We writers are poor, tortured creatures. Our days are spent hunched in front of a computer screen, lost in our own imaginations. We sip inordinate amounts of coffee and keep oddball hours. Our uniform consists of three-day-old sweats and oversize T-shirts because - hello - comfort is everything.
However, like most aspects of life, not all writers fit neatly into this category.
We writers come in all shapes and sizes. Some extroverts, some introverts, some in-between. Some shouting from the rooftops about their latest stories, and some typing away in secret when nobody’s looking. Some skilled writers who have been doing it for years, and some who are just dipping their toes into their creative talents.
There are two things we all have in common: we love the written word, and we have a DREAM.
If you’re like me (and, I dare to assume, all other writers), you have a dream to see your name in print one day. To walk past a bookstore and see your story - you know the one - sitting on a shelf for all the world to experience.
Some may tell you it’s an impossible dream. That you’re better off pursuing that profession that will guarantee you a solid income. I’m not against that at all -- in fact, that’s a topic for another time. But it’s also important to know this:
It’s not a pipe dream. You can make it a reality.
It won’t be easy. Anyone in the publishing business will tell you that it’s one of the most difficult fields to break into as an aspiring author.
But again, not impossible.
In order to see your dream come to fruition, there are a few important things you must do.
First, you must believe (and name) yourself a writer.
This is step one, my friends. The first hurdle to jump on your way to becoming an author. I wrote a post a few months back and discussed 7 rules to follow to be a real writer. It’s vital that you believe yourself a writer before you proceed.
Now let me clarify -- this does not mean you have to believe yourself a good writer.
If you do, more power to you!
But if not, just know that you’ll have plenty of time to improve. I’ll even give you some good tips to get you started!
Second, you must finish that book.
Every writer has fallen into the quagmire that is the middle of a draft. It’s about that time when the initial excitement of the Big Idea wears off and you start to wonder if you’ve got what it takes to pull it all together.
Many writers (myself included!) start to self-edit previous chapters. The self doubt creeps in. The first half is garbage and how on Earth are you going to finish the draft now? You must go back and change everything and rewrite ---
STOP. Just stop right there.
Don’t fall into this trap. FINISH THAT BOOK.
Every bit of “garbage” in your first half can be fixed in the editing stage. Make a note on a separate document and resolve to come back to it later.
100% of writers who quit will never see their names in print.
Tune out the self editor. Shove him in a closet. Lock the door and throw the key out the window. You can let him out once you’ve gotten to the all-important “The End.”
Third, you must SHARE YOUR WORK.
Most people think writing is a solitary art form. They’re not wrong - at least during the drafting process.
But once the draft is done and your self editor has done his best work, it’s time for the truly terrifying part.
It’s time for you to put a piece of your soul out there and let people comment on it.
There are lots of ways to do this.
You can use social media. Facebook has wonderful critique and beta reader groups that you can join to find an “anonymous” pair of eyes.
You can join a local writing group. I’m a member of the League of Utah Writers and I LOVE IT. My chapter meets once a month to learn about a writing topic and critique each other’s work. Everyone in my chapter writes different genres at different skill levels, so I have a broad audience to give me feedback. It’s hugely helpful!
You can reach out to friends and family. This is an excellent way to get started if this is your first time sharing your work. Your friends and family are more likely to share your same values and standards and they’ll be able to give you some positive feedback to bolster your confidence. An important note: While this is a great way to get started, don’t stop here. It’s important that you share your work with a broad audience, so don’t forget to explore one of the two options above as well!
Remember, sharing your work is a vital part of the writing process. You wrote (and rewrote, and re-rewrote) this thing. After a while, you become blind to it. Letting others read it will help you know what needs to change. Not only that, but it will help you grow as a writer!
Fourth, you must network.
I wrote an entire blog post with great advice on how (and where) to network.
The publishing business is becoming more and more competitive. With the introduction of e-books through companies like Amazon, everyone's an author these days.
That being said, agents and publishers are looking for prospective authors who already have a base to stand on. Whether it’s connections to other authors, ties to agencies or publishers, or simply a large following on social media, it’s important to have a presence in the community.
This may be outside your comfort zone, but it’s a necessary step in the road to fulfilling your dream.
Fifth, you must SUBMIT.
You’ve done all the hard work.
You’ve poured your heart and soul into your manuscript, received feedback from people you trust, and you’ve networked like you’ve never networked before.
Don’t miss this last step.
Too many authors make it all the way through the process and then freeze when it’s time to query agents.
Fear of rejection can be like a five-hundred-pound monster sitting on your back, but SHRUG. HIM. OFF.
Do your research. Query the manuscript. Read the rejection letters (you’ll get plenty of them) and then keep querying.
This is your dream. You’re standing at the doorway to the life you’ve always wanted. All you have to do is raise a fist and knock. Or pound on it. Or ram it open with your shoulder. Whatever you gotta do.
Remember, 100% of writers who quit will never see their names in print.
Any other tips and tricks to become a published author? Share them in the comments below!