Do you have an idea that you would like to share with me?
Do you have an idea that you would like to share with me?
Except you are making the headlines or you are raking in money, a lot of people believe that writers are jokers or lazy people. From a pile of stories, it’s true that making a living as a full-time writer can be an arduous task.
However, there is a myriad of successful writers in contracts running into millions of dollars. These writers who have redefined the face of artistic contribution through the portal of writing are sources of inspiration to young writers. However, the stories of successful writers have the same recurring themes – persistence, rare talent, diligence, and luck.
Leading the clan of the world’s highest-earning wordsmiths in 2017 is the British Queen of letters, Joanne Rowling. Though the magical idea of the Harry Potter fantasy series was conceived in 1990, the book did not hit the shelves until 1997. Ever since 1999, Rowling has topped the Forbes’ highest-paid authors list three times.
In a writing career spanning two decades, she has sold more than 400 million copies of her books. Rowling’s total earnings of $95 million in 2017 quadrupled her earnings for 2016. Her astronomical financial growth can be attributed to the 2016 releases of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The stage play script/book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child co-written with Jack Thorne emerged as the best-selling book of 2016 with over 4.5 domestic million copies sold. The movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, tickled the interest of the Harry Potter fans and subsequently paid off in huge sums for the British novelist.
Rowling has this to say about persistence:
“I’ve been writing since I was six. It is a compulsion, so I can’t really say where the desire came from; I’ve always had it. My breakthrough with the first book came through persistence because a lot of publishers turned me down!”
Patterson is not a stranger to the Forbes’ list of highest paid authors. Before slipping to the second position in 2017, he held the first spot for three consecutive years from 2014 to 2016.
The award-winning writer is best known for the crime fiction novel series – “Alex Cross” and several of his works are being adapted for screenplays. America’s richest author has written 147 novels, 114 have appeared on the New York Times bestselling list. He holds The New York Times record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers by a single author, a total of 67, which is also a Guinness World Record.
He has sold over 300 million copies worldwide. Even at 70, Patterson is ready for 2018, it was announced in May 2017 that Patterson will co-author a crime fiction novel with former US President Bill Clinton. It’s expected to be a blockbuster and rake in more money for the prolific writer.
“I worked my way through college. I had a lot of night shifts, so I started reading like crazy. Then I started writing. And I found that I loved it. When I was 26, I wrote my first mystery, The Thomas Berryman Number, and it was turned down by, I don’t know, 31 publishers. then it won an Edgar for Best First Novel. Go figure.”
American cartoonist and author of children’s books, Jeff Kinney is best known for his book series – Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Upon its release with an online version in 2007, it became an instant hit. In April 2007, the book was published. Up to date, thirteen different titles have been published in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series and has sold more than 60 million copies.
Kinney made huge returns from his creative work this year because the ninth title in the series – Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul made it to the movies.
Kinney shares this about his passion for writing:
“I only work on my books at nights and at weekends. It is really just like a hobby.”
“When I graduated from college, I had two loves–writing fiction and writing music. I lived in Hollywood CA for a while, doing the songwriting thing. Aside from a song in the Atlanta Olympic ceremonies, I never had much success in music. I woke up one morning and decided to start writing fiction again. Digital Fortress was my first attempt at a novel. I certainly feel blessed that it sold; I’m not sure I would have had the patience to write another one on spec!”
The King of horror novels has written a myriad of thrillers that have earned him millions of fans across the world. More fans equal more sales and more money. He is one of the world’s wealthiest authors having sold over 350 million copies of his books.
King’s most popular novels – The Shining, It, and Misery, all have movie adaptations. It made it to the theaters in September 2017 and gathering storm with raving reviews while King’s recent novel, End of Watch sold 1.9 million copies in the U.S. in 2017.
In his book, On Writing, King shared about how he handled rejection as a teenager while trying to publish his short stories:
“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”
The sixth spot is equally shared by two successful American novelists, John Grisham and Nora Roberts. John Grisham’s exceptional style of crafting legal thrillers has made him the fancy of many readers across the world.
