Write It Sideways

10 Ways to Tell You Have Author Potential

At one time or another, you’ve probably entertained the dream of becoming a well-known (read: downright stinking famous) author, in the manner of J.K. Rowling or Stephen King.

There’s little doubt that, at least once, you’ve held a published book in your hand and boasted, “I could write better than this!”

Many dream, but few possess the right combination of talent, discipline and determination to succeed in such a competitive area.

How can you know whether you have the potential to become a serious writer?

Here are 10 ways to tell you might be genuine author material:

  1. You write. This one may seem slightly obvious, but it’s necessary to weed out people who want to be writers but haven’t actually written anything. As a potential author, you’ve amassed a portfolio of short stories, articles, poems, anecdotes, novel outlines, or other samples. Your collection of work indicates commitment to your craft.
  2. You read. Sorry, but Cosmopolitan doesn’t count. You consider reading both pleasure and research. Though you are constantly analyzing content, style, and other key elements of good writing, you still have the ability to become engrossed in the pages of a book.
  3. You are an adept communicator. Whether you’re a wordsmith, speak with unusual clarity, or simply have a gift for listening, you posses the ability to harness meaning and emotion, and communicate it to others in a unique manner.
  4. You have something people want. Perhaps you can weave an incredibly entertaining story. Maybe you are a fountain of knowledge in a highly specialized area. It could be you’ve experienced either the tragic or the miraculous–and lived to tell the tale. In any case, your mind contains material others will want to read about.
  5. You can handle rejection. You don’t enjoy rejection–that would make you inhuman, not a writer. However, you recognize rejection as a necessary evil, and a learning experience on your path to publication. You can separate a piece of overlooked writing from your worth as a person.
  6. You see the ordinary in a unique light. Excellent writing is all about fresh angles. There are virtually no new subjects, only new ways of looking at them. Your ability to see things, people or situations in a different way catapults your writing past ordinary.
  7. You take criticism constructively. “Too many big words,” “Full of holes,” or “I just didn’t get it,” are words a writer is destined to hear over and over. Though often tempted to pass off such remarks as unfair, you take constructive criticism for what it is: an opportunity to improve your manuscript.
  8. You are self-motivated. Publication is your ultimate goal, but you are also motivated to finish a piece of writing for the feeling of accomplishment. There’s a story inside you that needs to be told, whether it gets published or not.
  9. You work well with others. Writing isn’t a completely solitary activity–at least not if you want to be published. As a potential author, you look forward to working with an editor. You see their expertise as a blessing, and are flexible enough to implement their suggestions.
  10. You set goals. You know where you want to go, and you actively plot out how you intend to get there. When something unexpected happens, you amend your goals to suit the situation, and get on with life. Becoming a published writer is not an isolated event, but a series of steps you’ve set to help you arrive at your final destination.

All serious writers, if they don’t possess these qualities naturally, must acquire them through careful study, personal development and experience.

Unfortunately, you might fit this description perfectly and never be published. Don’t let that possibility stop you: your chances of publication greatly increase the more you practice your craft.

So, what’s your author potential?