How to Become a Successful Writer – Where to Start?

Hey, there! I’m Candace Osmond, a #1 International and USA TODAY Bestselling Fiction Author, Award-Winning Content Blogger, and Award-Winning Screenwriter. I’ve got a tip or two about writing if you’re interested.

Becoming a professional writer comes with several obstacles and uncertainties. But your chances of becoming a New York Times bestseller or an award-winning blogger aren’t as low as you think.

Is becoming an author worth it? Yes, your writing career will succeed if you start off on the right foot. Whether you want to be a novelist, fiction writer, or TV writer, this guide will show beginners the steps to becoming a successful writer.

What Qualifications Do I Need to Be a Writer?

The answer depends on the type of writing you want to do. But in general, the only requirement is a passion for writing. You can learn the rest of the skills through short courses, experience, and constant practice. Here are possible skills you need to acquire:

  • An observant approach to people and the environment.
  • Good research skills.
  • Ability to write clearly and creatively.
  • Ability to write concisely.
  • Concentration.
  • Time management. 

You don’t need an English degree, but you can increase your chances through formal education. Take writing-related subjects or study a degree associated with your area. 

But several employers look at skills more than your credentials. If you want to become a self-published author or blogger, you don’t need to worry about formal qualifications. 

How Do Writers Get Paid?

Writers go through different processes before they earn money with a career in writing. Some writers sign a contract with publishing companies, while others work independently. Writing is a viable career; you just have to understand the landscape and pick your corner of professional writing. 

Traditionally Published Author

Traditionally published authors make around 5-18% royalties depending on the publisher. The company provides the author with an advance on their work, covering their cost of living as they write. Then, once the writer finishes the book, they repay the advance from royalties.

Royalty is money that an author receives once their book is published and sold. They receive a percentage of every sale. The rest of the funds go to the publisher and agent. 

Since print media is declining, traditionally published authors publish their works in a different format. Digital, hardback, and audio formats now exist to reach a larger audience.

Copywriter

A copywriter requires creativity in writing engaging copies for a brand to improve its image and enhance its marketing. 

There are three ways copywriters can earn. Some work as staff copywriters at a firm, while others work in marketing agencies. You’ll also find freelance copywriters who work on a “per project” basis. But the average income for a newbie freelance copywriter is $0.2-$0.5/word.

Indie Author

Self-published authors can make up to 70% royalties from their work, much bigger than traditionally published authors. They usually publish series to boost their backlist sales and quickly build an audience because of familiarity.

Aside from writing, indie authors are also responsible for marketing and pricing their books. A way to reach more people is by building a mailing list. 

If you know how to get your target audience and treat them with respect, they will stay connected. 

Ebooks might be a better option for indie authors because of the lower production and the ease of delivery. There’s no shipping and printing involved, so your ROI is higher. Try publishing on one platform first, such as Amazon. Then, expand to iBooks, Nook, etc. 

You can definitely make money writing as an indie author. You just have to accept that you’re also the manager, marketer, designer, etc. I find that the key is lots of books, high-quality writing, and consistency. 

Journalist 

Journalists write articles for print and digital newspaper websites. News companies hire them to write news reports, feature articles, magazine articles, and other pieces, depending on their specialty.

Full-time journalists are paid a weekly or hourly wage by their employers. They typically start as staff writers in the company until they reach higher positions. Some freelance journalists sell news articles to wire services, publishers, and broadcasters. 

Education is an essential requirement in entering the journalism industry. Most journalists have a bachelor’s degree, while seniors have a master’s degree. These attainments also help them land non-writing roles like managing director and reporter.  

Instructional Writer

An instructional writer writes courses, training, and lessons for different types of learners. The audience may range from schoolchildren to the military. They get paid by selling their courses or being part of an organization.

Larger companies typically pay a higher average salary to instructional writers. Some offer these roles as 100% remote positions, while others are required to work in the office. Instructional writers in the business sector also earn more than those in education.