His books have been translated into 42 languages and published worldwide; his first bestseller, The Firm, sold more than 7 million copies. Nine of his novels have screenplay adaptations: The Chamber, The Client, A Painted House, The Pelican Brief, The Runaway Jury, Skipping Christmas, and A Time to Kill.
He recently published three novels: The Whistler in 2016, Camino Island and The Rooster Bar in 2017. The Whistler emerged as the third bestselling book of 2016 with over 660,000 hardcover sales in the U.S. and the sales of Camino Island is not doing bad either.
Grisham talks about focus:
“My name became a brand, and I’d love to say that was the plan from the start. But the only plan was to keep writing books. And I’ve stuck to that ever since.”
“It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time it was too famous.” – Robert Benchley
“Every single book is a challenge. No matter how many you’ve written, you’ve never written this one before. And each book has to receive your best effort every single time. No slacking. But that’s the job. I’m lucky to love my job. Certainly the plagiarism, and dealing with the fallout of it, was the most difficult thing I’ve ever faced since I started writing.”
“It’s great to break a record. It’s also, though, a slightly artificial thing, isn’t it? I’m not even sure when those records began, and from an author’s point of view, that’s not the most important thing.”
English author, Erika Mitchell, popularly known by her pen name E. L. James, is the author of the bestselling erotic romance trilogy – Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed. The first book in the series, Fifty Shades of Grey, was published in 2011 while the other two sequels reached the bookshelves in 2012.
Sales from the trilogy pushed James to the top of Forbes’ list of highest-earning authors in 2013 with earnings of about $95 million. She is in the eight spot in 2017 because of the film adaptation of the second title in the series – Fifty Shades Darker, the screenplay failed to receive massive approval from her fans.
The 2017 movie grossed $379 million worldwide, nearly $200 million short of Fifty Shades of Grey. She published a new novel this year – Darker: Fifty Shades Darker as Told by Christian while the film adaptation of Fifty Shades Freed is set to hit the theaters in 2018.
James talks about writing:
“Write for yourself. That’s it. And write every day.”
“I work for about six months to a year on an outline and do it by hand mostly. Eventually I type up what I’ve got, send it to my editor, get comments, and alter it, send it back, get comments, alter it again. And I eventually sit down to write the book, and when I do that I pretty much lock myself up for about a month and do only that for about 20 hours a day. And it goes back and forth like a tennis ball between me and my editor for about two years while I rewrite it. I’m usually working on four or five books at once.”
In 2008, when I fell in love with reading, I was scared of voluminous books. Have you seen the Complete Sherlock Holmes book authored by Arthur Conan Doyle? I love crime novels and I have a soft spot for the ingenuity of the extraordinary sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. I have always wondered how authors like Stephen King, John C. Maxwell, Agatha Christie and J.K. Rowling generated those storylines and lengthy texts. Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Outliers and Tipping Point, carved a mysterious niche for himself by building navigable bridges between scientific theories and real-life situations.
In mind mapping, the first step is to set a time limit (usually 15 minutes) while you start creating a map of your ideas on a piece of blank paper or a blank whiteboard. Setting the time limit happens after you have concluded about the main idea you want to make the subject of your brainstorming. Perhaps, the writing of a novel, or a blog post or a non-fiction book. The rules for the mind mapping exercise are very simple.
It’s all about brainstorming for paths and processes that can aid the development of an idea until it becomes a powerful and presentable product. Imagination creates room in the brain for the reality of your ideas. It’s more like setting those ideas and desires in motion through the eyes of the subconscious mind.
If you have a plan to write a non-fiction book on how to live a healthy lifestyle, you need to visualize how the book looks like, turn the pages and see how one chapter leads to the other. Everyone has the power of imagination but only a few harness it for the creation of innovative products.
This is the time to write everything that comes to your mind. Create a room for all the words and phrases that come to your heart, allow them to find a space where they can call a home.
If you want to create branches, please don’t hesitate to do so. If you want to make a map or a web showing your thoughts, please go ahead. If there is anything you must do at this stage, you must write down everything you can remember about the subject matter.
