8 Steps To Pursuing a Professional Writing Career
No matter where you are in your writing journey, you can begin pursuing a professional writing career right this minute.
Sounds absolutely crazy, right? But hear me out.
Building a writing career involves much more than simply writing a novel. There are additional steps you need to take before diving into the publishing world, and you don't have to wait until you have a completed manuscript in your hands to get started.
What are these elusive first steps to building your very own writing career? Let's talk about eight of them today!
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1) Set Scary Goals.
The biggest mistake you can make in pursuing your writing career--or any dream for that matter--is to set safe goals. Goals you're comfortable with, that you know are absolutely attainable. Why is this such a killer? Because pursuing a professional writing career is not a comfortable journey!
It takes darn hard work to break into the industry, to move beyond writing, writing, writing and to begin publishing and selling your books with success..
If you want to become a professional author, you have to set scary goals--goals that will challenge you to make better use of your time, energy and skills. And then you need to pursue those goals with everything you have.
This is how you make yourself stand out from a sea of other aspiring authors, how you set yourself up for a successful career.
ACTION STEP: Get out a fresh notebook or open up a new document. Write down the first 1 - 3 steps you need to take to move towards a professional writing career, then decide how soon you'd like to complete these steps. Make sure to challenge yourself!
But how do you even begin to tackle your scary goals? Let's move along to step #2!
2) Make a Game Plan.
The point of setting crazy goals is to push yourself, to test your limits and work harder than you believe possible. This is how you grow to see your storytelling and writing skills improve. But just because you're pursuing a few crazy goals doesn't mean you shouldn't create a reasonable, actionable plan to see them through.
It's easy to think published authors have mastered their crafts, but that's not always the case. Every smart author knows they must continually work to improve their skills, to make their next novel better than the last.
And they do that by creating a game plan to see their desired growth become a reality. Your own game plan will depend on where you are in your personal writing journey, but here are a few She's Novel posts you should read if you want to see your work improve:
- 11 Steps to Turn Your Plot Bunny Into a Full-Fledged Novel
- 11 Steps For Creating a Writing Routine (that will leave you feeling free!)
- My Two-Step Method for Finishing Your Novel
- How to Write Multiple Novels Using the Drafting Cycle
- The Difference Between Editing and Revising (and how to accomplish both)
ACTION STEP: Assess your goals and begin to devise your game plan. How can you break down these huge steps into attainable daily or weekly goals?
3) Make Writing a Priority.
Whenever I talk about making writing a priority on the blog, people start to get antsy, even a little bit defensive. "I could never write every day." "Writing should be about art, not structure."
But here's the thing: I'd love to watch television every night, to spend more time on Pinterest, to devote more hours of my day learning the guitar or teaching myself a second language. But I don't.
Because I know what my biggest dream is: to become a professional novelist. I want to make that dream a reality more than I've ever wanted anything in life, and that means making the hard choice to cut out guilty pleasures and putting writing first at every opportunity.
Do I ever watch television, browse Pinterest, or indulge in other hobbies? Sure! On occasion. Self-care is incredibly important. You simply cannot write 24/7 without losing your mind. But most days of the week, choosing to make writing your top priority during your limited free time is absolutely essential if you want to begin building your writing career.
ACTION STEP: Take an honest look at how you currently schedule your days. Where do you waste the most time? Can you rearrange your life in any way to gain more writing time? Is there anything you can cut from your life to help make writing a priority?
4) Start Researching.
One of the questions I'm most often asked by readers with completed manuscripts is, "How do I go about finding an agent? How do I get published?" If you're in this same boat (or getting close to it), it's time to start researching!
There are several different ways you can go about finding agents and publishing houses that are good fits for your novel, but here is my absolute favorite technique.
Begin by compiling a list of books related to your own, keeping your book's genre and age market in mind. Then, once you have a list of ten or twenty novels, it's time to do a little digging.
Research these books online (a simple Google search will work wonders), and look specifically for information on what publishing houses published each novel and which agents represented their authors.
Once you've compiled your list, begin to look up each agent and publishing house individually and cross any poor matches off your list to find the perfect subjects to query.
5) Begin Building Your Author Platform.
Oh, friend. How I wish I could hijack this post and turn it into a five hour chat on building your author platform. It's one of my favorite topics, and it's oh-so important! But alas, I promised you a post on pursuing a professional writing career, and that is what you're gonna get.
So here's the long and short of it: if you ever want to become a professional author, you need to begin building your author platform today.
An author platform is your connection with an engaged readership. This is not represented in the amount of social media followers you have or the number of page views on your website. Rather, it's all about the quality of those followers and pageviews, about finding readers who adore you and your work and then building a relationship with those readers.
Building your platform will be a lifetime endeavor, but have no fear! I know building an author platform may sound overwhelming (and rightfully so), but I'll be spending the better part of 2016 helping you walk through this process step-by-step right here on the She's Novel blog.
ACTION STEP: Begin building your author platform using this She's Novel guide.
6) Reset Your Mindset.
In my time as a creative writing coach, I've come across three camps of writers: 1) those who think they'll never be good enough to get published, 2) those who can't understand why they're not already published, and 3) those who have confidence they'll one day make their writing dreams come true.
If you're one of those confident and determined writers, keep up the fantastic work!
But if you're struggling with self-doubt or if you think you've already learned all there is about writing, there's something you should know: both of these mindsets are crippling. They will end you before you even begin. Why? Because there is always room for improvement.
No matter how bad you think your skills are or how great you believe your writing already is, you can always get better. That's why you must take one day at a time, working to improve your skills each and every day. If you continue to do this month after month, year after year, you'll soon create the kinds of novels you've always adored.
ACTION STEP: Work on changing your mindset. Recognize that you are better today than you were yesterday, and you'll be better tomorrow than you are today. Keep on working and watch yourself succeed!
7) Get Serious.
Being a professional author isn't an easy job, and it certainly isn't all fun and games.
Sure, you get to write in your pajamas from time to time, but you also have to manage your income, maintain your author platform, answer emails and collaborate with other industry professionals, process negative reviews and critiques, and field some otherwise unsavory tasks.
I don't say all this to scare you. Every job comes with its perks and its dirty work. But it's easy to see your favorite authors retweeting love messages from fans and think their life is just peachy. That's not always the case, and you need to recognize this before you decide to truly pursue your own professional writing career.
ACTION STEP: Ask yourself if you want to be an author because you think it will be fun and easy, or if you are truly passionate about bringing your stories to eager readers despite the downsides of working in the industry. Make sure you're being honest with yourself before you jump in.
8) Get Your Work Out There.
The best step you can take towards building your pro writing career? Get your work out there!
The authors whose debut novels skyrocket to the top of the New York Times bestseller list are the unicorns of the writing industry. In nearly every other case, authors need to publish multiple novels--ones that are adored by their readers--before their work begins to gain any serious notice.
That's why the best thing you can do for your pursuit of a professional writing career in 2016 is finish your latest work. The sooner you get it published, the sooner you can work towards building a larger audience. The sooner you'll move closer to the professional writing career you dream of.
Is pursuing a professional writing career your biggest goal for the coming year? What steps will you take to make your dream a reality? Let me know in the comments below. I'd love to share in your writing journey!