Freelance Writer

Freelance writers make money by monetizing their blogs and writing content for various websites. You can join partner programs on Amazon, Etsy, Wayfair, and more to earn commissions from sales directed by your content.

Whatever your or your client’s niche is, it should contain ads, affiliate links, and sponsored posts. If you’re contracted by a client or website, they’ll be handling all of that, and you’ll just be paid per word to create content for them.

If you’re hoping to launch your own blog or website and write content for yourself, there are a few things to consider.

First, do your research on finding a profitable niche. Some niches that pay well include the parenting niche, gift ideas, and digital marketing.  

If you’re a new freelance writer, affiliate marketing is the quickest way to get paid. Prioritize getting traffic and connections so that more people will visit your blog and purchase your links.

Affiliate programs have different steps to getting started. The commission you receive depends on the platform and the product’s value. Incorporate the links into long-form content like product reviews and comparisons.  

Screenwriter

A screenwriter creates a script while also describing the stage direction, sound effects, and lighting in their writing. They make money by optioning scripts, selling screenplays, and receiving distributors’ income.

Production companies option scripts before buying them. They will offer a lump sum fee for the rights to produce your screenplay within a given period. Then, they set a deadline for you because they need to finalize the funding, actors, and broker deals.

Once the production company has approved your script, the buyer will give you the enormous payment divided into the first and final draft.

Screenwriters also receive a percentage of the total sales once a movie is released. This salary is usually 1.5% of the distributor’s income.

Can I Become a Writer Without a Degree?

Anyone who writes is a writer, so you don’t need a degree for it. But if you’re serious about pursuing it as a career, then a college degree may or may not be necessary.

For instance, if you want to be employed as a full-time journalist, the news company might require a degree in journalism. Instructional writers in the business and education sector also need a degree in education or instructional design.

But there are several career options for aspiring writers without the need for a degree. If you wish to be a freelance writer, novelist, or blogger, all you need is a passion for writing. Ernest Hemingway and Maya Angelou never went to college, yet they are both celebrated. 

Many writers with a degree in creative writing, journalism, or literature only went to college after establishing their writing career. That means they may have already published their work before benefiting from a university education. 

One bit of advice I always give to those who want to hone their skills without taking a course, is to utilize the amazing tools that are available to you. Software such as Grammarly and Prowritingaid can make your writing better.

How Do I Start a Writing Career?

It’s normal for beginners to feel lost when starting their writing careers. But the best first step is to understand that becoming a successful writer in this generation isn’t just about writing. You should learn how to market yourself and build relationships with your target audience.

Some people won’t buy your writing. Instead, they will buy you. Establish a presence on social media where you can share who you are and what you write about. You could be better than Mark Twain or Jane Austen, but no one will care if you don’t have an audience. 

Modern-day writers attribute their success to their online presence, branding, marketing, and social storytelling. Gone are the days when writers need to let their work speak for themselves.

Writers are now competing with Instagram stars, YouTubers, Podcasters, and even viral animal videos. Attract and keep your audience’s attention by giving them something to be loyal to.

A brand is like a person you know by name and comprises different yet aligned traits. For example, while a person has a personal style, a brand has a logo. Your branding should also consist of your values and what you want to tell your audience. 

Ask yourself things like, how do you want others to see you as a writer? What do you want individuals to think when they hear you or your work?

How to Become a Fiction Writer?

A fiction writer is someone whose writing involves characters and plots created entirely by them. They do not base their writing on real-world events and people. A fiction writer can be a novelist, novella writer, playwright, or screenwriter.  

Decide What Type of Fiction Writer You Want to Be

Some popular forms of fiction you can explore include:

  • Historical fiction.
  • Literary fiction.
  • Mystery fiction.
  • Science fiction.
  • Children’s fiction.
  • Romance fiction.
  • Fanfiction.