Experts say that the creative part of your brain and the one for editing cannot work at the same time. If you attempt doing that, one will be to the detriment of the other.
Don’t judge or censor these ideas and don’t start giving them pet names. In this freedom of expression, your creativity will blossom beyond your imagination and you will be amazed.
Get it right! It is normal for you to feel a gust of nervousness whenever you are called upon to speak in public. Do you hear the bumbling of butterflies in your stomach whenever you hold the microphone? It shows that you are human and a complete human being with a functional nervous system.
This reminds me of a line from American humorist, Mark Twain: “There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.” This quote posits that all speakers are nervous or liars – meaning that the liars behave as if the nervousness is non-existent.
The point is that nervousness is more physiological than psychological; it starts from the physiological point (heart rate, sweating, and so forth) before it leads to the psychological effects of feeling upset and nervous. I advise you to see fear as a normal physiological stimulus.
It is as simple as your body trying to help you, and it is your reaction to the help that will determine the result you get. What do you do with it? The most sensible step is to use it to your advantage. Don’t let the sudden surge of adrenaline toss you into the depths of nervousness. Instead, use it as the springboard to soar to the heights of impeccable delivery. It all depends on you. You can direct the surge into a profitable channel.
American public speaking instructor, Dale Carnegie, has a string of comforting words for you:
“The ability to conquer nervousness and speak with self-confidence is not difficult to acquire. It is not a gift bestowed by Providence on only a few rarely endowed individuals. Everyone can develop his own latent capacity if he has sufficient desire to do so.”
Having understood the physiological origin of nervousness and its psychological capability, we can explore ways of overcoming it. In agreement with the words of Carnegie, be fully aware that the power to defeat nervousness resides in you. I’ll share with you some practical and sure ways of using the natural adrenaline surge to your advantage.
Be prepared. If you go to the venue two hours ahead of the speaking engagement but with an empty head, you might end up not getting good results. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. German artist, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, sums it up this way: “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”
Preparation is vital in public speaking and shows that you respect your audience. You don’t want them to go home empty handed without something new to hold on to.
Boldness comes naturally when you know what you want to talk about. I have seen folks preach a wonderful message from the pulpit in church and then later, have seen them stammer at a public discourse. This is because they felt confident and sound in the church message but knew next to nothing about the topic up for discussion at the public discourse. American author, Michael Mescon, emphasized the connection between stage fright and knowledge in a profound way: “Best way to conquer stage fright is to know what you are talking about.”
Preparation entails doing elaborate research on the main subject of your speech by studying volumes of materials that can increase your knowledge. This usually includes reviewing potentially relevant quotations, statistics, biographical data, and transcripts. Be sure to separate facts from your opinions and ensure that the information is current and related to your topic.
Get your materials ready in advance, ranging from your visual aids to projectors (if any) to your index cards. The stage of preparation is very crucial and is synonymous with having a critical analysis of all the factors that can make your speech a success. If you’re not prepared and do not know what to talk about, you have just opened yourself to nervousness and it will enslave you until your time lapses.
Find out how many people will be speaking at the event. Will you be the first person to break the ice? Or will you be the last person to mount the podium after five other speakers? Check out the program for the speakers beforehand.
Ask yourself what you can do to get the attention of the audience, even if they are close to complete exhaustion, such as when you are the last speaker. Making a joke about being last can help ease the tension.
Find out how much time will be allotted to your speech. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, once said, “If I am given six hours to cut down a tree, I will use four to sharpen the ax head.” I hope you get the message. Preparation can never be overemphasized. Preparation of what to say and how to say it brings out the best in you.
Even the pros practise and you should practise your speech too. I was surprised when I saw the picture of Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo on Facebook training on the pitch of the Santiago Bernabeu just the day following the glamorous win of his third FIFA Ballon
American communicator, Somers White, insisted that the success of a speech is determined long before the speaker mounts the podium, “90% of how well the talk will go is determined before the Speaker steps on the platform.”
