You’ll get where you want to go by committing to these steps just like I committed. And since writing isn’t a one size fits all career, I tweaked my own steps and experiences to match any writer in any genre or form. Before we start the list, I want to dissuade a certain type of writer from poo-pooing on this article.
The vampire writer. The writer who doesn’t write but feeds off of other writers. They are a dark force of negativity. This article isn’t for them. This isn’t for the writer who has given up, who doesn’t believe their dreams are attainable, who believes their key to success is not in writing but in bringing other writers down for doing what they refuse to.
If you are that type of writer, shed your cloak and fangs before you begin. Open yourself up to possibility, or perish in the dark.
Analyze and read your contemporaries
Something that I noticed when I first started writing was that a lot of writers didn’t read what was being published now. Instead, they based their knowledge of craft, writing, and publishing on what was popular or being published decades ago.
So, the first thing I did to stand out from those writers who went nowhere was to read what was being written and published currently in my genre. Not only did it help me understand story, but it also helped me become familiar with the writers I wanted to one day work with and among.
Pro Tip: Don’t read what’s being published to try and pick up on trends or anything fickle like that. Read to learn how stories are being weaved and crafted today. What are readers drawn to and why?
Utilize deliberate writing practice
I talk about this a lot in my other writing articles because it’s honestly been the one thing that has helped me level up my craft in such a short span of time. I started seriously writing in 2015 and sold my first story in 2018 and began writing for top publications in 2019. During two of those years, I began implementing steady and scheduled deliberate writing practices into my routine.
Deliberate practice is a focused type of practice that relies on the person being purposeful and systematic. Think of it like this, normal practice is all about the basic mindless act, but deliberate practice is about thoughtful focused attention on a particular element with the intention of getting better at it.
Pro Tip: Find out what elements of storytelling are important in your genre and focus on setting up deliberate practice sessions on those elements first.
Cut the fat
The first thing I did when I decided I was going to commit to the act of becoming a published full-time writer was begin looking at my life for places where I could cut the fat, so to speak, so that I could spend more time on my writing. My biggest time waste was, unfortunately, hanging out with negative people. Negative didn’t always mean that they were bad in any way.
It had more to do with what they brought into my life and what I brought to theirs. If neither of us was getting better from the relationship, I cut ties. I cut ties with people who only talked about the same things over and over again. I cut ties with people who didn’t believe in what I was doing. I cut so much from my life, I had created enough extra time to devote a full-time schedule to my writing life while working 2 other jobs that took up 60+ hours of my week.
Pro Tip: Examine your life for the areas and people that aren’t benefiting you or are holding you back and cut them out fast.
Never waver on your dreams
This might be the most important thing I’ve done on this list aside from deliberate practice. When I started writing, I set out with several other writers of varying talent and skill levels. Out of those writers, I’m the only one who has sold anything or reached any of their goals. It’s worth mentioning that out of those writers, I was the less talented and trained.
The thing that marked me different was my absolute belief that I would reach my dreams and goals. Though the others had a lot of ego when it came to to their craft and talent, I was the only one who held the belief that I could reach my goals and wouldn’t stop until I did. My faith in myself is almost psychotic. I won’t rest until I reach my goals, and if I die trying, so be it.
Pro tip: Never give up. Not after the 700th rejection and not after the 1,000th rejection. If you want to be published in The New Yorker, work your a** off to reach that goal, and don’t stop until you do.
Learn how to sell a story
If you have an amazing story on your hands, no one is going to read it if you don’t know how to market yourself and sell the story to the right readers. Being a writer isn’t just about the craft of story, it’s also about working as a professional like any other career. That means knowing your client base and your product.
Your story is a product. Sorry to break it to you, but if you want to get readers, you have to accept it and switch your mindset. Once I started incorporating selling principles into how I interacted with readers, publishers, and editors and how I market my stories to them, I began selling more and having opportunities come to me.
Pro tip: Publishing and writing are a business like any other that survives by presenting clients with a product(story). By becoming a writer who can interpret and sell in the market, you’ll be an unstoppable force with publishers and editors coming to you.
Become the writer of your dreams
Your dreams may look different than mine, but the way we can reach our dreams is virtually the same. Commitment and dedication are key which is why those two things are at the heart of everything I suggest. Dedicate yourself to understand what genre or niche you are writing in. Commit to the daily practice of being a writer and learning the craft.
More importantly, though, commit to yourself and dedicate your passion to your craft. Don’t start until you feel the itch to write or wait for the opportunity to write. Write now. Practice now. Start growing now.
Takeaways with action steps to begin today
- Analyze and read your contemporaries
–Action step: Whatever genre or niche you write in, go find 3 recently published books, articles, or stories and analyze them. Make this a daily habit.
- Utilize deliberate practice
–Action step: Taking one of the stories from the above action step, pick a storytelling or craft element and rewrite the story, highlighting the moments where the element is in full effect. Do this weekly or more.
- Cut the fat
–Action step: For the next week, carry around a small piece of paper and write down any moments throughout the day where you see you have extra time and where you feel as though your time is being wasted. Think bus rides, waiting in line, talking to negative people, etc. Use that to begin designing a schedule that adds more time to your writing life.
- Never waver on your dreams
–Action step: Write out your dream five-year plan of how you wish your life would look over the next several years. Begin implementing steps that reach some of the goals over the next few weeks until you are working toward your dream five-year plan.
- Learn how to sell story
–Action step: Find 10 publications in your niche or genre and read their submission guidelines like they were textbooks. Take notes on what editors want, what they suggest writers stay away from, etc.