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
  • Reading lots of recent, successful screenplays (for screenwriters) or novels (for novelists), and seeing lots of movies (for both)
  • Considering the commercial potential of a story concept, and not just its personal appeal
  • 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
  • Employing conflict to elicit emotion, and making it almost impossible for the heroes of their stories to succeed
  • Keeping their writing style vivid yet simple enough to ensure a fast, easy and enjoyable read
  • Making sure everything is professional: format; spelling; grammar; punctuation – and their own behavior