What You Need to Be a Writer

Sunday, December 27, 2015
My daughter after meeting one of my favorite authors.

Back in November, the main children’s library in the city of Charlotte, ImaginOn, put together a free literary festival for families, children and teens. One of the highlights of the festival was an impressive lineup of visiting children’s authors from a variety of genres. When I saw that Lauren Oliver was scheduled to appear, I slyly asked my daughter if she wanted to go to the festival. (I’ve reviewed several of her books on my blog.) Because she’s a very wise 12-year-old, and knows how much I love to read and write children’s fiction, she said, “Sure!” We hopped in the car and got to the event just in time to check out Oliver’s appearance in one of the auditoriums. She was a great speaker, and although her talk was targeted at encouraging kids to write, I also got a lot out of it.

Afterwards, we both got two of her books signed (I bought one of her middle-grade novels for my daughter to read and took one of my favorite YA novels) and got to chat with her for a few minutes. We had a fun morning at the festival and I left feeling renewed and encouraged about my own writing. I also started thinking about the traits one needs to be a writer. Here are a few I came up with:

A willingness to write. A lot. This seems simple, but it’s one of the main points Oliver emphasized in her talk. Before she got her first book published, she wrote several other manuscripts, over and over, and even thought she went on to get an MFA, she stressed that “you don’t need a fancy education to be a writer.” The best way to learn is to keep writing, through the good and the bad, as your mastery of the craft will come with time.

Ideas for stories (or articles/essays, if you’re also a freelance writer). If you’re like me, you’re plagued by what can feel like too many ideas. Not so, according to Oliver. She writes in a variety of genres and categories (contemporary and fantasy young adult, middle grade, adult, etc.) Unbeknownst to me, she also writes under a pen name. I have no idea what those genres are, or what her pen name is, but it shows me that if you can execute your ideas, you can be a prolific writer.

A writing style that works for you. Oliver shared that when she’s writing first drafts, she dashes off ideas quickly and doesn’t even spell out characters names. “A. jumped off the cliff and into the waterfall . . .” She also can’t revise two YA novels at the same time, but has to mix up categories. Elin Hilderbrand and Kristin Hannah both write their first drafts longhand. Whatever writing method helps you produce work consistently, keep at it.

Ingenuity. Because Oliver is also an entrepreneur, she co-founded a literary development company called Paper Lantern Lit. She and partner Lexa Hillyer craft ideas for story narratives and then search for writers who can help bring their stories to life. It just goes to reinforce the fact that possibilities are limitless for writers.

Feeling inspired yet? What traits do you feel are necessary for writers? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who reads more children’s fiction than adult fiction these days, mostly in the name of research. Visit her blog at Renee's Pages.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--I wish I was--like you--plagued by too many ideas. What a wonderful "problem" to have.

I've found what works for me, but continue to fine-tune my style/protocol/routine/rut.

I hope 2016 is the best year ever (so far) for you--writing-wise and otherwise.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Renee, what an inspirational post! Your daughter is so adorable and I love that she's an avid reader. I have a strong feeling that she will take after her mom and become an awesome writer. =)

Oh gosh, there are so many traits that I think are necessary for writers, but none as important as forming an everyday writing schedule. From there, we can build our voice, style, and writerly self-esteem. Finding that daily schedule is one of my top priorities for 2016. Whoop, whoop! Thanks for this post. And what a cute pic! =D

Cathy C. Hall said...

Hmmm....since I'm in pondering mode, I can think of a few traits, Renee. :-)

To be a writer, you have to persevere--through the dry periods, the bad writing days, the too-soon deadlines that come up in the middle of everything else that life throws at you.

You have to believe in yourself and yet you have to be willing to listen to those who have more experience because writing is constant learning.

And you've got to be the questioning type. I ask an awful lot of what if questions. And why questions. (I don't always answer them, but I keep asking. Keep on keeping on in 2016, Renee!)

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