Most writers want to become well-known and make a living by writing, but you’ve probably heard it only happens to some people. Putting in the blood and sweat through a pen (or keyboard) will only get them so far, which can be discouraging. However, the hard work can pay off if writers continue to push themselves by practicing, aka writing, daily.
Do you ever wonder how your favorite author or poet became so popular? As a writer, you might want to be like them one day, which isn’t an uncommon thought. Of course, it won’t happen overnight, and it’ll require a lot of effort, but every writer has a chance to become just like J.K. Rowling or James Patterson. As some people laugh at your optimism to become a successful writer, you’ll have feelings of hopelessness, but the doubt of others can become your biggest motivator.
With these seven tips, you’ll be a few steps closer to being like the writer you admire.
1. Find your unique writing process.
In general, every writer has their own writing process, which could involve where, when or how they write. You might have one already, such as writing in the morning every day for two hours without breaks. Depending on how you like to write, you might think this example is perfect for you or completely absurd. No breaks? How dare she.
Like I said, every writer is different. One will write, or sit there until they write, for a consecutive three hours, while another will break up their writing time with multiple breaks during a five-hour period.
Author and poet Sylvia Plath would write from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. every morning until her children woke up and then again later in the day. Her routine was relatively normal, especially when compared to Maya Angelou’s, which Angelou described in 2013. “I keep a hotel room in my hometown and pay for it by the month. I go around 6:30 in the morning. I have all the paintings and any decorations taken out of the room. I’ve never slept there. I’m usually out of there by two.”
Whether you want to take a simpler approach to your writing process is up to you, as it should involve anything that will make your headspace clear and ready for writing. If you can’t find a routine you like best, then random writing sessions are something to consider.
2. Constantly read, and read books by your favorite authors.
J.K Rowling recently gave her fans tips for becoming great writers, and the first one on her list was to read. She wrote, “Reading is the best way of analyzing what makes a good book. Notice what works and what doesn’t, what you enjoyed and why.” Read books by your favorite author because if you want to have the success they have, and you enjoy their writing style, you can learn from them by reading their works. You don’t want to copy their style extensively, but you can see what works in their stories and add some similar elements to your own – just don’t steal any “Harry Potter” spells.
If you ask any author if they’re currently reading anything, they’re bound to say yes. Whether the book reflects their genre or style is not necessarily as important as the fact that they are reading. You should always be reading something, and reading books in other genres and writing styles can actually benefit you, as you can learn from a variety of writers.
3. Research your favorite writers.
Take a break from writing, and start researching your favorite writers. You can learn a lot, such as how the rough or easy childhood a writer had affected them or how the writer began writing, from autobiographies and biographies of writers. Unrelated facts might seem insignificant to you, but it can tell you a lot about why authors write books of a specific genre or how they handled their millionth rejection from a publisher.
The facts and stories you find can help you understand the writers better, as well as the writing process and even yourself. You can learn from their lives by considering their mistakes and fortunes and applying their lessons to your own writing and life in general.
4. Develop a writer platform.
A writer platform is where someone can find you online, such as through social media or a blog. A platform is important even before you publish your first book, because when you’re querying to agents and publishers, they’re going to expect you to already have a large following on social media so your book has a chance of selling when it’s published. Your platform will start with friends and family, and once you regularly post on social media, you’ll have strangers, possible future readers, following and friending you.
If you want to learn more about how to start your writer platform, “Create Your Writer Platform” by Chuck Sambuchino is a great book to read. The author will give you tips on what social media channels are best and how you should put them to use. All the great writers needed a platform to gain readers and book sales.
5. When starting out, submit to small publishers.
Depending on how far you are in your writing career, you may or may not have submitted your work to publishers. If you’re just starting out and haven’t submitted anything to a literary or poetry magazine, it’s okay. You should do so when you’re ready, but keep in mind the possibility of submitting to small publishers, like magazines, who accept articles, short stories and poetry. It can be a good start to your successful writing career as many writers, including Stephen King, began here.
Plan on writing pieces specifically for publication in magazines to get a feel for how the industry works. Read the works in the magazines you plan on submitting to so you can determine whether your writing would fit in with the genre and style. Just because submitting to magazine publishers is smaller than submitting to book publishers doesn’t mean they’ll accept your piece; the process is just less complicated. Submit to them anyway and take any rejection with dignity.
6. When you’re ready, submit to a ton of publishers or agents.
After you get accepted (or rejected), get ready to send your material out to agents and publishers. Nowadays, most publishers want you to have an agent before they accept your manuscript, so finding an agent is a smart way to start the process, which can still be as tough as finding a publisher who will accept you.
You’ll want to keep your optimism up and keep submitting to agents. It won’t take one shot to win the jackpot, so keeping track of whom you submit to and when you submit is important. Keep a list of agents and publishers you plan on submitting to later, and schedule dates to send those submissions.
7. Hang rejection letters where you can see them daily.
In an interview with author George R.R. Martin, Stephen King reflected on the start of his rejection letters at age 12: “I pounded a nail into the wall of my bedroom, and when I got the rejection slips back, I would put them on that nail, and by the time I was 16 or 17 years old, the nail tore free from the plaster, so I just got a bigger nail.”
While it is a funny story, King obviously had tons of rejections before he finally received a yes from a publisher, and each one probably brought some negative feelings at times. You’ll feel the same way when you start raking in those rejection letters, and the best thing to do is keep them somewhere you can see them when you’re writing because, although it’ll remind you of each fail, it’ll also remind you of each time you tried, and tried again. You just wait until you receive your first yes and all the excitement that’ll come with it.