20 June 2018 | Career Advice | Guest Author
Want to become a professional writer?
If you are not afraid of working long hours, getting rejected at least twice a week, and spending as much time in search of job opportunities as you will spend actually working, read on. By the end of this article, you will learn 7 simple tips that will make you a better writer. And yes, writing can make a promising career, you just need to grow into it.
Get a schedule and eliminate all distractions
Let’s face it: the human mind is easily distracted and prone to procrastination. Those who manage to make a successful career in writing testify to the usefulness of small routines and consistent schedules. Research also shows that routines can make our lives more meaningful.
Set aside a few hours every day, put your phone into silent mode, turn off desktop notifications, take a few deep breaths, and start writing.
Even if you don't have a job yet, use this time for sending out CVs, pitches, or looking for career opportunities. Choose the time of day wisely: you need to be writing during your most productive hours, even if they happen to be between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.
Do your research
I’m sure you've already heard a thousand times that you need to write with a particular audience in mind. That is all fine. What they tell you less often is that you will not know your audience unless you research it diligently. Simply guessing what they need will not get you far.
If, for instance, you will be writing for middle-aged women, you should spend some time in Facebook groups and other places where they hang out to listen and take notes. Make your writing relevant to what they are experiencing right now, use their words and expressions, and your writing will cut right to the heart of your audience.
Read other authors
Even renowned authors, like Stephen King, spend at least a few hours a day reading. If you are not as famous yet, you should be even more eager to build up your vocabulary and improve your style by reading. The amazing thing is that your skills will improve naturally, without you even noticing it. And in several years, young writers may be learning from you.
One more thing, if you are writing on a certain topic, you should be aware what other authors deliver on the topic. So, subscribe to relevant web-resources and follow the authors who are influencers in your writing niche.
Learn the rules...and break them
You’ve read your copy of “The Elements of Style” already, haven’t you? If not, you are missing out on an amazing resource to improve your writing. Having a good thesaurus and a grammar manual wouldn’t hurt too.
With all these resources at hand, you will be creating better and better texts until you feel confident enough to break some of the rules you’ve read about. But remember, it takes skill and experience to depart from guidelines and not look silly.
Spell check and read your drafts aloud
First of all, spelling still matters. It is best to leave your fresh draft for another day and proofread it with a fresh mind. Make sure you use online grammar checking tools but do not rely solely on them. There are many issues, like misusing words or pronouns, that they cannot track.
Before you proofread, take a few minutes and read your text aloud. Think about that soft inner voice that is reading these words to you right now. Your readers have it too. Make sure that your text is smooth and easy. You will know that you need to edit a sentence when you start losing your breath in the middle of it. Or you may find that you have lost the meaning of a sentence because it is crammed with long unpronounceable words.
Get a circle of support and a writing buddy
Suppose, you don’t have a personal editor yet, how can you be sure that your important content is error free and a pleasure to read? The more time you’ve spent writing something, the more difficult it will be to assess it. That’s why you should have a few friends who can look through your draft and tell you honestly what they think about it. Getting a second pair of eyes on your text will always make it better.
If you want to publish something big someday, find someone in your close circle who’s after the same dream and team up with them. If you are living in New York or Los Angeles, which are the best cities for writers to live, every next person you meet on the streets will be an aspiring writer. You can go through your routines together and encourage one another on your way to success.
Confidence in one's talents is just one more habit you should grow into. It doesn’t mean that you will never have doubts, but means that you work through these doubts day after day.
Similarly, the ill-famed 'writer's block' is not something you can overcome once and for all. Instead, remind yourself why you chose to write in the first place and type those first sentences.
And, most importantly, always have fun!