Monday, February 17, 2014

Michael Hauge's Characteristics of a Successful Novelist!

Ever since Seeker Tina Radcliffe introduced me to Michael Hauge and The Hero's Journey CD series, I've been a big fan of following his website and reading the articles he lists there. They are filled with gold nuggets of encouragement, insight, and guidance for writers.
Below is an excerpt from one of his recent articles found at I have a few of my comments (in italics) interwoven into the article.

FYI, this article has been particularly encouraging over the past two weeks as I struggle with continued edits on two novels, and try to juggle 'real life' along with my daydreaming job. I hope it encourages you too.

Every successful screenwriter or novelist I know possesses one outstanding quality: tenacity. The difference between working writers and wannabes isn’t talent or age or gender or geography or connections or the industry or the economy or sunspots or anything else writers tell themselves to avoid facing this awful truth: writers write. They write every day, they started their current book or script as soon as they finished the last one, they think in terms of career and not a single sale, and they look at every unsold story as a necessary step toward improving their craft.

The traits that fall in line behind that essential one include (in no particular order): 
  • Remaining open to ideas and criticism while standing up for the essential components of their story and characters (This is a very fine balance between these two. I hope over time our skills to manage the two becomes stronger as we practice it. For me, it's still a skill I'm learning - the ability to hold on to the heart of my story, while trying to view with fresh eyes (from a crit partner or editor) the areas that need strengthening)
  • Reading lots of recent, successful screenplays (for screenwriters) or novels (for novelists), and seeing lots of movies (for both) (Never a hardship for me. How about you? :-))
  • Considering the commercial potential of a story concept, and not just its personal appeal(This is something I've not put my mind to as much, but it makes perfect sense. forward thinking)
  • Keeping each of their stories simple – easy to express in a single sentence, and adhering to a single, strong through line defined by the main character’s compelling desire – without lots of extraneous characters or tangential plot elements (Um...I might be in a little trouble on this one ;-) Another skill I hope I'm learning. I think the main goal of this is that there is a 'goal' in place for the story and the author is aware of the prevailing theme or purpose)
  • Employing conflict to elicit emotion, and making it almost impossible for the heroes of their stories to succeed (Anybody else have trouble with this consistently? I know Ashley's written about this before in her blogs. I think it's important to note that Michael writes "conflict to elicit emotion". Not conflict for conflict's sake, but conflict which draws the reader deeper into the story and the characters' lives.
  • Keeping their writing style vivid yet simple enough to ensure a fast, easy and enjoyable read (this one seems self-explanatory)
  • Making sure everything is professional: format; spelling; grammar; punctuation – and their own behavior (Wow, isn't this a nice one to throw in at the end. I have to get help from people on the grammar/punctuation thing, but I think, as Christians, our behavior and the way we handle this process should definitely show professionalism and grace. Does that mean we'll always have it together? Ooze confidence? Shine joy-light? :-) Nope, we're as flawed as the next person - however we do have an abundance of strength, hope, peace, and joy provided to us by our Heavenly Father. besides those things, he's given us a 'calling' to write! What he calls us to do, he equips us to do - and we should strive to perform it in a way that glorifies Him.
Have these tips encouraged you? Which one do you struggle with the most? The least?


Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Awesome stuff here, Pep!! Can't wait to check out Michael's site! Great food for thought here, and a definite boost out of my complacency.

Angie Dicken said...
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Angie Dicken said...

I love reading this article "with" you, Pep!
This point resonates with me:
"The difference between working writers and wannabes isn’t talent or age or gender or geography or connections or the industry or the economy or sunspots or anything else writers tell themselves to avoid facing this awful truth: writers write. "

Mainly because I have tried taking a break from writing after losing heart, and the writer in me finds ways to soothe herself...blogs, letters to school boards, comments on other blogs...I just can't stop myself! It is true, writers write!

Another point I have learned from, is keeping the commercial aspect in mind. I was equipped for my second conference with a Genesis semi-final novel that was sure to land me an had not considered market at all, especially the CBA when writing a novel set in 16th century Peru! It was very frustrating to say the least.

I am a big stickler on the professional appearance of things too, but so thankful to have a wonderful crit partner who is a grammar queen...I am not!!!

Thanks for this! Love ya!

Krista Phillips said...

Lots of food for thought here!!!

I agree, EASIEST one is to read novels.. CHECK! (although finding time is a whole other story....)

I think one of the more difficult ones for me is the "common theme"... In my effort to make dynamic characters, I tend to end up having a lot of things running through them, it was one of the big edits I had to do with Sandwich, is to simplify the theme and make it cohesive throughout. It's something I'm working on in future novels so maybe my edits won't be quite so brutal, ha ha ha! (one can hope....)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Woah...this was fabulous stuff. I will definitely have to follow his blog. The tenacity is hard for me, because when sometimes when things get hard, I tend to retreat and hole up...not push forward. I definitely need to change that!