Becoming a successful full-time author requires more than a love for words. It demands discipline, strategy, and a deep desire to keep learning. If you're a writer seeking to transform your passion into a profession, here's your ultimate guide, complete with actionable steps.
1. Identify Your Preferred Genre
Identifying your preferred genre is vital to becoming a full-time, professional writer. Otherwise, you won’t be able to create a core fanbase that will support you and allow you to develop a full-time career as an author.
You don’t see Stephen King writing romance. And you don’t see Nicholas Sparks writing steampunk. When you think of those authors, you immediately know their chosen genre. That’s not by accident.
You, too, should be identified with a specific genre if you want to be a successful author.
So, what genre would you like to build a name in? Science fiction, fantasy, horror?
Start with a little bit of everything. Read books from diverse genres and identify what stimulates your creativity. Once you find your niche, immerse yourself in it. Understand your chosen genre's conventions, popular themes, and recurrent narrative structures. Write a short story and feel the pulse of your genre. Engage in genre-specific forums and understand what makes readers love that specific genre.
2. Improve Your Craft with Courses
Once you've identified your genre, it's time to build up your writing muscles. To become skilled in your genre, you must learn the art of character creation, plot development, and pacing. Practice the lessons learned and apply them to your writing. Find a course that offers critique services, as constructive feedback can do wonders for improving your craft.
3. Write Regularly
Repeatedly doing anything will turn you into an expert in no time. The same goes for writing. To be a professional writer:
- Aim to write every day.
- Set a daily writing goal and stick to it. Whether it’s 200 words or 2000, regular writing will improve your skills and increase your output.
- Keep a journal for random thoughts and story ideas, and make it a habit to revisit these ideas periodically.
You never know what gem you may discover in the process.
Also, don’t feel like you must wait until a specific time of day to write. Always be writing. Whether working on your novel, jotting down story ideas, or writing a blog post, keep those creative juices flowing. The more you exercise your writing muscle, the stronger it becomes.
4. Master Self-Editing
Everyone has an internal critic, and rarely are they particularly kind. Many of them are unfair and aggressively mean.
But to be a professional writer, you must train your internal critic to be helpful instead of harmful. This inner critic can serve as a powerful tool. It can turn into your internal editor, where it will monitor the quality of your work and ensure that your story is coherent, the characters are believable, and the language is engaging.
Mastering self-editing is a lifelong disciple, but here are a few tips to help you get started:
Once your first draft is complete, let it sit for a while. Return to it with fresh eyes and begin the editing process.
Read your aloud. Reading aloud can help you catch awkward phrasing, run-on sentences, or points where the dialogue could sound more natural. It's a different way to engage with your text and can reveal issues you may miss while reading silently.
Check for structural issues, plot inconsistencies, character development, grammar, and punctuation.
Be alert for show vs. tell. Look for instances where you might be telling rather than showing. Instead of stating that a character is angry, show it through their actions, dialogue, or internal thoughts.
Watch your point of view. If you're writing from a specific point of view, ensure you maintain it consistently. For example, if it's a third-person limited perspective, make sure you're not inadvertently slipping into a third-person omniscient perspective.
5. Cultivate a Writing Community
Despite being a solitary act, writing thrives on community. Join a local or online writers' group. Participate actively in writing challenges. Attend workshops. Share your work with other writers and be open to their feedback. The insights gained from the diverse perspectives of fellow writers can enhance your creations. Plus, having a group that understands your struggles is always comforting.
6. Handle Criticism Constructively
Speaking of feedback, let’s talk about it.
Handling criticism is a rite of passage. It might sting initially, but consider it a stepping stone to improving your craft. Every critique is a lesson in disguise. Apply it to your work.
Don’t shy away from sharing your drafts with trusted friends or writing partners. Their perspective can help you see the blind spots in your narrative.
7. Understand the Publishing Industry
Navigating the publishing industry can be daunting. There’s no way around it. Start by familiarizing yourself with both traditional and self-publishing routes. Weigh the pros and cons of each. Learn about literary agents and what they look for in a manuscript. Understand the genre market trends and what readers are currently devouring. The more informed you are, the better decisions you can make for your writing career as a professional author. It’s a business, after all, so you must treat it as such. Don’t forget the science because you’re an artist. You must balance both to make it a career.
