Writing Tips for Becoming an Author

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

If you want to write for a living then you need to—and I mean doggedly—set yourself up to write. Sounds easy, right? It isn’t, at least not for most of us. There’s carving out time. There’s finding a physical space, someplace quiet without distractions. There’s finding inspiration, and there’s also learning and perfecting the craft. Not to mention that beyond this, there’s finding someone to read what you’ve written and, hopefully, monetizing your efforts. Here are a few writing tips for becoming an author.

Find Space

There are writers who are able to work their magic in a coffeehouse. Barring the clearly mind-blowing hyper-ability to shut out barista chitchat and the screech of milk frothing, there are more options than you might think. A surprising number of literary centers offer writers a physical space, as in actual studio space, in order to write. Go online or to your local library to see about nearby resources, and if there isn’t such novelty, secure a nook somewhere, be it a corner in the kitchen, a friend’s den, said library, or wherever; the point is to have a space you treat like an office, and then go to work.

Speaking of space, there are dozens and dozens of writer residencies scattered all over the United States and, indeed, the world. Some are connected to colleges, some aren’t, and similar to applying for a grant, beyond your CV/resume, you’ll want to be able to offer a project plan, work samples, letters of recommendation, and work samples when you apply. The payoff is huge: a week or two, maybe more, or maybe just a long weekend, uninterrupted. Heck, some of them even offer meal service.

Build Author Connections

“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference.” Stephen King said this, and it’s true. Tribes are good, especially when it’s a tribe who knows what it means to while away hour after hour, stringing sentences together to communicate something.

Building author connections with writers is important, and not just when your book goes to market. (Though I can almost guarantee your fellow wordsmiths will be the ones who drop in to your book signings and support you when it comes to sharing the what’s what about your book on social media.) There’s mentoring and there are beta readers. Both are likely fellow writers.

So while writing and literary centers are great places to make contacts, they also offer workshops and creative writing classes. Even if it’s a two-hour class, it’s a chance to be submerged in craft, and working on one’s craft should be a writer’s constant goal. Perhaps a lot of what literary and writing centers offer us comes down to goal setting.

What I know is this: if you have a goal to be a writer, who makes money from his or her writing, utilize everything you can to be better trained, better informed, and better connected.

Find Solitude

Sometime ago J. K. Rowling offered, “Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write books . . . I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian horntail guards its firstborn egg.”

If Rowling has to fight for writing time, imagine how it is for first-time authors? And it isn’t just the demands of having a life—whether or not you have kids or you’re in school or you presently work a secondary job to support your writing habit—it’s that it’s really tough to disconnect. True solitude is hard to come by.

Craig Mod writes, “Our attentions have been wrest from our control, like a flock of android starlings, or a million IP enabled toasters. We were reasonably autonomous things. Now we’re indifferently synchronous, easily manipulated.”

And so it remains, when it comes to working it—the work it takes to be a writer—I advise that it takes solitude. And, to be clear, what I mean by solitude, serious solitude, is that writers disconnect. So more than tracking down project-specific grants or crowdsourcing or taking a class or even reading (which is, perhaps, the second best piece of advice I’d offer), or carving out time or securing a cool space—that, in order to reflect, imagine, and create, writers need very specific, “living-off-the-grid” aloneness.


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Ellie Maas Davis

Ellie Maas Davis owns Pressque, a publishing consultation firm located in downtown Charleston that offers editing and ghostwriting services to authors and publishers.