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AnonymousWoman's avatar

How can you tell whether or not you will become famous because of your writing?

Asked by AnonymousWoman (6505points) December 27th, 2011

I often have a desire to write. I love the idea of being like one of those famous authors who have written books that have become bestsellers. I don’t know if I can be like them, though. Is there a way to tell if I can or should I just give up on this dream?

The reason I want this is because I really enjoy writing and I want to make a difference in people’s lives. For example, I like that books like the Harry Potter ones have been such a positive influence in the lives of many children, teenagers, and even adults.

I view imagination as very important and I like the idea of creating a world that several people around the world can get lost in and can share with each other for years and years to come.. with their children, with their grandchildren, with their friends, with their reading buddies, etc.

I don’t want to write some book about someone in a bad relationship that encourages young people to get into bad relationships, though.

Are there themes I should focus on to make my dream come true? If so, what are they?

What kind of name should I use to call myself? My own or a fake one? If a fake one, how do I choose which one to use? Why?

If I use my own name, how can I protect my privacy online with all my Q&A floating about (considering there are people who know my full name who are aware of the screen name I am thinking about)? Am I being too paranoid about that?

Should I take the risk and write, throw myself out there, and see what happens?

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25 Answers

linguaphile's avatar

What I’ve been told is to read Writer’s Digest and other writer-marketing magazines, to subscribe to the magazines that print writing you like (Glimmer Train, Harper’s, etc), to join writers groups in your city (the Twin Cities has a huge group), attend writing conferences (BreadLoaf Writers Conference in Vermont, for example) or attend writing workshops (top one is at U of Iowa I believe). Go to poetry readings and just network with writers—you’d be able to glean information from all those interactions.

Me? I write and have had a few things published. I’m in a textbook and quoted on a t-shirt, but am a very reluctant writer—conflicting, I know. I don’t know the answers, only can offer you what I’ve been told to do, but haven’t done because… of my reluctance :) I have a serious issue with self-promotion and that’s one of the key things a writer has to do—self-promote the hell out of their skills.

zenvelo's avatar

Write, write, write. Keep a journal, start a blog. Try writing about what you like. See what stories are inside you, and write them out, then edit them.

Writing is a hard industry to break into. But you need to get something to show an editor, and that means lots of writing.

Fly's avatar

If you truly love writing, go for it! Unfortunately, there is no absolute answer to any of these questions. There is an uncertainty to being an author; you may never become famous to any degree, but you also might become one of the few authors who are now household names. You might not even be known until after you’re dead. Only time will tell, and there is nothing in particular that you can do to influence the outcome, in my opinion.

If you have a true passion for it, you will it will show through in your writing. Don’t limit yourself to what you think you should do, what name you think you should take, or what topics you think you should write about. You have to choose what is best for you, and nobody else can really answer these questions for you. If you don’t have a personal investment in these processes of your writing, neither will anyone else.

You sound like you have the drive, you just need the confidence. I say take the risk and just see where it takes you. Just don’t stop writing, and good luck!

Bellatrix's avatar

There are no guarantees. There are plenty of great writers who aren’t published or never make it big. Partly it is a game of luck. These days promoting your book is down to you (might be different if you are an established writer). Publishers won’t do it for you. You will have to get out there and make sure people hear about your work.

Perhaps don’t write to become famous though. Just write for the love of it and seek out places to get your work published. Developing your skills as a writer takes time and it doesn’t happen unless you write, a lot. (That’s my downfall in terms of creative writing. I don’t write enough.) Also, as @linguaphile suggested, read. Good writers read. Read from the genre you want to write in but read quality writing from other genres too. Consider how other writers structure their stories. Identify the plot points. Look at how they develop their characters. Analyse the way they write. Join a writer’s group.

Hopefully in the future you will be telling us about the story you just got published.

bob_'s avatar

A high school teacher said that writing was a work of buttocks: you have to sit for a very long time, and write, write, write. Practice makes perfect!

AnonymousWoman's avatar


(By the way, I’m still reading everything here and paying attention and will have something to say to previous answers before the one above this one. I just wanted to acknowledge that humour right there, right now).

bob_'s avatar

* takes a bow *

Bellatrix's avatar

Tuts… it’s all about @bob_ (did you make @AnonymousGirl that sandwich @Bob_)?

bob_'s avatar

@Bellatrix ¿Qué? No hablo inglés.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

@Bellatrix: @bob_ makes me laugh, but I love all of you guys as well. :) It is just that my responses to the rest of you will be longer and require more serious thought. ^_^

Bellatrix's avatar

That’s cool! You can have your favourites… the rest of us will manage. Everyone loves @bob_ in his little smock…

AnonymousWoman's avatar

Maybe we should all write a book together. ;) We’ve got some interesting characters around here already. ^_^

bob_'s avatar

@AnonymousGirl Wait, are you saying I don’t require serious thought? :P

I mean, um, mi nombre es @bob_.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

Yes, that’s what I’m saying. You’re simple to understand. You just want a sandwich. :)

Bellatrix's avatar

Simple @bob_…. .

