So You Wanna Be A Writer…

I get asked a lot about how to become a writer. What advice would I give?

Two things: Write every day, Read every day.

If you want to be a writer, you can’t just think about it. As much fan as sitting around daydreaming ideas is, if you don’t write them down, you aren’t a writer, you’re a dreamer. Write daily. Set aside specific time for it. Because of my day job, I usually write weeknights around 6 or 7 for an hour or two. On Saturdays, I write in the morning, on Sundays, in the afternoon. Write something, good or bad. I set a page goal of between 4 and 10 pages, but many days I write twice that.

You can only become better by writing, so don’t worry too much about quality. You can always throw it away and not share it with anyone and you can always revise it to make it better. If you never have anything to start with though, you can’t do either, so write.

I suggest you read daily. Read good books, read bad books. You can learn as much or more from the bad ones as the good ones about craft. And don’t just read books about writing or books in the genres you like most and/or want to write. Read everything you can get ahold of. I writ primarily science fiction and fantasy, and I do read a lot of both, but I also read Nicholas Sparks (romance), WEB Griffin (military, thriller), John Grisham (legal thriller), Stephen King (horror), John Jakes (historical), Robert Ludlam (suspense) and a lot more. Every writer has something to teach me, and I use all of it. If I write a romantic storyline as part of my scifi or fantasy, I use what I learn from writers like Nicholas Sparks. If I write suspense, Robert Ludlam, John Grisham or WEB Griffin come to mind. You get the idea. The more tools you have in your arsenal, the better writer you will be.

As far as books on craft, here are my top recommendations:

Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
Narrative Technique by Thomas Uzzell (out of print and old, but worth finding at a library or used online)
Writer’s Market Guide by Writer’s Digest Books
Novel & Short Story Writers’ Market Guide by Writer’s Digest Books
Christian Writer’s Market Guide by Sally Stuart
A Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Agents by Jeff Herman
Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood

and the Elements of Fiction Writing series by Writer’s Digest Books. They have books by successful authors on topics such as Plot, Dialogue, Description, Scene and Structure and more, which I have found very helpful in learning my craft and you will, too.

Above all, write and get readers to critique it. Critique groups can be especially helpful in this. Your Mom and your friends will not tell you what you most need, unless they’re writers or editors at a professional level. You need good feedback to help you grow. Take the feedback, rewrite, and send it out again. Rejection is part of the game, and, yes, it hurts, but if you don’t get feedback you can’t get better, and if you don’t get better, you’ll never make a professional sale.

Lastly, never write for money. Write because you have something to say and you have to get it out. Write what you know, write what you love, and never stop believing in yourself. No one else can write it like you. No one else can write it but you. Your voice and your work are unique. If you work hard enough and stay strong, you’ll get read and you may even change lives.