As an amateur writer, I’ve looked to published authors over the years for advice on what to do if I want to make a career out of writing. Obviously, I haven’t officially made a career out of writing yet, but that doesn’t make me any less of a writer than the next person.
Here are the ten things that every writer who is serious about making it as a writer needs to do.
Learn To Be Patient
Patience is something that you must have when trying to get your work out there. When you submit to publications often times you won’t hear from them for weeks, months, or not at all.
When submitting to a publication, you should always take note of their estimated response time to your submission. Don’t bombard them with e-mails asking about the piece you submitted unless it’s a week or two past when they normally respond back to people about their submissions.
Sometimes someone from the publication will respond back to you and sometimes they won’t. It all depends on how big the publication is and how many submissions they get. More than likely they will only e-mail you if your piece is being published in their journal.
2. Edit! Edit Edit!
There are two approaches when it comes to editing for short stories and novels.
For short stories, once you have written the piece, it’s best to let it sit a day or two before editing it. That way when you go back and look at it, you’re fresh and ready to cut it down.
It is also beneficial to have one or two eyes objective eyes on the piece. It’s always good to give yourself enough time for this process as it will strengthen your chances of getting your work published. Especially for a contest.
For novels, you should let your story sit four to six weeks gathering dust before you dig into it. Especially if it’s the first draft of a book. At that point and time, it’s still your baby and your not ready to look at how bad it really is.
Having others look at your novel is also a good idea. Having an editor look at it as well is a good idea unless you are broke like I am in which case it might be best to find a mentor (preferably one who has published a novel in the genre that you are writing) to take a look at your work.
3. Get To Know Other Writers
Connecting with other writer’s is the best way to immerse yourself in the world of writing and meet people who are as serious about writing as you are. It is also an excellent way to meet published authors and receive words of wisdom from them.
Critique groups are a great way to meet other amateur writers. Usually published authors are the ones who host these groups so it will be more organized and goal oriented. It also gives you a chance to gain more beta readers.
Writing conferences are another way to meet published and unpublished writers. You can also make connections there and get an idea of what agents are looking for. It’s also a fun experience and makes you feel less alone as you all know being a writer can be very lonely at times.
I used to think blogging was dumb mainly because I didn’t understand it and felt like I had nothing to say. But, through writing this blog I’ve found that I have a lot more to say than I thought I did.
Blogging is a way for you to share with others what is going on in your life. It is also a place where you share your wisdom and experiences that you’ve had. Blogging can be very soothing to the mind, and it helps reduce stress.
It’s also another way to connect with people and find others who have similar interests as yourself. Blogging gets your name out there and shows prospective employers that you have a voice and are using it meaningfully.
5. Focus on one thing at a time
As I stated in my previous post sometimes, I have a hard time focusing on one project at a time. Often times I just go from one project to another. Well no more. Sure having a bunch of novels sitting on your desk is an accomplishment, but having drafts, and unfinished pieces gathering dust under your desk is too much.
While your mind enjoys the rush of delving into a new world, it’s time to reign it in and focus on the projects that you’ve already started. Because what good is a bunch of drafts and unfinished pieces going to do you when you have nothing to show an agent?
You might be thinking how am I supposed to not work on anything else while I’m letting my manuscript sit for a few weeks? Instead of delving into another novel focus on shorter pieces to submit to journals and contests as you can. Yes technically it is creating another story, but it’s not a three hundred something novel. It’s 8-20 pages at the most and is your way of building a rapport for yourself as a writer.
Read anything and everything! If your submitting to a journal than read pieces that they have published in previous issues. Cater to the needs of the publication while still retaining your voice and making your story still yours.
Each time you read you gain more knowledge whether it be useful or not. It’s also important to take it what you are reading and really focus in on the level of detail the author goes into when describing characters and scenery.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to reading is to not compare their writing to yours. Every writer is different and while you can take into account the things that they did to make them a successful writer remember to be yourself when writing your own novel. Don’t mimic another author because you think it will be your ticket in.
7. Be Tough
Writers need to have a thick skin if they truly want to create a masterpiece. You cannot be defensive of your work to the point where you are not taking in constructive criticism and suggestions.
You also have to take some advice with a grain of salt. For example one of my classmates read over one of my pieces for me, and he suggested that I make it so that in the end all that has happened to this character was all a dream. Honestly, it’s not a bad idea, but it wasn’t something that would fit really well with my novel. Instead of going into all the reasons why it wouldn’t work I simply smiled and said, “Now that’s an idea.” It’s short and nice and won’t make the person who is looking at your piece feel uncomfortable about making future suggestions.
Do not be afraid of red marks all over your manuscript. While you may be looking at all of them and thinking, “Oh my god I suck! I should not be a writer,” you should be thinking “Well I have my work cut out for me, but I know I can do it.” Because you can do it.
8. Kill Your Darlings
This is something that goes hand in hand with being tough. Much like your first crush who never even knew you existed you have to be able to let go of it at some point. First drafts are rarely perfect and no matter what you think there is always room for improvement.
This is also why it’s important to give yourself some time between finishing your novel and editing as it will make it easier for you to let go and see things clearer. A first draft is like learning to talk for the first time. At that point, you are still trying to figure out what the meaning of your story is and who your characters are.
If you think about it, the first draft is kind of like an extended outline. Most of your scenes will be choppy, and a lot of your dialogue will be filler. Most of the time you will realize that your character is actually pretty dull and whiny unlike one of your side characters who are pretty much stealing the show.
9. Write Every day
No excuses! If you are serious about writing then it should be a part of your everyday routine. Even if it’s just a few words scribbled on the back of a receipt or a story idea that’s been tossing around in your mind for the past few days.
Right now I’m so tired that I feel like I could fall into a twenty-four-hour coma, but instead, I’m writing this blog and edited six chapters of my novel today. I understand more than anyone that we all have our obligations, but you need to make time to write.
Writing should be an extension of you and when you are finished writing you should feel refreshed, frustrated, happy, or sad. I know that’s a bundle of emotions I just put down there, but writing can be very emotional and at times can be taxing especially if you are going through writer’s block.
10. Active Rest
While it is essential to keep your creative chakra’s flowing daily it is also okay to take a break from it. And when I mean break I mean a few hours or part of a day. Unless you feel like you need a whole day which is understandable because I have had those days Even then you should at least try to see if you can catch a flame.
When I need a break from my writing or feel like I need to take a step back because I am not getting anything done I usually read, watch a movie or tv show, play video games, or go on a walk. Most of the time I am ready to get back into it after clearing my mind, but sometimes I just can’t seem to come back from it.
The important thing is to not force yourself. If your mind and heart aren’t in it,` then take a break and go back to it. If you still feel the same then give yourself more time off. But, don’t let days go past or you’ll make a habit out of it.
Another way to break through writer’s block is to look up writing prompts online, or go through unfinished pieces and see if you can pick up where you left off.
While I do not claim to be an expert on what it takes to become a full-fledged writer, I am confident that all the things that I have mentioned will get your one step closer to your goals. I know that it will get me closer to my goals because I am in it for the long haul no matter how long it takes.