Understand the Six Elements of Fiction Writing

The internet is full of writing tips for different types of writers. But this is an excellent place to start for an author. Learn to master the six elements of fiction writing:

  1. Character.
  2. Plot.
  3. Setting.
  4. Point of view.
  5. Theme.
  6. Style.

Becoming a fiction writer means learning how to be other people. Put yourself in your character’s shoes. Get inside their minds and lives, so your story becomes consistent from beginning to end.

It’s also important to hone your skills. Brush up on the use of proper spelling and grammar. Learn about superfluous terms and phrases, also known as fluff words. Make sure you use punctuation correctly.

Understand Basic Story Structure

The plot is only one of the several elements of fiction writing. But you need to be well-versed in its parts, so you know the framework of your story, from exposition to denouement. Try creating an outline of your plot and subplots before getting started with your writing.

Get Feedback Before Publishing

Once you have finished writing, ask an expert to read it and give you genuine feedback. This step will be helpful during your revision phase. 

Then, you can publish your work. If you have a novel, send it to publishing houses and literary agents. You can also publish your work by yourself.

How to Become a Writer for TV?

A television writer brainstorms story ideas and puts them into writing for weekly or daily TV shows. They consistently write for individual episodes, ensuring the character development makes sense and the story is cohesive.

Take a Class

While becoming a TV writer for a series also makes you a fiction writer, it’s very different from writing novels and plays. Take a course on television writing to help you learn the basics of the job and the industry. You may also invest in a university education, such as a degree in film.

Some types of classes you can enroll in include:

  • Theater class.
  • Film class.
  • TV writing and production class.

Watch a Television Show with a Writer’s Lens

Watching your favorite show might be the best task ever. But this time, you have to watch it for educational purposes. Prepare a pen and paper, then note how dialogues occur. Try explaining the importance of non-verbal communication in the show too.

An observant TV writer watches TV while critiquing how the plot is paced. They study how the backstage writer contributes to character development.

Write Spec and Pilot Scripts

The spec script or speculative screenplay is a sample of an episode of a TV show. You can write one for your favorite series or any genre of a show you’re interested in. Try looking for sample scripts to understand the writing style of the original TV writer.

You can also write a pilot script, which is an entirely new show. Create your character, storyline, dialogues, and theme. Doing so will hone your skills even more because your imagination is challenged, and you can create your own voice. 

Join Online Platforms

The community of TV writers is a relatively small one. It’s great to join online platforms for networking and job opportunities. Showcase your work on these platforms to attract possible clients or companies.

Joining online communities will also let you enter contests, submit portfolios, and ask for feedback from fellow writers. It will give aspiring TV writers the exposure they need. 

Is Becoming an Author Worth It?

Becoming an author is worth it if you have invested adequate skills and work ethic. Don’t expect your writing job to be easy just because you maintain a fondness for writing. There will be times when you think your inspiration and discipline are lacking.

Some writers believe that writer’s block doesn’t exist. A writer can always write, but perfectionism is a huge hindrance. Your work doesn’t have to be flawless the first time. You can always revise later.

Becoming a writer also becomes worth it when the right community surrounds you. There will be people who don’t take your work seriously. Don’t let yourself become one of them. Instead, socialize with fellow writers to learn from their perspectives and advice. 

Lastly, becoming a writer is worth it if you know how to sell yourself. Market your product and yourself, whether you’re self-publishing or not. 

10 Steps to Learn How to Become a Writer

There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy to becoming a writer. But there are steps you can take to increase your chances of becoming successful. Follow these ten steps.

1. Become a Better Reader.

Once upon a time, Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

Writing is only one part of becoming a writer. And the only way to know what makes a piece of writing excellent is by reading. It’s like having a mentor because you learn from other authors who have successfully reached the level of craft you want to achieve. 

Keep reading to apply other writers’ techniques in your work. Remember to take inspiration; do not copy! Explore different genres to find which one suits you and your writing style. 

2. Write Everyday.

Writing every day enhances your creativity and develops a habit fit for a full-time writing career. Treat your hobby as a job by setting regular deadlines for yourself. Thirty minutes a day is enough if you’re a student or have a job. 

