You want to become a famous writer or at least a profitable writer, what should you do?
Develop a thick skin. While you are writing and dreaming of better days, develop a thick skin. People will criticize your work. People you know and don’t know. People who are writers and people who are not. Learn to listen to the advice (actually learn to filter through the advice). Learn to let the garbage go. The sooner you develop a thick skin the better you will be.
Get over writer’s shyness. There are writers who like to share and those who don’t. If you want to see your writing in print/published you are going to have to show your writing to a lot of people. Which means that you will have to be able to present your writing and yourself in a professional (or as close as you can get) manner. This does not mean suit and tie, but does mean being able to put thoughts together in a coherent fashion, being able to explain why you made the choices you made, and if necessary defend your work.
Go to school and get a degree. Yes, I wrote that. Speaking as an older individual who went to college thinking he knew enough, there was plenty that I learned. One of the things I learned was how to write in several different styles and forms, valuable experience. I am not saying go only for a degree, although a piece of paper that says you are indeed learned and knowledgeable in your field does help. I am saying go for the knowledge, the degree will be the by-product of going for knowledge (provided you pass your classes). Writing is a skill and there is a lot to learn about writing that goes beyond noun, verb, and adjective.
Okay, let me tone that down. First, college is not for everyone. Second, college is expensive and time consuming (don’t believe me, hit up my 500 Words posts). Third, there are other ways to learn about writing. I believe that a writer will gain more from some form of structured lessons versus self-taught, but I understand that everyone is different and has different levels of resources. While, I suggest attending college for a degree, if you cannot attend college do yourself a favor and find other ways to learn about writing.
Do not focus solely on writing. A writer has more skills than putting words together. What skills? Layout, design, font, pictures/images, color schemes to name a few. A writer, needs to more than putting words together.
How could you learn about writing without attending college? Off the top of my head:
- Online courses. Paid to free. There are all sorts of resources online for writers.
- Read. Good writers write. Great writers, read a lot and write. Read anything and everything. When you find a writer who you want to write like, do just that, copy their style. Trust me, eventually, your voice will shine through and you will have your own style.
- Writer Groups. Find your local writer group. Hopefully there are one or two people who have and are willing to share their knowledge. I know, sharing your writing is tough. Get over it. If you want to see your words in print/on-screen you are going to have to share and you will have to get used to commentary from anyone who reads what you wrote.
Practice. What does writing practice look like? You are reading some. Write as often as you can, but whatever you do, try to write on a regular basis. I know, schedules suck and word counts are for chumps. I know, I know. I have had this discussion/argument many times as part of the “what is a writer” conversation. Here is what I know, the best writers, the writers you enjoy, who you want to be like, write often.
Have a goal or three with your writing, but do not write everything with the plan of it getting published. To many writers, at least the ones I knew, plan from word one that whatever they are working on will get published. When this falls through, for whatever reason, they get into a funk. You will start more writing projects than you will ever finish, just the nature of the beast. Be happy you were writing, consider that practice, set the project aside and maybe one day you will be finish the project.
Good goals are realistic, something you can do and attain with a reasonable chance of success. When you complete a goal, you feel good and are encouraged to try again. Bad goals are unrealistic, such as “everything I write is for a book and that book will get published.” When you do not complete a goal, you feel like a failure and are less likely to try again. Set reasonable goals, such as “Rough draft of Chapter X by end of week” or “Submit to X publishers/websites” or “Self-publish X by the end of X.”
Alongside having goals, have a plan. Great, you can sit down in front of the computer and bang out 3,000 words a day. Can you after a few days or weeks of doing that keep everything in order and together in a coherent fashion? If you had a plan, even something as simple as a rough outline drawn out on a post it note (my preferred method), keeping all of those words consistent becomes easier.
Find someone who is not family to read and edit your writing. A writer should be able to edit a rough draft into a good draft, but writers should not final edit their own work. Just an observation, writers are too close to the material; often so used to seeing their work that they do not see the flaws or they see flaws where there are none.
More thoughts to come.