The First 5 Steps to Living a Writer’s Life

The First 5 Steps to Living a Writer’s Life

The First 5 Steps to Living a Writer's Life

The First 5 Steps to Living a Writer’s Life

So, you want to be a writer? Now what?

You’ve dreamed of being a writer. You didn’t just wake up one day and decide you wanted to write a book.

Maybe you want to make a living being a writer or maybe you just want to write because you love writing and you can’t imagine doing anything else.

If that’s you and you’re wondering where to start, these steps will help. They will get you on the right track to living a writer’s life.

Step 1 – Get Serious

Anyone can write, but not everyone can write well or tell a good story. Not everyone is called to live a writer’s life. Some people are called to build successful businesses, some are called to help people with mindset shifts so that they can build successful businesses. Others are called to serve people through nursing or rehabilitation. We’re passionate about what we’re called to do, we’re passionate about our purpose in life.

Writers are a bit different. We’re creative individuals and we live in our own little worlds. We excel at written communication. Great speaking skills are not a requirement at this point, at least not until you want to market and sell your books. We enjoy being by ourselves and creating plots and characters.

My calling is writing. It always has been, ever since I was a young girl in the fourth grade.

When a person pursues his calling, what is the first thing he does? He learns about it. He reads books about it. If someone wants to learn how to do yoga, she’ll read a book about it or take a yoga class. If someone wants to learn how to play an instrument, she’ll get lessons from an instructor or buy a video course.

When a beginning copywriter wants to learn how to write marketing copy, she’ll buy books on how to write copy, how to use words that sell, and how to compel readers to buy a product or service.

When a writer, a serious writer, wants to learn how to write well and publish her work, she’ll read books on how to do it. Books about writing and what it takes to be a writer and how to become a better writer. She’ll read everything she can get her hands on.

The biggest mistake beginning writers make is thinking that writing is easy. It is for some, but for most of us, we need to be continually learning and practicing our craft. Our writing education never stops. They say in business that one who stops learning stops advancing. There are always ways we can improve our writing work and skills, and always things we can learn about writing and the publishing world.

If you’re just starting out, I recommend spending time learning about the writing craft. Read books on writing. Read books on getting started as a freelance writer. Read books that offer advice from the writing experts, writers who have achieved success. There is no shortage of books available in this area. Read as much as you can and never stop learning.  

Step 2 – Get “Tech” Savvy

Understanding writing and publishing terms early on in your writing career will help you know how to proceed toward writing success. It will also allow you to keep moving forward without hitting too many roadblocks. If you don’t know how to handle these roadblocks when they come up, they can threaten your career as a writer.

Know common abbreviations, such as SASE and MS, and common industry terms and phrases, such as “on spec” and “kill fee”. Also, understand service terms such as “copyediting” and what is involved. What are ways you can improve your writing work? You can improve it by hiring a copyeditor who can give you suggestions on how to improve your story.

Make an effort to understand these before asking for help from a professional. Learn the basics first so you’re not wasting their time. There are plenty of resources out there, in the library, bookstore and online to help you understand these terms. There is no excuse not to know the basics of what is involved in the writing and publishing industry.  

Step 3 – Learn How It Works

Once you know the basics of writing and publishing, take some time to learn the basics of how the publishing world works. You don’t need to know everything there is to know about it, but understand the basics so you can be taken seriously as a writer.

Every writer should know what an editor does, what an editorial critique is, and how a publisher works. One of the ways to learn these things is through a writing course. When I got serious about writing at the age of 16, I enrolled in a 2-year writing program through the Institute of Children’s Literature. I learned how to write better, how to find markets for my short stories and how to find creditable sources for my research. This was all through editorial critiques and a manual to take me through each writing assignment. If you’re new, or if you’ve never taken an official writing course before, I highly recommend enrolling in one.

Going through these steps will help you advance in your writing career and learn what you need to know to take your writing seriously and to pursue a freelance writing career if that is your calling. As I mentioned before, not everyone is called to be a writer, but if you are and you’re passionate about it, then you must do everything you can to learn the world of writing and publishing.  

Step 4 – Expand Your Horizons

The next step to living the life of a writer is to read. Stephen King said that if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to be a writer.

Reading and writing go hand-in-hand. Those who don’t read because they don’t think they have to aren’t real writers. They’re just wannabe writers who aren’t willing to do what it takes to improve their craft.

Reading books of a similar genre to the one you want to write will help you improve your writing, learn how to write for that genre, and give you a sense for what books are published out there already and what books are similar to yours. Hooking up with a librarian at your local library can help you find these books. Also, there are knowledgeable people at your local bookstore who can help you find what you’re looking for.

Reading books in different genres will also help you improve your craft and give you ideas on how to make your story unique.

You don’t want to write a book and then find out that the reason you can’t sell it is because you haven’t taken an idea and really made it your own, made it unique.

Devour books and when you find one you really like, figure out why it works. Why is it such a good book?

Reading books is a requirement for any writer, not just to learn how to weave a better plot but to play an important part in the growth of the industry. If you won’t read other books, why would anyone else read yours? Writers shouldn’t produce books and expect to sell them if they can’t do a simple thing: buy and read the books of others. Don’t ask people to do what you won’t do yourself. If you want to sell your books, read and buy books.  

Step 5 – Live It

Last, but certainly not least, is the step of practicing writing and improving your craft.

This one is a no-brainer, obviously. But we still need to realize that even though we write every day, we still need to actively practice writing and learn how to improve it. Reading as much as you can get your hands on helps you learn ways you can tell a better story. But actually writing down what works word-for-word can help you practice writing so you can write in a similar style.

We can sit at a desk all day long and tell ourselves we don’t know how to do something but that won’t get us anywhere. The simple act of writing down a great scene word-for-word and then practicing writing our own scene will help us advance in our writing career more quickly.

Never stop learning and improving your craft. There is so much to learn.

Jody Calkins
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