AnonymousWoman's avatar

Simple, lovable @bob_, indeed.

whitetigress's avatar

It’s not about being famous. It’s about hard work ethic, a passion for writing, and how well you can get others to connect with your overall message. No more or less simple than that.

anartist's avatar

Didn’t Doris Day ever tell you “Que sera, sera”?

AnonymousWoman's avatar

@linguaphile Thank you for this advice. :)

I have also been recommended to write to magazines. I’ve had teachers tell me that I should be a writer and friends also. I’ve had siblings read over my shoulder without my realizing it when I was writing stories when I was younger who seemed captivated and then annoyed when I realized they were there because they wanted me to keep writing. As you can see, my writing has been very encouraged in my life and my writing is often something I feel what is a healthy amount of pride from.

I love the ideas you’ve shared with me and I wish I could just go with you to some of those because you seem like you’d be an awesome companion who has plenty of ideas to share.

I do not live in the States, so the places you’ve suggested don’t do much for me unless there are other ways I can feel fulfilled by them without actually going to the physical locations. I realize they are just examples and you might not even know where I live, though. I’ll tell you. I hope that my doing this will result in learning about more convenient locations. I could look them up myself, but maybe someone knows a place I haven’t thought of or wouldn’t have found on my own without help. Anyway, I’m from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

You’re quoted on a T-shirt? That’s awesome. So is being in a textbook. I wonder if I’ve seen your name. I used to like looking at names in textbooks I borrowed from school and seeing if I recognized any names just for fun, even though I wasn’t expecting to find any.

You might not feel that you have answers, but you still helped. You listened, acknowledged me, and shared your own story. You also admitted your own reluctance—you reached out to me by doing so, and I appreciate that. You seem stronger to me than you seem to know you are yourself.

@zenvelo This is very good advice. Thank you. I have kept journals in my life and I do write plenty. Getting a blog and dedicating it to my writing is a pretty good idea and would also help me have motivation to write more if I took it seriously. I also like your advice about writing what I like and getting those stories that are still inside me out. I am totally down with staying true to myself!

So, you’re saying I need to have some sort of writing portfolio?

@Fly Thank you for the encouragement. I definitely appreciate it. I do truly love writing. It is one of my passions. :) I also don’t mind it if my writing becomes noticed and appreciated after I am dead. Like I said, I want to write to be a positive influence in people’s lives for years to come… because I like the idea of it. Many writers have let me into their world and have helped me without their ever knowing and I’d love to do the same for others. You are right, though. It’s a gamble.

That makes sense. Good points. I do like paying attention to my audience(s), though. Would it be alright for me to assume that you would advise me that it’s totally fine for me to choose my own?

That means a lot. I needed to hear that. Thank you!

@Bellatrix Good advice here. Thank you! You make a good point about self-promotion. It looks like I will have to find a way to convince people that my work is worth reading. That might be hard, but it might also be quite easy. I think that would depend on how I approached it. I would, I think, have to approach it in a way that does not drive people off, but at the same time causes people to remember me and think about me. The writing will have to be memorable and connect with people on some level. I don’t want to be pushy or demanding. I want people to feel naturally drawn to it and I feel that this may be the way to do it.

Writing to become famous isn’t a good idea. You’re right. It may also create too much pressure for me. It may make me feel like I have to live up to some unrealistic image of myself. I should be true to myself and just be myself. If I do end up being famous, I still want to be me. Concentrating on fame is probably the worst idea I’ve had in this situation. It seems best to just do what I love and if I don’t become famous, oh well… and if I do, cool. Either way, there are still people who would appreciate my writing. I mean, I’m not famous now and there are people who like it. That should be good enough for me.

I do read, quite a lot. The library system where I live is phenomenal. It is one of those systems that has multiple branches connected and people can make holds online for books from other libraries. This is so convenient as the books are then transferred to our local library for pickup when it is our turn to borrow them. I take advantage of that. It gives us so many more opportunities to read.

I like that you advised me to analyze. I love analyzing things. :)

Maybe one day, I will tell you about a published story of mine… or maybe one day, you will tell me you read it and recognized my writing style from on here. ;)

@whitetigress You are right. I should not be focusing on fame, but rather on the quality of my work and my chosen audience(s). Thank you for your response. It makes a lot of sense and is very succinct and simple. :)

@anartist I don’t think so, seeing as I ended up looking that quote up on Google to see what it meant. Good advice, though. Whatever will be, will indeed be. ::)

ucme's avatar

I don’t think you can, either it’s meant to be or…’s not.

