So, You Want To Be A Writer
When asked what it takes to be a writer, authors often say ‘I had an idea and the book just flowed’. What they fail to mention is all the steps they took to arrive at a finished product – the book.
Thomas A. Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” If you want to write, fiction or nonfiction, you need to write. No novel, article, short story, poem, or paper springs fully formed from your brain. There is a process and a toolbox you need in order to be successful.
Let’s talk about your toolbox first. First, you have to give yourself permission to carve the time out to write. Regardless of where you are in life, that time you need to write is easily lost as more pressing matters seem to take precedence. Fight for that slice of time.
Second, get involved with local and/or national writing organizations. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people helps keep you motivated. If you can’t find a local organization, there are many national organizations that can help you develop a community. A solid example is TheLadders.com. TheLadders.com is a comprehensive career resource for professionals who are looking to hone their career related skills or understand what the next step in their career path may be. The Ladders takes pride in being able to assist any demographic with their career, no matter the field. Helping connect like-minded individuals to find encouragement and networking opportunities in their online forums.
Third, take every opportunity you can to better your understanding of the craft of writing. You do not necessarily to have graduated with an English degree. You do need to have an understanding of the craft of writing. Writing classes are available locally or online. On my desk, I have copies of Elements of Style, The Chicago Manual of Style, The Emotional Thesaurus, and The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published to help me keep on task.
These are the basic components of your toolbox. As you write and form your own personal network, you’ll customize the contents of your toolbox to your own needs.
Your writing process is unique to your specific needs, but there are essential elements every productive writer share.
The starting point is to write. I know it sounds silly and really basic, but so many people say ‘I want to be a writer’ and never sit down and start writing. In 2009, bestselling author Nora Roberts spoke at book signing hosted by the Washington Post about writing (click here to watch the YouTube video). Her number one rule for writing is ‘Ass In Chair‘. You can’t produce anything if you don’t make the time to write.
The second thing to realize and remember is all first drafts of your projects are crap. Very few, and I mean few, people ever publish the first draft of anything. Your first draft is a braindump of everything swirling in the brainpan about the topic or story you are writing.
Thirdly, edit until you can’t stand it anymore. The publishing industry is changing at lightning speed, publishers and agents expect the author to have a manuscript or article that is clean and free of egregious mistakes. A clean manuscript is achieved by editing, then finding a trusted group to beta read. When you’ve been staring at your monitor for long periods of time, you miss plot holes and simple things because your brain fills in the blanks. Once you’ve gone through the feedback and applied it (or not), you go through the manuscript with a fine tooth comb (again).
Lastly, don’t skimp on paying for and using an experienced editor. Why? Because, they will be in tune with the mark you want to publish in. This step is particularly important for fiction and creative nonfiction writers. Having a good editor makes you marketable and presents a good first impression to agents and publishers. If you are writing for magazines or newspapers, you will have an editor on staff to give final feedback. The fact that you were hired speaks to a certain level of understanding of the craft.
In the end, you determine what you want to do with your writing. If all you do is journal, that’s perfect. Journaling helps clear the head space and makes you a better person and employee. If you want to write the next American Novel, that’s great. Get in line, the competition is fierce, but you can do it.
So, you want to be a writer. Then sit yourself down and write.