Three important decisions to make to help you become a writer
I was recently asked by a friend who is coordinating work experience for school kids, if I would be interested in speaking to someone who is in Year 11 and determined to be an author. I am the only person she knows (and only found out by accident just recently) who wants to be a ‘writer’. And as I told her, I’ve not long come out as a someone who wants to be a published author, which on occasion fills me with doubt but mainly excitement as to what may one day be achieved.
Which got me to thinking. If I had followed my childhood dream after finishing school and took the steps to become a writer, rather than coming about it years later via a haphazard and bumpy path, how would I have gone about it?
University? TAFE course? Online course through a writers centre? Online course through an online learning centre?
Each of these hold their own advantages and disadvantages. You will need to look at:
- cost – for example: around $20,000 at uni vs. $195 for a 2 day TAFE course.
- how long the course goes for – for example: 3 years full time at uni vs. 6 week online course.
- what you want out of it at the end – for example: B. of Fine Arts – Creative & Professional Writing can get you into not just fiction/non-fiction/corporate/script-writing, but also editing, publishing, teaching and more vs. a short online course which has the possibility of limiting you to the course outline e.g. travel writing, magazine writing.
Now, one might say that it isn’t necessary to even do any of these suggestions, just go hard at it and write. Yes, there are plenty of people who I daresay have done this and been successful, but at the same time… I just think it doesn’t hurt to hear what others have to say about the writing process. Yes?
How are you going to support yourself to pay for your education (whichever way you decide to go) and also while you are slaving away as an introverted hermit while you write the next multi-award-winning book that is going to make you into a millionaire?
For most wannabe authors, they have a proper job and/or families and/or other obligations where they have to get up in the morning and get their stuff done for the day, before coming home and burning the midnight oil just to get words onto paper (or screen).
So why not get a job that immerses you in the writing and book industry? Examples:
- intern at a publishing house, editing agency, literacy agency, magazine, newspaper – in any industry, half the time it is all about the people you know. I know that, you know that, so get in there and know them.
- work in a library or bookstore – be around books all day, every day.
- see if there’s anything available at the numerous writing centres around Australia – maybe you can manage the social media accounts, course registrations, or administration.
What else can you do to truly absorb yourself into the world of writing? Plenty!
- join different organisations – romance and crime both have established organisations in Australia that I know of, and I am sure there will be others out there – they are a happy band of people who have the same dreams that you do.
- volunteer – in the above-mentioned organisations
- attend writers and readers festivals/conferences – meet authors, agents, publishers, fellow writers, fellow readers – widen your circle. Do the workshops and listen in on forums.
- join a writing group – find the right people and they will lift you up to new heights with your writing via critiques, pats on the back and general camaraderie.
- search Facebook for writing pages/groups and join/follow – similar to the first point.
- join a book club – guaranteed to make you read widely and what you may not normally read, which is a must.
- expand your writing horizons – completed a short course on newspaper writing? Do another on copywriting or creative writing, for example. Become a writer of all things, while you continue to endeavour to become an author.
- enter writing competitions – make sure that it isn’t a scam and is run by a reputable organisation and get your work out there. Some offer invaluable feedback on all or finalist entries, but even if they don’t, it helps you work to a deadline, word limits and guidelines.
- listen to writing podcasts – the Australian Writers Centre ‘So You Want to be a Writer’, and Vanessa Carnevale‘s ‘Your Creative Life‘ are both informative and interesting to listen to. And there are plenty more out there.
- last but not least, write every day – get into a rhythm. Even if you only jot down 100 words of personal thoughts as you have your morning coffee, it is something. And something is better than nothing. You will work out your own groove in writing.
I feel like I’ve probably forgotten many other important ideas on how to become an author, but I figure this is a good start. Needless to say, this is only the beginning of the process – it will take time, effort, tears and laughter, and good ol’ luck to get the prized publishing contract that is at the end of the rainbow.
Do you have any other points for aspiring writers? Particularly for those who know this is what they want to be when they grow up and leave school?