I’ve heard people say they’d love to go back to school and learn to be a writer. College is great and I’m an advocate of grabbing all the education we can but believe me, that’s not how we learn to be a writer. We learn by doing. Here’s a simple but honest roadmap all of us can follow over and over again to teach us and hone our skills.
Read. Don’t read just anything—read the best of the best. I could give you a list of books, but my opinion of “the best” might differ from yours. Remember, the saying garbage in-garbage-out is true.
Write. Every day. Some people argue that writing daily isn’t necessary. I believe the more you write, the better writer you become. And yes, I believe in forcing yourself to write. We force ourselves to wash dishes and clothes and toilets (or am I the only one?) so why wouldn’t we force ourselves to do something we truly love?
Write long. Tell your story then cut it short. You’ll be surprised how many unnecessary words you’ve used. Make every word count.
Write short. I believe writing fillers, letters to the editor, very short pieces teach us to write tight. I’ve heard writers say they can’t create anything in a 100 words. Like my mama always said, “Can’t never could do a thing!” If you can’t create in 100 words how will you ever write your book blurbs?
Submit. Find a couple of markets to conquer: Chicken Soup for the Soul or Woman’s World. There are many opportunities within those two markets.
Join a local writers’ group. If there’s not one in your town, start one. You might belong to thirty online groups, and that’s great, but there’s nothing like gabbing with other writers at your favorite coffee shop.
Call yourself a writer. Tell people you meet for the first time that you’re a writer. Yes, it’s hard because they always ask what you’ve published and you may not have published anything. That doesn’t matter. Tell them you’re working on short stories, a novel, a screenplay and hope to submit soon. The more you say you’re a writer—out loud—the more you’ll believe it.
Recognize opportunities. When you talk about writing and call yourself a writer, opportunities come your way–from local magazines and newspapers, the Chamber of Commerce, or from church or club newsletters. Don’t ever pass up an opportunity that falls in your lap.
Learn. Craft books, trade magazines, online writing classes and blogs are at your fingertips. Take advantage of them. Educate yourself about markets, the business of writing, agents and publishers, traditional and indie publishing. Don’t depend on anyone to do your research for you. Your career is your responsibility.
You’ll never know everything—no one does. Don’t ever, ever quit learning.