Tuesday, August 9, 2011

So You Want To Be A Writer

photo by Donna Weeden
Lots of folks do and lots of folks are. 

Today my brain is rambling on a bit so I'll just let the words ramble on my computer screen and allow them to pay a visit to yours.

Today I'm not going to talk about 'how to' do anything or 'where to go' for help and tips and all that stuff.

Today we're just going to ruminate about writing. What it's all about and what you can expect.

So, the first question I'd ask someone who said he or she wanted to be a writer, is what kind of writer?  Being a writer doesn't automatically mean writing novels or short stories or even magazine articles though of course all of those are possibilities.

However, you may choose to be a non-fiction book writer. A textbook writer, a technical writer, a writer for TV or movies, a blogger, a commercial writer, a copywriter, a comic book writer, or any of many other 'branches' of writing.

Or, you might consider using one type of writing you enjoy to support another type you love.  For example, if you love to write novels, they take time and frankly, getting it written, published and a decent income from them is a long haul and many writers always have to maintain a 'day job' even after published multiple times. That being the reality, perhaps you can cultivate a higher or more quickly paying type of writing to fill in the gaps, because believe me there are areas for writers that pay much better than others and on a more regular basis.

For example, copywriting can be a lucrative business.  That's writing the copy for advertising.  Maybe that long letter like what you received in the mail. Somebody wrote that and learning the craft of copywriting can certainly add to your bottom line. You can start out promoting your copywriting abilities locally for businesses and expand into larger markets.

You might consider honing your abilities to be able to offer a service to people writing resumes or writing newsletters for local businesses.  When you are handy with words, there are a lot of areas you can break into that you'll enjoy to help support yourself doing something you love.

Use your imagination.  Think of where the writers are - everywhere.  Newspaper? Writers. Magazines? Writers. Advertising? Writers. Scripts for TV, movies, even commercials? Writers. White papers? Writers.  Newsletters and how-to manuals? Writers. Greeting cards? Writers.  You get the drift.  Writers are everywhere in print, online, on billboards, for companies that need materials created. Editing is another off-shoot.  Become a great editor and you help not only yourself but can hire those skills out.

Of course all these outlets take some working your way into, but if you realize from the beginning that writing is a business as well as an art and craft, the value of training yourself in more than one area will become apparent.

So lets talk about money for a minute.  Be real, if you're just starting, you're at the bottom.  The odds of you selling a book first shot out for a six figure advance is astronomical (yes I know it's happened, but it hasn't happened often).  It's sort of the 'finger of god' if it does happen.  So, it could happen, but don't count on it.

On the other hand, don't work for nothing. Just because you're new doesn't mean you should work for zip.  After all, if you were just starting at some fast food restaurant you wouldn't be working for nothing.  Very little maybe, but not nothing.  Don't buy into the myth that new writers have to put their work out there and work for nothing.  Find a way to earn money with with you do.  Skip the non-payers.

Oh, and remember if you are shooting at writing and selling novels and are fortunate enough to land a contract, the 'advance' if you get one, means it's payment to you ahead of time against future earnings.  That means it's the only money you'll see for quite some times as the book has to be published, sold, and accounting periods pass before you earn out that money in sales and potentially earn more than that (which for a first book is usually small bucks or  no bucks above the advance).  So, don't give up that 'day job' or whatever other writing outlet you have that's earning you money.

Keep in mind as well that once you go solo - freelance, you're self-employed.  You get to pay more taxes and you need to keep up with them or find yourself in big trouble with the IRS.  You'll also need to get your own health insurance coverage. There are other things as well, but I figure these two will serve as warning to you to cover your back before you take the plunge.

All that said, would I change all that I've done to be a freelance writer?  The times of hanging on by my fingernails waiting for the next check, the jobs I held in addition to my writing earlier on.  No. I love it, but I'm a realist.  And things are changing rapidly with the net and computers from my early days as a writer when it meant mailing a complete manuscript and waiting for a response.

So I say use your imagination, cultivate more than one area of expertise and full speed ahead!

Enough rambling for this time - I'll have a new Website for writers in tomorrow's post.


  1. Hi, Peggy.
    Seeing it listed like that makes me want to give it up! Lol!
    I have a novel published and since then I have been networking and blogging like crazy. Then, positive reviews led me to be recruited to write on-line magazine articles in my neck of the woods. I get paid for none of it. I have been selling copies of my novel, both e-book and softcover, but - as you say - it's a lot of work.
    If you want to be a writer, you'd better really want it. Right?
    Have a great week and thanks for posting.


  2. Thanks for the comment James! You're right, if you want to be a writer, you really need to want it -but it's worth it if you do!

  3. Well said, although just 'deciding' to be a writer might not be enough. Many people I know that write are compelled to do so. Unfortunately, it isn't probably very lucrative in terms of paying the bills, but if it's something you LOVE, its worth it!
    Following your blog, too!


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