Sunday, August 31, 2014

How to Become a Writer

So you want to be a writer, eh? You've just put down a book that stunk and thought, "I could do better than that!" Most people feel that burning desire to create something better than that horrid trash they just finished (or couldn't finish) reading for about five or ten minutes. Then, like a mild case of indigestion, the feeling goes away.
If the burning sensation you felt after declaring to every friend you have on Facebook that you could write a bestseller doesn't go away after a day or two, you might be on the precipice of becoming a writer. Perhaps you are the skeptical sort. "But Jen, it might just be a longer lasting case of bad-book indigestion because the writing was just that awful." If that's the case, I'm guessing you aren't a writer. Instead, you are an Amazon Top Reviewer in the making and you should hie yourself hence to inform the world of the good, the bad, and the stinky.
If the idea of critiquing other people's great works of literary art makes you itchy and the burning sensation remains, you are either allergic to your laundry detergent or a writer. Take your pick.
The rest, as they say, is easy peasy pudding pie. (What? They don't say that? Are you sure? What's wrong with peasy pudding pie, I ask you?)

Here are some tips for becoming a writer, in order of importance:
1. Write.
That one was easy.
2. Call yourself a writer. 
Yeah, I know, it's tempting to say, "aspiring writer" but those are the people who sit around coffee houses with their laptops open, wearing berets and sucking down $40 cups of coffee. If you're a writer, you can afford to aspire, so stop it. (Unless you've recently won the lottery and/or Uncle Frederick von Richie Pants died and left you his millions. Then, by all means, call yourself what you want.)
3. Read.
"Pish posh," you say. "I've read all I need. Don't want to taint the ole imagination pool." This often comes with a jaunty tapping of the skull, in case no one else knows where the ole imagination originates. 
To get this notion out of your head, go read some of the submission guidelines for publishers, whether or not you're planning on going that route. You'll see the exasperation in them. "For the love of all that's unholy, stop sending us evil babies suck the souls out of ducks, stories!" (I have it on the highest authority that evil babies sucking duck souls is way overdone. Ignore at your own peril.) You'd know that this is overdone if you bothered to read in your genre.
4. Be not afraid of trodding the well-worn path.
Wait, what? Didn't I JUST say that you needed to read in order to discover what not to write? Or read in order to know what has already been done a thousand times before?
Yes. Yes I did. Here's the difference. People like, say, secret baby stories or chosen one stories because it resonates with something deep down inside them. The problem is authors who don't read in their genre and therefore end up with nothing new to offer the trope. If you can bring your own unique spin to the secret baby romance, then it becomes a valuable story to the people who love secret babies. (They love them as long as they aren't angry, duck-soul stealing babies.)
5. Write.
Said it again. It's important.
6. Finish what you write.
Yeah, it's fun to talk about what you're writing but at the end of the day, you need to finish the damn thing. "Writing is a journey!" It may very well be, but do you want to be forever on the road, with no place to call home? No pillow on which to drop your weary head? ARE YOU MAD? Finish it. Then write the next thing. Finish it. Then write the next thing. Do that until you drop dead over your keyboard. 
So, how do you become a writer? Sit down and write. There really isn't much more to it. You could add studying grammar rules and learning vocabulary words and reading writing books but in the end, if you read a lot and write a lot, you'll learn 90% of the things you really need to know.

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