How to Become a Professional Writer

When you develop your writing skills, there’s a point where it becomes easier to pour your heart out onto the page. For me I remember the moment when I realized I’d found my written voice and I will tell you that was a beautiful feeling. No one could ever take that away from me. That was a huge turning point in my path to becoming a professional writer.

If you’re interested in honing your skills and getting to a new level with your writing, there are a few tips I have for you.

Dream big and write consistently

Dream big to become a professional writerIt’s always good to allow yourself to dream big dreams. Don’t ever limit these audacious goals because you feel you need to fit within society’s ideas of normal. Normal is way overrated.

Go for it!

However…

You need to also recognize that all successful artists and entrepreneurs are only successful when they complete the small steps on their path to greatness. There’s an expression: Dream Big, Execute Small. I like that. Add to that Be Consistent.

Find baby steps that will propel you forward toward your epic goals. Then do these actions consistently.

I find that when I’m a little overwhelmed with a project, if I focus on the next step it becomes a piece of cake. Nothing to it. This applies to large sub goals that might take three months to complete.

For instance, recently I noticed I was putting off writing my own memoir. “I have plenty of writing work on my plate,” I reasoned with myself. Makes sense.

However, I really do want to complete this book. My hack for this is to select an easy target to complete. In this case, I opened the document and reviewed the last chapter I’d written. It had been a while, so that was helpful. And easy!

Once I could tick that step from my To Do list, I was ready to write the next chapter of my book. After that, the next chapter flowed out naturally. Now, if I’d set “Write two chapters” as my short-term goal, I probably would have pushed it to the backburner. I’m happy to tell you that I just passed the 40,000 word mark and am eager to continue. 

Focus on storytelling

For those writing a memoir or novel, you need to study the structure of a story. It’s interesting to note that all great stories told throughout time have followed a certain pattern or formula.

Yeah, I know. No one wants to hear that there’s a formula. If you’re anything like me, you automatically think of those cheesy movies that follow a template. They’re bad. I agree.

However, that doesn’t mean that books and movies don’t have a storytelling pattern. Once you know this, it’s a bit like becoming a code-breaking spy. There’ve been plenty of times when I’ve sat in a movie theater and have spotted one of the significant beats that all good storytellers hit. If you’d like to learn more about structure, check out my article The Structure of a Book.

Continue to study

Study writing to become a professional writerI don’t think you’ll ever find a professional writer who stops learning. We are always striving to improve. Personally, I read books on writing and study novels within the genre I wish to write. As a ghostwriter, I love tackling a new area. Recently I dove headfirst into the spy world to help a client outline his epic modern-day espionage thriller.

Part of your study should include chatting with other writers who are successful. Make sure they are the encouraging sort. No one needs a group of naysayers whispering invalidation into their ears. Find supportive authors who can be your go-to people for advice and inspiration.

I have a few ghostwriting friends that I chat with on a regular basis. I’m always learning so much from this pool of talent. One fellow ghostwriter recently suggested that I particularly study the first fifty pages so that I see how the author grabbed the reader’s attention. That was an excellent piece of advice that I wish to pass on to you. I’d like to add that you should also discover which popular books grabbed your attention and learn from that. If a book doesn’t interest you within the first few chapters, put it down and go to the next.

This should be a fun exercise.

 

Of course these tidbits of advice aren’t the only ingredients for a successful recipe on how to become a professional writer. If you have tips to add, please share them in the comments section. I’d love to hear how you became a professional writer!

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