- By Steve Dempster
- Published 03/24/2008
The flip side of the success coin is failure. In our culture, failure has almost become a taboo subject – and yet failure simply means lack of success. Learning from failure to gain the success you want isn’t magic – it’s called planning. In writing this is crucial, so let’s have a look at some pointers. Planning is the key to success in many walks of life and in most careers and writing is no exception. If you are planning who to write for, have the correct target market, write the correct sort of material for that market and most importantly NEVER GIVE UP – then eventually (maybe the next story?) you WILL make the breakthrough! Motivation of the self is not easy – I wouldn’t insult your intelligence by pretending it is. This is one reason I advocate going to a good writer’s group – the support you receive may well make all the difference between becoming a published writer and throwing in the towel in disgust! Surveys have shown that over 70% of people questioned have put ‘writing a book’ in their all-time top ten of things to do in life. What they don’t show is how to go about doing it! Look at this way: Learning to drive a car is quite an achievement – being in charge of and responsible for over a ton of metal on the move is a serious business. Yet millions of people can drive cars, despite the learning curve that it involves – so why can’t they write that longed-for book? The answer lies in one word: tuition. Someone actually teaches you to drive that car – how it goes, how it stops, how to make a left turn, when it’s safe to overtake – the list goes on and on. In fact, learning to drive is SO difficult that the real surprise is that so many people manage to do it at all!
So where do you find these tutors? Driving instructors fall out of the tr
ees everywhere you look – but who is going to teach you how to write your book? Above I mentioned writer’s groups. Belonging to a good one, where members aid each other and help is always at hand, is pure gold. But what about the times you can’t attend, or it’s not group night? There you sit; despondent and demotivated, realising that writing can be a very lonely job indeed. Maybe you turn to a ‘how-to’ book – maybe you look inside yourself for inspiration. The point is that if your work is planned from start to finish you should never, ever dry up. So-called ‘writer’s block’ usually occurs during the writing of a book because you have hit a point where the plot is falling apart (due to lack of planning) and your back is against the wall with nowhere to go. If, however, you plan your work in advance this won’t happen as all the bugs get ironed out of your story before you actually write it. You have probably heard the old mantra ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’? Well my mantra is ‘plan your finish and finish your plan’! It really is that straightforward. Not easy – very few things that are worthwhile are easy – but achievable. Also, when you have an end in sight it’s so much easier writing your story – after all, you know just how close you are at any given time to that cliffhanger ending! So planning is the the key to overcoming failure – it unlocks the door to good practice in writing your story and lets you get on with the writing without having to worry about the plotting – because you did that already!
In summary, always treat failure – that rejected story for instance – as an opportunity to question your working methods. Did you indeed write the correct sort of story for your potential readers? Did you plan everything out about your story before you started writing? If you didn’t do either of these – put it right next time and the chances are far higher of that acceptance letter hitting your doormat!