You’ll also expand your vocabulary when you write every day. Try learning a new word per day, then use it in your writing. You can also try to write different genres daily. All of these practices will train you to become a better writer. 

3. Start a Blog.

Starting a blog will get you to write daily. But before creating an account, decide who you’ll be writing for. You can use your blog to post your fictional works. Or you can try different niches if you want to get paid right away.

Some niches to try writing blog posts for include parenting, health and wellness, gift ideas, and education. Pick a topic you want to learn more about or one that is high-paying based on your research.

Once you have a niche, you can start setting up your blog. This website will introduce your potential readers to the problems you can solve. And it should give them an easy way to purchase your links, products, or services. 

4. Read “Everybody Writes” by Ann Handley.

Ann Handley’s “Everybody Writes” is an excellent read for anyone who aspires to have a full-time writing job. The marketing veteran provides expert advice on the process of creating content, producing it, and publishing it. 

It’s not just for writers. The book is also perfect for bloggers, publishers, content creators, and marketers. What makes them similar to writers is their use of words n carrying out messages. 

“Everybody Writes” focuses more on online words, which must be considered “currency.” The words we type on the internet tell potential readers and customers who we are. Do we sound intelligent and convincing? Or do we sound like any other author on the web?

5. Enroll in an Online Writing Course.

Learning can be expensive. But the beauty of massive, open, and online courses lies in their accessibility to anyone on the internet. Most of these courses are free, while others are affordable. Plus, you can control when to open every topic!

An online writing course will allow you to develop a discerning eye for what makes a piece of writing exceptional. Online instructors also offer different activities to help you practice and boost your skills. 

Enrolling in an online course will allow you to experiment with and explore your style and voice. If the course features interactive discussions, you will collaborate with skilled peer writers. Feel free to ask questions and exchange ideas with them.

6. Find a Place to Get Real Critiques.

Finding a real mentor on the right platform will help build your career. Create a list of professional writers you idolize, then try reaching out to them through email. See if they are willing to critique your work and assist you in the business side of writing.

You can also get honest critiques from fellow writers with diverse perspectives. Try joining a writers’ group whose members are on the same level as you. It’ll help you be more productive as you complete writing projects together and offer each other feedback.

7. Create a Writing Schedule.

Successful writers have the discipline to write even if they are experiencing writer’s block. Other professions do not have a similar excuse, so they show up at work whether they like it.

Start with taking 30 minutes of your time every day to write. Gradually increase until you’re ready to make writing a full-time job. Lock these hours in your calendar to get a lot of projects done. 

8. Don’t Quit Your Day Job Yet.

If you’re a freelance writer, I don’t recommend quitting your day job until it’s practical. Think of everything you need to pay for: retirement, benefits, travel, insurance, and office supplies. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t write anymore. Keep writing and publishing your works. You can start treating it as a full-time job once it has become stable.

9. Find Paid Writing Opportunities. 

Aside from your blog, you can also look for paid opportunities on LinkedIn, Upwork, and other platforms. You may also try searching for writing gigs in your community.

There are so many part-time writing jobs that will hone your writing abilities. Find one where you can apply the strategies you employ in your job to your own writing pieces. 

10. Submit Your Writing.

The final step to pursuing a writing career is to submit your work to publishers. Try to land an agent who is willing to pay for your manuscript. 

Some publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, although some let you present at writers’ conferences.

You can also self-publish your work on Wattpad, Amazon, and Medium to get recognized. Consider creating a Kindle Direct Self-Publishing account. 

Kickstart Your Writing Profession

Even if you’re unpublished and a beginner, you must consider yourself a real writer. All you need is encouragement and a few tips to kickstart your career. 

First, decide whether you want to be a novelist, fiction writer, blogger, or another writer. Join different writers’ groups and have a mentor who will critique your work and writing skill. Overcome writer’s block by enrolling in writing courses, then put your work out there!

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