*Here is MY advice on how you can become a writer, too. In no way is this the ONLY way to becoming a writer…*
Write…a lot and often
The only way to be a writer is to write. Even if you do nothing else on this list, you need to write. Writers write. If you write, you’re a writer – simple. (Did I say write enough in that explanation?)
Of course, I know that saying all you need to do is write is overly simplified. If you’re having trouble starting, then practice. Look for writing prompts on Google and roll with whatever comes into your head. If you worry too much about being perfect and writing a novel from day one, then you will never make it as a writer. Go at your own pace and realise that everyone is different; there are all kinds of writers out there. So, all you can do is practice at first and then the craft will start to come more easily to you.
You cannot become a writer (at least not a successful one) if you don’t read. It doesn’t really matter, I guess, what you read; you just need to read. Often. Read a variety if you can, too, as you never know what your genre interests may be if you don’t. Challenge yourself every now and then to read out of your comfort zone – it’s good for the mind.
The important thing is to read to get your creative juices flowing and help you naturally understand the craft and develop your vocabulary. But, you also need to read to learn what good writing is, and what bad writing is (in your opinion). This will help you with your own from there.
At one point or another, you will need to edit your own writing. Whether it’s a blog post, a chapter, an article, or web copy – you will have to learn to self-edit and self-critique. This is often the boring part of being a writer, but the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. And then, every time you do it, you’ll actually be teaching yourself (subconsciously) what works and what doesn’t with what you write. Thus, your writing will improve.
Know your genre
If you want to be a novelist, in particular, it would be a good idea to get clear on what genre you wish to write in. Even if you’re a freelancer or blogger, it’s still a good idea to know your niche/genre. This will help you to curate your content. It’s important to write in the genre and don’t dip out of it too much, otherwise people won’t know who you are. People like to go to you for that set thing. Take me, for example, my audience knows that they can come to me for fantasy novels and lifestyle/self-help information. My two niches/genres/areas are Fantasy Fiction (YA and MG) and Self-Help essays, guides, information, blog posts, podcasts, and advice.
The way that I present my work may be different, but they will always be under one of the two genres, fantasy or self-help. People trust me to deliver on that.
But why else does this matter, besides getting an audience? Well, it helps you, too. I think it’s powerful for a writer to know themselves; to know what they’re good at writing. Confidence in your work and knowing your work will better your work, I believe. You can also then go on to researching and reading in those industries, which will enrich your work even further.
Know the industry
This is important if you want to write professionally in any way. You need to know your industry. How does it work for your pursuits and your genre/niche? How does your target audience usually find your kind of work? Who are the top-dogs in your industry? How did they become successful? What advice do they give?
It is important to know these things in order to become a successful writer who makes a living through their work. It will help you to do the right things to get noticed, it helps you to tighten your work, and it helps you to network in your niche. It’s a good idea to model the successful people in your industry who have been there and have done it.
Share your work
Of course, you need to share your work as a writer. Not all of it, but some will need to be shared at some point. I love what Elizabeth Gilbert once said on her podcast, that you are allowed to make art for yourself. You’re allowed to make bad art that will never see the light of day. But she also said that you don’t learn or grow (and you’ll never succeed as a writer) if you never show your art/writing.
So, stop being scared. Whether you fail or fly, it doesn’t matter. By sharing your work, you’ll have something valuable – knowledge about what works and what doesn’t. Then, you can go forward with this information and get better.
Take on criticism
When you share your work, you will receive criticism – positive and negative. I’ve had people tell me good and bad things about my work, but you know what, that information helps. It’s hard to hear at times, of course, but it does help you a lot. Now, not all criticism needs to be taken on board. Some people are wrong! But, that’s your decision. Be open to it, be honest, and analyse what you feel is true and what isn’t for your art. But allow the criticism to come and don’t take it to heart, instead take it in as a tool for getting better.
Find a nook
The last thing, as a nice addition, is that you will need a writing space. Writers need a laptop, a notebook (or hundreds), pens, sticky notes, journals, a cute backpack to carry them around in, and most importantly – a writing space. A place where you can go and you know it’s go time! Time to write! Finding this space(s) will help you feel like you’re channeling your inner writer, and ready to get in the zone…