In his illuminating book, How To Develop Self-confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking, Dale Carnegie revealed how some famous speakers prepared for their speeches.
“Lloyd George, when he was a member of a debating society in his hometown in Wales, often strolled along the lanes, talking and gesturing to the trees and fence posts. Lincoln, in his younger days, often walked a round trip of thirty or forty miles to hear a famous speaker like Breckenridge. He came home from these scenes so stirred, so determined to be a speaker that he gathered the other hired workers about him in the fields and, mounting a stump, he made speeches and told them stories.”
Going early to the event will remove any surprise that you might possibly encounter. It helps you understand your audience, and adjust beforehand if adjustment is needed in your speech to suit their social class or literacy level. Arriving early will also help you to have a feel of the platform/podium as you envision yourself standing there, ready to give your speech.
This rule has saved me several times because the audience often related to me as a part of them because I was yet to be introduced. Later on, when you are weaned from the fangs of stage fright and nervousness, you might not need to do this anymore.
In December 2012, as an intern in Schlumberger Nigeria, I knew I had to give a presentation on a tool to a group of field engineers and specialists. They were experts and they were also my managers. I had all the excuses in the world to panic and be nervous.
Having prepared well for the presentation, I stepped out to face the audience, about sixty people in number. I started changing gazes and speaking to every area of the room when I noticed a man sitting in the second row of the middle column. What caught my attention was the decorous smile which painted his face creating lovely ridges and contours.
Whenever I was about to succumb to the monster of nervousness, I would look at his face and strength would surge through me. This was when I discovered the power of a smiling face and how far it could go in boosting your confidence.
You’ll always have one person with a smiling face in the audience who is interested in your speech. Locate that light and harness the energy for your use. It is like getting a cookie at the beginning of the speech, and you delicately munch on it until the very last word.
Speeding through your speech is likely to accentuate your nervousness. Don’t be in a rush to start your speech. Take a deep breath and let the rays of your eyes acclimatize with the eyeballs of your audience.
Relax and speak like a King and a Queen, like that special person they have been waiting for. Whenever I take a deep breath, it is tantamount to letting out the wind of nervousness and mounting the wings of confidence.
The Daily Routines of 10 Famous Writers: From Toni Morrison to Kazuo Ishiguro
The Daily Routines of the 10 Famous Writers
Photo Credit: Princeton University
At 86, Toni Morrison released her latest work, The Origin of Others, in 2017. The American author has won a huge chunk of notable literary awards, from the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 to Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. She is popularly known for The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved. In 2015, shortly after the release of God Help the Child, she granted an interview to Goodreads and she talked about her daily routine.
“Very early in the morning, before the sun comes up. Because I’m very smart at that time of day. Now, at this time of day [4 p.m.], it’s all drifting away. But tomorrow morning I will be sharp for about four hours, say from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. If I get up before the sun and greet it, that’s when I start.”
Photo Credit: Hello Naija
Chimamanda Adichie, one of the most prominent young African authors, has earned her spot in the international league of writers. Her debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, was nominated for the Booker Prize and Orange Prize in 2004. The Nigerian author in an interview with Goodreads talked about how she wrote one of her international bestsellers, Americanah.
“I wrote the book in both Nigeria and the U.S. I don’t have a routine. I like silence and space whenever and wherever I can get it. When the writing is going well, I’m obsessive—I roll out of bed and go to work. I write and rewrite a lot and shut everything out.When it is not going well, I sink into a dark place and read books I love.”
Photo Credit: The Daily Beast
Michael Connelly, the bestselling author of crime fiction novels with the prominent amidst the pack – the Harry Bosch series earning more readers by the day. In an interview with Goodreads, he shared about his writing habits and how he gets the job done. He has more than 30 novels to his name.
