From Passion to Patience: A New Model for Becoming a Successful Author, Part 1

Now is the best time ever to be a writer, and what follows in the next five posts is a new model for what it will take for you to build a successful writing career in the digital age. I may have left something out, and I hope you will tell me if I have, but every one of the nineteen necessities you will be reading about is essential, and you can’t make it without all of them.


Writing begins with passion—a passion for words, ideas, writing, books, people, publishing, communicating about your work, and serving your readers.


Writing starts with reading. Read what you love to read and write what you love to read.

An acquaintance once came up to me all excited and said: “I just finished my first novel!”

“That’s great!” I said.

Then he asked: “What should I read next?”

Well, if you’re a novelist, you should read as many novels as you can, and read like a writer. What works for you in the books you love will work for your readers.


Reading will also enable you to choose books and authors to use as models for your books and career. Telling agents, editors, and readers your models will enable them to understand what your book is instantly.


It’s been said that goals are dreams with a deadline. You must have literary, publishing, and personal short- and long-term goals that are in harmony and motivate you to do whatever it takes to achieve them. One goal that clarifies your other goals is how much money you want to earn a year, because it determines what you write, and how you write and promote it.

A Plan

Sue Grafton advises writers to have a five-year plan. Once you decide where you’d like to be in five years, you can figure how to get from where you are to where you want to go. Read about how authors of books like yours succeeded and ask them for advice.


You must have goals for what you want to accomplish every workday and the discipline to make sure you accomplish them. William Faulkner once said: “I write when the spirit moves, and I make sure it moves every day.” Even a page a day is a book a year. Balance your goals, and choose the most productive way for you to spend your time. Take care of the minutes, hours, and days, and the years will take care of themselves.

In the next post on “From Passion to Patience” are creativity, a plan, discipline, creativity, service, faith, courage, and knowledge.  After the overview of the model, future posts will discuss more about each part of it.

“From Passion to Patience” was adapted it from a talk for a panel Elizabeth and I were on at the wonderful Mechanics’ Institute Library in San Francisco, which has critique groups and other events and resources for writers and is worth joining,

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / / [email protected] / 415-673-0939 / / @SFWC / / 1029 Jones St. / San Francisco, CA 94109 / San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / / [email protected] / @SFWritersU


  1. Many thanks for writing. You’re absolutely right. A plan has to cover how a writers will support the habit until it can support them. There are more ways to make money from information than ever, but I was trying to make the list equally applicable to all writers, and service nonfiction writers can make more use of your excellent ideas than other kinds of writers. But I will discuss each part of the list in more detail and mention the possibilities. If you’re comig to BEA, please let me know so we can get together. Hope all’s well.


  2. Lisa Tener says:

    This is a great list. I would add that the plan should include a business plan, unless you see writing as a hobby. If you want to make a living as an author, you need to figure out how that’s going to happen. Hoping to sell enough books is not a powerful plan. Think about all the additional ways the book can support income streams (speaking, teleseminars, workshops, etc.). Making projections on a spreadsheet isn’t a bad idea either.


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