8. Craft a Compelling Query Letter
You must get a literary agent if you go the traditional publishing route. And, to do that, you must master a query letter.
A query letter is a formal letter you send agents to introduce yourself and your work. This letter will be your book's first impression, so make it count. It should be engaging, concise, and compellingly articulate your story's essence. Research successful query letters and identify the elements that make them stand out. Write, revise, and polish your query letter until it shines with your story's uniqueness.
9. Create a Strong Author Platform
Work on your author platform while waiting for a positive response from literary agents or publishers. Your website, blog, or social media channels should reflect your author's brand. Engage with your audience (even if your current fanbase only consists of your mom). Share snippets of your work and insights into your writing process.
Maintaining an online presence in today's digital age can work wonders for your author brand. In addition to sharing your writing journey, connect with fellow writers. An engaged online following of readers and fellow writers can boost your visibility and increase your book's success chances.
Build your platform (and brand) as if you already have an audience so that when you finally do, you’ll already have something for them to connect with.
10. Set Clear Goals
The journey to full-time authorship is a marathon, not a sprint. Set clear, realistic goals for yourself. It could be as small as finishing a chapter in a week or as big as completing your manuscript in six months. Remember, every small accomplishment propels you towards the larger goal: first, becoming a published author, and second, becoming a full-time author.
11. Learn from Rejection
Rejection is an integral part of every author's journey. Remember that every "no" brings you one step closer to that coveted "yes." Use rejections as opportunities to learn and improve. Take any feedback you receive to heart, tweak your manuscript, and keep going. Frequent rejection is why all authors who’ve been in the game for a while have a ton of grit. You’ll get there if you don’t let the “no’s” stop you.
12. Understand Your Audience
Knowing your audience is as crucial as knowing your characters. Understand what your readers enjoy, what moves them, and what keeps them hooked. Use this understanding to shape your narrative, making it compelling and relatable to your audience.
13. Develop a Unique Writing Voice
Your writing voice should be unique. Don't emulate your favorite authors. Let them inspire you to develop your style. Practice, experiment, and figure out what feels authentic to you.
Need advice? Check out this post: How to Find Your Writer's Voice
14. Network with Industry Professionals
A supportive network can make your journey to becoming a professional writer more enjoyable. Your network can contribute to your success by providing advice, financial support, referrals, and more.
To build your professional network:
- Attend literary events, workshops, and conferences.
- Connect with authors, editors, and literary agents.
- Seek advice, share experiences, and build meaningful relationships.
Remember that the literary world is a community; every connection you make counts.
15. Develop a Professional Relationship with an Editor
An editor is a writer's best friend. Cultivate a professional relationship with a good editor, and you may see numerous benefits. A good editor can transform a rough draft into a polished manuscript.
They also offer objective insight. You're too close to your work as an author to view it objectively. An editor brings a fresh, impartial perspective. They can identify and address issues you might need help with, such as plot holes, pacing problems, or underdeveloped characters.
Editors have a solid understanding of the market and reader expectations. They can advise you on what works and what doesn't for your target audience, which can help you increase the appeal of your book.
Writing a book is a complex process and is often filled with self-doubt. A good editor is a critic, a mentor, and a cheerleader. They provide constructive feedback, encourage your strengths, and guide you.
Are you looking for an editor? Take a look at our services here.
16. Learn to Balance Writing with Business
As a full-time author, you're both an artist and an entrepreneur. You must balance your creative process with the business side of things. Get familiar with reading contracts, negotiating advances, tracking royalties, and managing taxes. If you don’t know this stuff already, now’s the time to start getting familiar. It might seem overwhelming initially, but you'll learn to juggle art and business effectively with time.
Now that you know the exact steps to becoming a professional, nothing can stop you from turning your hobby into a career. It's a challenging path, no doubt, but remember, every great author was once where you are now. So, keep writing, keep learning, and keep dreaming. You're on your way to making a living doing what you love. Happy writing!