17 November 2010

So You Want to be a Writer?

A lot of people want to be writers - or at least, they think they do. Like all the creative arts, it has a certain appeal to many people for various reasons. But just like becoming a famous musician does not happen overnight and requires years of gruelling schedules and poor income, writers are not guaranteed success. As a continuation of last month's post by Lauren, this will be looking at the ups and downs of writing and the various ways in which you can write for a living.

Typically when someone says they want to be a writer the first interpretation of that from others is a novelist, and that is often followed with warnings along the lines of '98% of manuscripts get rejected' and 'most writers never make much money'. Both points are true enough, but being a writer doesn't start and end with novels.

When you enter the foray of writing you need to decide what you want to do. Do you have lofty ambitions of being the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, or do you just want to be able to earn an income by putting words to paper? The latter is a shorter, easier process. You can start writing in your spare time, selling short stories to magazines or writing freelance articles for newspapers, or approaching companies to be a copywriter for their adverts, brochures or websites. If you already have a job, you can use your knowledge and experience from that to write on that particular topic - you may find that pretty soon you're in demand to write for a collection of people or companies on your chosen topic.

If you want to be a novelist, the process is longer and much more difficult. Not only does it take time to write a full book, but you need to then sell it to a publisher. While it is true that 98% of manuscript submissions are rejected, you shouldn't get too upset over that; rather, make yours stand out. Most of the submitted manuscripts are very rough and require a great deal of work before they are ready to be sold to the market. So, take some initiative and hire an editor; they will sort out the content and format it ready for submission. Do your research on what publisher or agent to approach - there's no faster way to get rejected than to send a submission to a publisher that doesn't deal with your type of book. For instance, there's no use in sending a fiction book to a non-fiction publisher.

Whichever route you decide to take, make full use of the power of the Internet. As Seth Godin recently said, don't wait to win the lottery, build an army of readers who are willing to buy your output when you release it. Build a website, write a blog that you regularly update to generate traffic so people become aware of you. Register on Facebook and Twitter to reach a wider audience and utilise the option of downloads so people can get your writing straight away. You can even give it away and ask for donations, or sell it. If you give it away and make no money at all, you're still building that army, and that will be great leverage when approaching publishers: they will see there is already a growing market for your personal writing.

Writing can be a wonderfully rewarding vocation and there are numerous ways you can earn a living from doing it. So don't be intimidated by the prospects; instead, brainstorm some ideas of what area you want to venture into and then make an immediate start. There's no time like the present, as they say, and you may well be surprised by how quickly things take off.