I have three emails waiting for me, all asking the same question.
It’s one of my favorite questions.
“Annie, I want to be a writer. Will you tell me how to do it?”
Yes, yes I will.
Actually, I can’t.
I mean, I can tell you some tips and ideas, but here’s the truth- every journey is different. Every writer friend I have had ended up here, wherever “here” is, through a unique set of ups and downs and brave moments and tears and long hours at a computer.
There are lots of blogs you can be reading about how to be a writer and how to improve your skillz, your audience, your influence, all of it. And those are good things to do- read about this career.
Let me suggest a few:
Also, check out my list of favorite books on writing.
But if you just want to talk about how to be a writer, here are a few basic tips that I think will help you get started:
1. Read a lot. And read a wide variety of things. When I am writing non-fiction, I am reading fiction. When I’m traveling, I’m reading non-fiction. Our writer’s group is reading poetry. I love magazines. The best writers are the ones who fill their brain with words.
2. Keep a notebook with you. Because some of the words you read will jump off the page and you’ll need a place to record them. Sometimes really stellar sentences for your current project will come to mind and if you don’t write them down, you will smack your forehead multiple times later in the day trying to remember it.
3. Start writing. You don’t have to wait for a publisher or a person to tell you to work on a project. If that’s what you are waiting on, here it is: WRITE. If there is a story or a lesson or a book hidden in you, find it and let it out. I have two books completely written that have never seen the light of day- but the dream was in me, so I wrote them. Will something happen with them? Hopefully. But for now, they live on my hard drive and in my heart. I write every day whether I’m on a deadline or not. Because I’m a writer.
4. Go to writer’s conferences. My first conference was a one-day event in Atlanta from ACW. [They are a great resource, by the way.] There are tons of conferences available for people who want to be writers, speakers, bloggers, whatever. Go to them. I met my first agent and many of my dearest writing friends at writer’s conferences. Also, there is no better motivation to do your work than sitting in a room full of people DOING what you are DREAMING about.
5. Pitch to magazines. Every magazine has an online presence and many of them take submissions. Start getting your name and your work out there. On websites that have articles, look for “submission guidelines” to figure out if you can write for them. I started by sending submissions to Relevant Magazine‘s former sister magazine Radiant, created by Cara Davis. [It was good, I’m sad it is gone.] One of the editors, Corene Israel, believed in me and published my stuff before anyone else did. I will thank her in every book I ever publish.
6. Join/start a writer’s group. You can look on MeetUp.com to see if there is a writer’s group in your area. I think there is no better way to see if your work is on track than to have others who are doing the same type of work read it. I meet with three other women- two prose writers and a songwriter- about once every other month or so. We read books together about writing and share whatever we are currently working on.
7. Pray. Every day. Pray for your writing and your words. Pray that God would open all the right doors and close all the wrong ones. And then believe it when that happens.
[Notice I didn’t talk about building your platform or networking or connecting with your favorite author for an endorsement of your book. All that is well and good, but the truth is that if you want to be a writer, you’ve got to write first. All that will come in time. Think first about honing your skillz and hearing God when you write, then think about the biz side later.]
Want an example of someone to watch? Amanda Williams. Amanda started a blog because she wanted to write about her family, and then as she continued to write and get involved in the blog community, people took notice. She was a community leader at the Influence Conference and is now a contributing writer for She Reads Truth and Deeper Story. She’s invested some money into her career- building a beautiful website, attending conferences, etc. The right doors keep opening and someday, I bet we’ll be reading her book.
So those are my basic thoughts on where to start if you want to be a writer. As I said from the beginning, there are a lot of steps and everyone’s story is unique. Just trust God. Be brave. Be open to new experiences and people.
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Do you have thoughts on being a writer? Other blogs that people should read? Books your recommend? Conferences? Share on, friends. I’d love to hear your thoughts.