Getting Started as a Writer

In four easy steps

For years, I dreamt of becoming a writer. But it seemed to big, too impossible, and unreasonable to expect success for myself. The problem wasn’t in the idea of my writing being of interest to the world. The problem was within me. Maybe you feel stuck, too. So here’s my advice for becoming a writer, boiled down to the barest of bones:

Step One: Write

Congratulations, you are now a writer. Seriously, that’s all you have to do. If you want to become a writer, then sit down and write something. Don’t judge it, don’t try to make it perfect, just get some words down on paper or in a word processing program. Doing the actual writing is the first and only step to becoming a writer.

Of course I’m being simplistic. I imagine that what you mean by wanting to become a writer is to be a published writer or a professional one.

But the beginning of that path is exactly the same as for someone who just wants to get their feelings down in a diary or send a message to a friend. So rather than looking at the process of becoming published as this giant mass to tackle all at once, let’s get the first and most important step out of the way. After all, if you haven’t written anything, you can’t publish anything.

Step Two: Work on your fears

Ideally, this step would be “don’t have any fears”, but that’s not the way these things work. We all have fears – of being judged, of being dismissed, of embarrassing ourselves. And we can articulate those fears to ourselves, or worse have them articulated to us by others.

There are motivational quotes that we can use to push us through these moments of fear.

Feel the fear and do it anyway

Don’t wait until conditions are perfect

Have the confidence of a mediocre white man

(I’d say I was sorry if the last one offended you. But if you fall into that category, it isn’t like you’d be on this page or listen to anything I have to say anyway…)

That last one has been especially helpful for me.

Now what do we do?

Well, you could go (back) to school and get a BFA or MFA in creative writing. Or a BA or MA in journalism. But for a lot of us, that may not be financially or time-spent feasible. And even if you do, my next piece of advice is still geared toward you:

Step Three: Get thee a writing community

I cannot say how much having fellow writers rooting me on has helped not only develop my skills, but more importantly my confidence. For the most part, fiction writers are an incredibly supportive community. Just check out the #WritingCommunity #AmWriting and #AmEditing hashtags on Twitter. Follow your favorite authors. If you are a romance writer of any stripe, Romancelandia is your friend. Just show some home training and start off by listening and observing, rather than jumping straight in and making comments on things you may not understand, or worse, mansplaining anything to writers with more experience. While Romancelandia is a welcoming place, you will be gathered with a quickness by being impolite or judgmental.  (one life lesson, it is NOT a romance without an HEA or HFN)

Twitter is also a great resource to learn about mentorship programs, which brings me to my next point.

Step Four: Mentorship Programs

Now, if you started out by getting a degree in creative writing, you may already have mentors. But even if you do, it can’t hurt to try to get a little extra help. I am quite partial to PitchWars, having been a mentee and 2017 and a mentor in 2019 & 2020. There’s also Author Mentor Match and the Inclusive Romance Project, just off the top of my head. Here’s a blog post with some others. (by the way, Jane Friedman’s website is a great resource as you hone your craft) Even if you aren’t selected to participate in a program, there are often forums to participate in where you can make friends and form critique partnerships. (which gets us back to step 3, getting your writing community)

So. These are my suggestions. There’s a good chunk of material here, and it will get you started. However, step one is the most important. Sit down and write. Then own that you are a writer. As long as you keep moving forward, the rest will come.