READER FRIDAY: What is the most important trait an author should have to succeed?

Ernest Hemingway Public Domain

If you had to pick ONE, what is the most important trait an author must have to succeed? (Yes, only one. Share your best one and tell us why.)

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About Jordan Dane

Bestselling, critically-acclaimed author Jordan Dane’s gritty thrillers are ripped from the headlines with vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense novels to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag, naming her debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM as Best Books of 2008. She is the author of young-adult novels written for Harlequin Teen, the Sweet Justice thriller series for HarperCollins., and the Ryker Townsend FBI psychic profiler series, Mercer's War vigilante novellas, and the upcoming Trinity LeDoux bounty hunter novels set in New Orleans. Jordan shares her Texas residence with two lucky rescue dogs. To keep up with new releases & exclusive giveaways, click HERE

34 thoughts on “READER FRIDAY: What is the most important trait an author should have to succeed?

  1. Be simultaneously kind and honest to her-/himself. That is being able to observe oneself as an anthropologist would do, that is non-judgmentally. That will allow identifying when it is time to write, when we need a break, or where we use the excuse of a break (or a chore) to procrastinate. 🙂 Sitting in the chair and writing is then not so daunting anymore.

  2. Hands down, persistence.

    Don’t give up when you’re rejected/ignored. Don’t give up with your agent gives up. Don’t give up when your publisher goes out of business. Other writers are more talented, have better connections, win more awards than you, but when they get discouraged and drop out, you’re still there.

    My theme song is Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHwVBirqD2s

  3. A toss-up between the above mentioned persistence and also a thick skin, being able to absorb and learn from criticism without giving up (this from a newbie author – perhaps it gets easier over time?)

    • Rhino skin. A HUGE necessity. Thanks, Maggie.

      I think rhino skin is a PLUS in life. It keeps us focused & believing in our dreams & passion. That goes a long way toward self-confidence in life. Really a good one.

  4. I vote for persistence. It’s so easy to give up when things aren’t going well, but the only failure is to stop trying.

    I love Debbie’s theme song! I’m going to adopt it.

  5. I was thinking perseverance. Several folks gave persistence as their word, which I would consider a synonym for perseverance, so I checked my MS Word thesaurus. It does indeed list persistence along with several other words, each of which suggest something a little more and a little different, all of which apply. The reason I chose perseverance is because for most writers, this is not an overnight event. We have to persevere to learn, write, improve, weather the disappointments, publish, promote and then do it all again for the possibility that someone will read what we write and find something worthwhile in it. If we want to earn any income from it, we have to intensify and broaden the scope of our perseverance! I think this would apply even to the most gifted and successful writers.

  6. First love yourself. That enables you to accept your writing talent, own your foibles, manifest your creative genius. After that you’ll handle all the rest.

  7. Curiosity.

    Curiosity leads to production, persistence, and all the other things that we’re after.

    Curiosity drives me.

  8. I am convinced that talent is most important. I’m an editor, and I’ve worked with several writers who preserved, had tough skin, persistence, and conquered self-doubt in order to finish and publish their books. However, the content wasn’t interesting, no matter how hard I tried to help them spice it up. They published their books and promoted them, doing everything right…but probably only their family and friends read them. I agonized through the entire editing process for each one of those books (and one author had a series going! I didn’t continue with her.) A writer with talent is a delight to edit–their incredible writing only gets better, and people eagerly read whatever they put out. Then they want more! They excitedly tell their friends about this awesome new book they read. They write raving reviews. Talent is that “x” factor that writers either have or don’t. It’s a gift. I know that’s not a popular answer, but it’s the truth. Talent is most important. Whether writers use it or not is irrelevant–it’s relevant when we look at the thousands of authors who have published their writing.

  9. I guess a lot depends on how we define “success.” If success is selling millions of books and becoming fabulously wealthy, that takes lots of “all of the above”: talent, persistence, hard work, etc.

    But could success also be a writer’s learning something about themselves in the process of putting words down on paper? Suppose one person has their life changed in a positive way by something you wrote? Would that be success?

    JSB wrote a book entitled “Plot & Structure” where he stated you could learn how to write. That book gave me courage to keep trying. (Thank you Jim.) I know it sold lots and lots of copies, but that one copy made a difference to me.

    So I’m changing my vote. I think the most important trait a writer can have is the humility to know there’s a lot to learn and the courage to search it out and apply it.

    • I love this, Kay. It’s definitely beneficial to be a sponge for evolving your writing & never being satisfied. It’s important to strive for more, even if it’s just for you.

      Plus success can mean being satisfied with your evolving voice & style & process. And like Jim said today, be productive. Keep writing. There will always be critics, no matter how famous you get. Do it for YOU.

      Editors & agents represent 1 pair of eyes, but readers are many & no one knows a sure way to reach buyers. Industry professionals have their opinion & it’s formed by tons of experience in screening, production & selling, but there are many ways to find success these days. It’s nice to have options.

  10. While every single trait offered so far is indeed critical, for me, courage – the courage to believe in yourself and your goals (no matter how big or small they may be) is the one critical trait every writer possesses who carries on though the good days and the bad.

    • What a great addition to our discussion, Carol. Yes, it takes guts to create ANYTHING from scratch & expose it to critics & industry professionals. Artists, musicians & writers know this firsthand. You can’t let naysayers or rejections stop you. You have to find personal reasons for your perseverance.

      When I coached volleyball, I used to believe athleticism comes naturally. You either have it or you don’t. But I found that people I didn’t pick for my team, later turned into solid players. They surprised me because they kept at it, had the drive to get better and they DID. I was happy to be proven wrong.

      The same can be said for writing. Just because someone turned you down at one point in time. That’s only 1 snapshot in time. One rejection doesn’t mean you are exempt from improving. Stick with it, strive for your personal excellence & believe in yourself. If you put the work in & be open to craft ideas to try, you will improve. The personal satisfaction that comes from seeing your improvement is pure gold.

      There IS a level of difference in STORYTELLING ability. I believe every writer tells a story in their own way, based on life experiences. Storytelling can distinguish writers from each other but it can also mean no one can tell a story like YOU. Give 20 authors the same plot & you’ll find 20 different ways to tell that story, but isn’t that beautiful?

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