You want so much to become a published writer that you think about it every day. You dream about it. Maybe you talk about it with friends. You may even make a New Year’s resolution to become a published writer. You can almost taste such success.
This post on how to become a published writer stirs excitement. You know that the article’s author became a published writer, so surely she will give more than just ideas. She will help you DO something with those ideas! It’s almost as though the title sits in a big flashing red box with the words, “Click Me, and you’ll get HELP!”
How to Become a Published Writer
Fasten your seatbelt, because we may bump over some opinions you have heard in the past. You know what they say!
My beloved mother, now deceased, provided much laughter to those around her. After dinner one day, my husband remarked on a (now-forgotten) topic that Mom questioned.
Mom turned from the dishwasher to warn, “You know what they say!”
My husband grinned, and asked teasingly, “No. What do they say?”
Mom paused and then, lacking words, replied with a twinkle, “Lots of things!”
Lots of Things about Writing
You can be sure that people say “lots of things” about writers and writing. Maybe you have heard or read some of them.
“You can be anything you want to be … even president…!” a candidate told her audience. She herself had long wanted to be president, but she never did. How about another example?
Imagine a woman who stands a mere 5 feet 0 inches from head to toe. She wants to be a catwalk model. She believes that “you can be anything you want to be,” but a female runway (catwalk) model must measure at least 5 feet, 9 inches tall. Designers usually want models even taller than that. Rules are rules, and she is asking for a lifetime of discouragement if she persists in trying to become tall enough to meet runway requirements. She learns too late that she can’t really be “anything” she wants to be.
Many people, upon hearing that I am a published writer, have eagerly told me that they also want to become published writers. Wanting, however, is not the secret.
“Everyone has a novel inside” is another ugly bump in the road. At times, that bump appears as, “Everyone has a story – you just have to get it out.”
Dare we say that everyone has a painting inside that he or she just has to get out? Does everyone have a musical composition or a computer software program? Does everyone have a sculpture inside that will pop out with a little encouragement?
When Rodin decided to depict his bronze sculpture, The Thinker, as a strong, athletic figure, he wanted everyone who saw it to understand that the act of thinking is a powerful exercise.
The same is true of writing. Writing is a powerful exercise. It requires serious brainwork. It requires that the writer develop skills such as observation, musing, interpretation, explanation, and problem solving.
An eager would-be writer, learning that I am a published author, requested assistance on a half-completed manuscript. Since I enjoy helping, I agreed to a few sessions of tutoring. She came only once. Like many non-writers, she did not understand that the act of writing is a powerful exercise, not the automatic bubbling out of the story inside.
Yes, people do say lots of things about writing, but many are untrue and cruel.
Working to Become a Published Author
Commit – train – work – publish. There is no shortcut. Try to create one, and you are likely to fall far short of your goal. Look at those four tasks.
Do you want to become a mountain climber? Commit. Do you want to become a published writer? Commit. Pause for a wistful look at the summit, but then take a realistic look at what you must do to reach it. Sign a contract with yourself. Put yourself under obligation to get to the summit, whatever it takes.
Mountain climbing requires climbing-specific training. Writing requires writing-specific training. That training may take months, but you must be actively patient. Exercise your way through a training book such as Andrew Cowan’s The Art of Writing Fiction or The Art of Writing a Non-Fiction Book by Bryan Collins.
The best training for mountain climbing is to work daily at climbing small hills. The best training for writing is to work daily at producing small “books” (as few as 500 words). Author Gerald Brenan put it this way.
“It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer. Those who do not do this remain amateurs.”
Make time for your daily work and protect that time. Daydreaming will not get you up the mountain. Write observations from a stroll in the dog park. Write pieces of what you think will be your final book. Just practice writing 6 days a week.
Name your “Mount Aspiring” (the book you want to publish). Sketch a picture of the cover if you like. Give it a working title. Set a definite direction and begin writing the book that will help you become a published author!
Is that all there is to it? No. That is the biggest job you must accomplish, but it is not the only job. I propose to write more about how to become a published author in a future blog, but let me mention a few next steps.
Determining Genre: Your book fits in a genre – a family. It shows family likeness in style or content. You may be writing a mystery, a romance, or a sci-fi novel. Your book may fit a nonfiction category. Check the Amazon Genre Literature & Fiction list. You will be amazed at how many categories you see. Study them until you find books similar to yours. Record that category as your book’s genre.
Targeting Audience: Who will read your book? Who will enjoy it and benefit from it? Some of my published books target young adults. Others reach out to adults. The two groups think differently about how they like to get information about books. Young people, of course, love social media. Adults might choose email newsletters or blogs. You can impress an editor by laying groundwork with your target audience.
Editing Rewrites: Rewrites? Definitely! The writer who never needs to rewrite has yet to be born, as far as I know. Never think, as you close a chapter, that you have written it as well as possible. You haven’t. Edit your own work. Read back over your completed sections, looking for places that need a better word, better grammar, or total rewriting. Ask honest, constructive readers to go over it. Rewrite until you are very satisfied.
Pitching A Book: No, not into the trash! Pitching a book is the task of getting an agent or editor interested enough to look at your book. Contact them, introduce yourself, and tell them you’d like to have them consider your book. Give the book’s title, genre, and word count. Then tell them where it is set, and a little bit about the main character. Tell the problem, and what the character risks by failing to solve it. Be brief! Tell them how your book is different from others.
Publishing! The agent who agrees to work with you will contact editors – and you will be patient. Interested publishers will make an offer to your agent, who will discuss it with you, negotiating to get you the best deal. You sign a contract, and begin working with the publisher – rewriting!
Learning how to become a published writer is not becoming a published writer. Always keep the distinction between the two. Many authors end up self-publishing, but many of those try the traditional route first. Either way, writing is work, and relatively few people are willing to commit, train, and work in order to reach the peak of publishing.