“Because of working on a TV show, my writing process is to write whenever I get a chance. Also, my training in journalism has taught me to write—I don’t need to be coddled. I can write in my office, I can write on planes, I can write in cars. I was on a plane last night for five hours, squeezed in so tight, my elbows were pushing into my ribs, but I wrote the whole time and got a lot done. That’s my process: to try to write whenever I can.A perfect day would be to get up before the light gets up in the sky and start writing and get a lot done before the rest of the city wakes up. That’s what I try to do when I’m at home or even when I’m in a hotel on the road. Morning hours are really good for me, dark morning hours. So in that regard I kind of share something with Renée because I like to work till dawn.”
Photo Credit: The Verge
Stephenie Meyer is an American author best known for her vampire romance series, Twilight. The popular four-book collection has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. She is also the author of The Host and The Chemist. In an interview with Goodreads, she spilled her secrets and daily routines for writing blockbuster novels.
“My writing process has morphed mostly in smallish ways—for example, I have a hard time writing to music with words now. I usually listen to classical music and movie scores. I save the metal for editing.”“None, really, besides time of day. I can never get truly immersed in writing during the daytime. I know it’s a product of being interrupted by work calls and emails, children’s and husband’s questions about where fill-in-the-blank is located, and the dog’s bladder needs.Subconsciously my brain believes that there is no point in trying to focus when my office door is just about to slam open in three…two…one…. So now, even when I’m in a quiet, private environment, I can’t make my brain accept that it is possible to write while the sun is out. When I’m in the middle of a story, I do my self-editing during the day. That part handles interruptions better.”
Photo Credit: The Daily Beast
Stephen King is an American author and a revered King in the palace of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy. King also writes under two pen names – Richard Bachman and John Swithen.
King has authored 54 novels, all are global bestsellers and he has sold more than 350 million copies with some adapted as films, television series, and comic books. In this interview which was granted in 2014, he sheds lucidity on his daily routine for writing.
“I start work around 8 a.m. and usually finish around noon. If there’s more to do, I do it in the late afternoon, although that isn’t prime time for me. The only ritual is making tea. I use the loose leaves and drink it by the gallon.”
Photo Credit: Famous Authors
Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian author of the 1988 bestseller, The Alchemist, has written over 30 books. The Alchemist is a book of literary ingenuity and no wonder it is the most translated book in the world by a living author. The lyricist is the writer with the highest number of social media followers – 29.5 million fans on his Facebook page and 12.2 million followers on Twitter. In this interview, he served a plethora of hints about his daily routine once he is in a writing mode.
“First I say that I’m going to write as soon as I wake up. Then I postpone and postpone and start feeling guilty and horrible and feel that I don’t deserve anything. Then I say, OK, today I’m not going to write. Then I write just to not feel guilty, and I’m going to write the first sentence. Then once I’m off the ground, the plane takes off…when I’m writing, I wake up around 12 o’clock because I write until 4 in the morning. Only two weeks.Then of course, I have to make the corrections and do another draft. I have to correct the second draft. So the first draft has, let’s say, one-third more pages than the final draft. So I start cutting.”
” I don’t give a lot of advice, but I tell aspiring writers all the time that until you reach the point where you’re writing one page a day, you’re not serious. ” – John Grisham
Photo Credit: Famous Authors
John Grisham is the master of legal thrillers and definitely knows how to spin readers in the wheel of suspense. The American bestselling author has more than 30 books under his belt. In 2014, Grisham talked about one of writing habits and daily routine in an interview with Goodreads.
“Sure, it’s work. Some days the words flow, and some days they don’t. Some days the characters are alive, and some days they’re not. Some days the plot moves in the right direction, and some days it doesn’t. It’s always a struggle to get it right.I laugh because I don’t have a job; I don’t really work that hard—I mean, these days I don’t. Back then I worked hard because I was also a lawyer, and I had to [write] as a secret hobby whenever I could steal a half an hour here or there. That goes to the advice part—I don’t give a lot of advice, but I tell aspiring writers all the time that until you reach the point where you’re writing one page a day, you’re not serious. I mean, you’ve got to get one page in per day. If you do that, then the pages are going to pile up pretty fast. That, and knowing where you’re going: that goes back to the outlining. You outline a story, you know where you’re going, you start writing, you do at least a page a day, with no exceptions—you’re going to get somewhere! The pages are going to pile up, and that’s what it takes.”