CWOTUS's avatar

I wouldn’t mind becoming rich through some talent or skill I possessed. (Unlikely. I don’t know of many people who have become rich through sailing, so writing is pretty much all I have left, and I’m too lazy to do much of that.)

But the last thing that I would ever want is celebrity. I do know enough about the world to know that I never want to be famous. I like being more or less anonymous.

cazzie's avatar

The only way to be remembered for something is to impress the hell out of a lot of people. To stick in the minds of people, you have to be really good or really bad at something. I’m sure you prefer to go the ‘really good’ route, so you need to get to that point.

Write something you are proud of and try to get it published. If it doesn’t work, keep working at it and try again. Enroll in classes and make sure you really like your teacher and that you feel you are getting better. Writing is a craft, like knitting or pottery. It takes time learn how stitch or throw the words. You need to bring a reader in and keep them interested using every word on the page.

The worst part about writing, especially fiction, is that every man-Jack and his dog thinks they can. To stand out and get some attention, you have to be better, fresher and more current.

Practice. Learn from others. Find a trusted editor. and DO NOT take critisism to heart.

Get used to this word; Rejection. Let it flow off your back while you quack. Grow a thick skin and if your heart is made of glass, find a way to protect it. Writing is a business and nobody cares how much you like what you wrote or how much time you took writing it or how hard it was for you to write.

Find your voice. Learn the styles of other writers and practice writing in their voice. It sounds counter-intuitive, but so many young writers have no idea there is a ‘voice’ in writing, that when they are forced to hear and copy it, their own writing improves and they start developing a voice of their own.

Increasing your vocabulay is like buying new tools for the workshop. Keep learning new words.

I think that is all I have to say for now. Good luck in pursuing your passion.

wundayatta's avatar

In order to be a writer, you have to ask people to read what you write—and not just any people; people in the business. It helps if you can make friends with these people and get them to like you and to want to see what you write even before you ever show them anything. It also helps if you make their jobs easier by packaging your writing in ways that they can easily understand, so they feel they know what to do with it; so they feel they can market it effectively.

I’ve had a couple of people who know me well and like me tell they’d buy something I had published. They have even gone so far as to opine that I am a good writer, whatever that might mean. I suppose if they would buy something I wrote, then there might be one or two others, as well. A nice theoretical start.

I would love to be a published writer, but it’s never going to happen because I can’t do the business side of things. I am not going to sell my writing. This is not a principled thing at all. It is pure laziness. I have no desire to get to know publishers and to try to make their lives easy for them. Especially since they probably wouldn’t buy anything I write anyway.

“Who would be interested in a book full of two to five paragraph essays about random shit,” they would ask me. I would not know what to say to that. Maybe I would say that at least 500 unique people on fluther read something I wrote and was motivated to press the GA button as a result. I don’t know if that would count for anything with a publisher. I don’t know why it would. As Woody Allen’s character said, “I’d never join a club that would have me as a member.” I.e. what’s wrong with fluther that people would read what I have to say? So any implied endorsement must be suspect out there in the real world.

And even if having lurve here means I am a good writer hear, it doesn’t mean I could be a good writer in any other situation. What I do here doesn’t really translate into anything more conventional, I think.

All of which is to justify being lazy and letting go of the dream. Which is not a model for you. Not that anyone would think I was a model for anything—I do not mean to be presumptuous. But I do think it makes sense to think of me as an anti-model. Look at Wundy. Whatever he does, don’t do that, if you want to be a writer.

I have a bad attitude. Don’t do that. You need to believe in yourself. It doesn’t really even matter if you are good or bad; if you believe in yourself you can push yourself and make it as a writer.

I write too much and I never edit. You must always edit. Distill your ideas down as far as you possibly can so that people can understand them even if they read only one sentence.

I don’t want to do the business work involved. I’m lazy. I don’t want to deal with rejection. You have to keep on going on and knocking on different doors ever day and it is so boring and you can’t help, but after a while, get down on yourself. You must do that if you are to be successful.

I also don’t want to do my research. I really don’t care to make sure I am doing it in a different way. I’ll shoot off my mouth and, hit or miss, I don’t really pay much attention. I’m on to something new. I never finish anything.

You must research what others have said about whatever it is you are doing. You want to make sure you don’t copy someone. You have to care about where your words land, and care enough to find out how people respond to them. Do they have the impact your want them to have? Are your customers satisfied? And like I already said, based on that information, go back and edit. Make your words stronger and more compelling.

So make sure you don’t do what I do. You do that and I guarantee you’ll be a famous writer in three years. Well, assuming you have talent. But I don’t believe in talent. If success in life required talent, my gravestone would have crumbled to dust eons ago, already.

cazzie's avatar

A friend of mine just shared this with me. Thought I would pass it on:

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