Success is defined according to your desires. I always say to measure success on your own terms and celebrate each success, however small, as it all build towards your ultimate goal.
It begins with motivation. You have to want it.
So focus on your end goal; see yourself as the successful writer you always wanted to be… but it won’t happen by magic. You now have to work at it.
Attitude to succeed in anything is key. But never be arrogant. Never think previous success means you know it already. Writers always get rejected and writers never stop learning. A positive and determined attitude should be what stops you giving up with each rejection. But what it should never do is make you think you’re always right and they’re wrong if they don’t see the genius in your work. It doesn’t work that way. I know writers who make some fundamental errors in their writing that just don’t work. Yet they think stating they chose to do it that way, they are quite aware of what they did and tell you how rules are there to be broken, does not make it work. Because sometimes it just doesn’t.
There are rules to writing. There have to be. How else could you teach and how else could I do my job? But the difference between writing and say mathematics, is with creative fields, if you truly know the rules and understand them and if you do it well enough, you can break the rules to push creative boundaries. But it’s knowing how and if you do, making sure it works. So pushing boundaries comes after making the rookie mistakes. Most of us are not geniuses! New writers would be advised to make sure they follow the basic rules before attempting to break them. Otherwise it looks as if they didn’t know the rules and the breaking the rules is a rookie error. If it isn’t clear they know the basics, they will probably be rejected because it doesn’t work.
Rules are an odd thing in writing, and often rules come from instinct, studying the way it’s been done successfully before and looking closely at what works and what doesn’t. There is good reason why head-hopping mid-scene doesn’t work, for example, yet many use it. No law says you can’t of course but the sense of disconnect by jumping heads mid-scene means you don’t engage as well than with a key viewpoint narrator. The trick is to try it with the one narrator and now compare or ask someone to compare, the reason for the rule should then become apparent. The rules are there for good reason. If you say there are no rules and everything is up for grabs you are making a fundamental rookie error!
The omniscient narrator works if done well. But these days we tend to prefer the immediacy of the character viewpoint narrator. I always favour this and am not a fan of the all-seeing, unless it’s done really well. It’s just that many new writers don’t see the difference between the impartial cleverly used omniscient narrator and someone who head-hops and is neither truly in a single viewpoint or truly omniscient. So it won’t work. Again is there a law? No. But if your goal is for the writing to be as good as it can be, then you have to look at the rules. If you send work off to an agent or publisher it’s something like this that says this is a rookie and sends you right to the reject pile. And with good reason. It’s not just that you have not learned your craft; it’s that you can’t see how much better it could be by doing it right.
Grammar is an odd one as these are rules defined by common usage which is why they change. I remember being told at school not to start a sentence with And but as a stylistic choice I do it all the time and you see it all the time in published texts. However, if it was non-fiction and say something I used to write in my role as a technical writer then I would have adhered to the rules more. I tend to I go off piste when I think more creatively. But make sure the rule breaks work is what I’m saying.
So have the attitude you need to break rules sometimes to push creative boundaries (the thinking outside the triangle I talked of last week) but never think you know best. If no one else sees why you did something a certain way, it’s probably because it doesn’t quite work. Maybe your job is to look at how you can make it work.
A strong, determined I will succeed attitude is the key to success, but not on its own. Attitude is a tool to keep going, keep learning, keep taking advice. The I will succeed my way attitude without taking advice, without rethinking and re-learning as you need is a sure way to not succeeding.
Believe in what you’re doing.
Take the advice that comes to you.