Photo Credit: Emily’s Poetry Blog
Award-winning Canadian author, Margaret Atwood is popularly known for her crime fiction novels and she is one of the most celebrated Canadian writers alive today. At age 78, Atwood has 14 beautiful novels to her name, asides children books, poetry collections and short stories. She has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once. Atwood secured a permanent place in Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2001. In an enthralling interview with Goodreads in 2014, she talked about her daily routine.
“There are no typical days spent writing. Let’s pretend there is one. I would get up. We would have breakfast. Then we have the coffee. That is something I really like to have to get myself started. Then I would probably sit down and type something that I had written in manuscript the day before. It’s a kind of overlap method, in which I’m typing out what I did the day before to get myself going for what I’m going to add on to that. I’m revising and then continuing to write in the same day. Then I do the next bit of new writing in the afternoon. I don’t go by how much time I spent at it but how many pages I managed to complete.”
Photo Credit: Screen Junkies
Nora Roberts is a literary beast that needs no introduction – the master chef when it comes to baking romance novels with an icing of suspense. She is one of America’s most successful authors with more than 200 novels to her name, and with more than 500 million copies in print. Her books have collectively spent more than 1,000 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. She talked about her daily routine in a recent interview granted to Goodreads.
“I’m an early riser, and I wish I wasn’t. But I’m often up by 5 or 5:15 a.m. It’s ridiculous. When my kids were up, we got up early because we had to catch the bus, we live in the country, and I would think, when they’re old enough I’ll be able to sleep until 7 or 8 a.m. Well, now I’m up at 5 a.m. It kills me! I got used to it. It just seems to be the way my body works. I get up early, before the dogs, and play around for a while. Check Facebook, play a game or read stuff, right now it’s politics. Then the dogs get up, my husband gets up, and I count down the time until he leaves for work because he’s just breathing my air, [laughs] even though he doesn’t bother me.And then if he’s gonna be around through part of the morning, I’ll just ignore him and start work anywhere between 7:30 and 9 a.m. If I haven’t started before 9 a.m, then I’m just f@$king around. Then I’ll work until 2:30-3:30 p.m., it depends. Are the kids coming? Am I making dinner? Then I go work out, then fix dinner or warm up leftovers. Then I watch TV or read a book and then do it all again the next day. “
Photo Credit: The New Yorker
British writer of Japanese descent, Kazuo Ishiguro has authored seven outstanding novels including The Remains of the Day which won him the 1989 Booker Prize award. His 2005 novel, Never Let Me Go was chosen as the best novel of 2005 by TIME magazine and also included in its list of 100 best English language novels from 1923 to 2005. He was recently awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature. In an interview with The Guardian in 2014, he shared passionately about how he wrote The Remains of the Day in four weeks.
“So Lorna (his wife) and I came up with a plan. I would, for a four-week period, ruthlessly clear my diary and go on what we somewhat mysteriously called a “Crash”. During the Crash, I would do nothing but write from 9 am to 10.30pm, Monday through Saturday. I’d get one hour off for lunch and two for dinner. I’d not see, let alone answer, any mail, and would not go near the phone. No one would come to the house. Lorna, despite her own busy schedule, would for this period do my share of the cooking and housework. In this way, so we hoped, I’d not only complete more work quantitively, but reach a mental state in which my fictional world was more real to me than the actual one.By the third day, Lorna observed during my evening break that I was behaving oddly. On my first Sunday off I ventured outdoors, on to Sydenham high street, and persistently giggled – so Lorna told me – at the fact that the street was built on a slope, so that people coming down it were stumbling over themselves, while those going up were panting and staggering effortfully. Lorna was concerned I had another three weeks of this to go, but I explained I was very well, and that the first week had been a success.I kept it up for the four weeks, and at the end of it I had more or less the entire novel down: though of course a lot more time would be required to write it all up properly, the vital imaginative breakthroughs had all come during the Crash.”