to hone in on the right one. The whole internet job search thing is probably the worst thing that has happened to some ‘industries’ — as there is an illusion of opportunity out there but 1) are there people on the other end? You NEVER hear back. NEVER. 2) are there even jobs? Do these big corps get tax breaks for creating jobs but that only goes so far as advertising some Producer Job at NBC-UNIVERSE-REVOLVES-AROUND-YOUR-yeah, yeah, yea… which APPARENTLY NO ONE is qualified for because I never hear of anyone ever doing that job and of course, never even got an automated response: we got your email, jackass. Why did you even apply?

Ridley Scott I wish would hire me to run his unscripted division and then I also would hope to be allowed to write. Or I sit at an avid scrolling thru crap footage making a story for you and the network loves it and people watch it and it’s amazing that way.

Prayers next.

Thanks anyone who reads this. I am sincerely in need of work, as my savings is down to naught.