How to become a professional writer

Becoming a full-time writer is a dream for many, so what skills do you need? Of course, there are many writing disciplines, and not all glamorous. So, be aware that you’ll inevitably take a tour of the gutter before you lift the prize for best journalist or screenwriter. Writing for a business that sells fridges, or for the local rag on the advantages of regular bowel screening, may not be your idea of literary eminence, but look on the bright side – this is your training ground and a route to your newfound job title of ‘writer’.

  1. Know your craft. You need to continually hone your craft as a professional writer. You can never stop learning, and there is no room for arrogance. Plenty of writing books and online guides are affordable or free. Your writing needs to be grammatically correct and thoroughly proofread.
  2. Read. Allocate at least a few hours a day to reading. Read a wide range of quality material from periodicals, newspapers and blogs, to novels and memoirs. You cannot hope to be a professional writer unless you read other work. This will allow you to compare and appraise your own writing style and ability.
  3. Write! Astonishing, yes, but some writers neglect to write regularly. You should write on a daily basis to hone your craft.
  4. Take a break. Get away from the computer, go for a walk, do some cooking, go base-jumping, dancing, anything. Clear your head. You’ll be surprised how the words flow when you return to the word processor (or pencil and pad).
  5. Travel. Many of the best writers are widely travelled. It’s true that travel broadens the mind, and it will make for more sophisticated descriptions and informed prose. Never write about a place that you have not visited (unless you’re writing science fiction or fantasy!)
  6. Observe. Observe people, places, characters. Photography or sketching will help you to seek out interesting subjects. Acute observation will be reflected positively in your writing.
  7. Write your book. If you’re looking for practice, there is no better way than to embark on that novel or memoir you’ve been mulling over for the past few years.
  8. Have a social media presence. It’s no guarantee of regular work or success, but as a writer, you must have a presence on the major social media networks. Give informed opinions and comments, but always be polite. Never become drawn into online skirmishes.
  9. Develop a blog. Use a blog to engage your followers and develop an online presence. This is also another way to regularly hone your writing skills.
  10. Take the long road. If you’re in a rush to be the next big thing in the literary world, the chances are you’ll burn out before you get there. Writing is intense, hard work. So, pace yourself. Be the tortoise and beat the hare!

Of course the above is merely a glimpse of what is required to become a full-time professional writer. If you’re serious, you’ll need to apply yourself and stick at it.

Copyright © 2015 James Smith



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