If you want to be a writer, this advice will help. It comes from a 20 year veteran of the writing industry.
From an early age, I knew I wanted to write for a living. It was a deeply rooted thought in me, that blossomed as I grew. Not long after I graduated from college, I went to work at my first newspaper. Since then, I’ve written for bigger papers, major websites, magazines and more. I’ve even written several books.
These days, my day job is editor for a publishing company. I oversee a regional magazine and edit the features stories for a news website and paper. On the side, I write — for myself and for others.
Do you want to be a writer? If so, here’s some advice from me, a woman who has been in the writing business for nearly 20 years.
Read a lot
I say this again and again when teaching college students: good writers are good readers. And I hope, for those that ultimately will pursue writing, that it sinks in. But don’t limit yourself — read everything: novels, news, poetry, essays, history, the backs of cereal boxes. Expose yourself to a variety of writing styles, voices and genres. It will open your mind, and show you how other people string words together.
By regularly, I mean every day. From tweets to blog posts, Instagram captions to articles, there are so many ways to get some writing in. Even if it’s just jotting down some thoughts, write something daily. The more you practice your writing, the better it will become. It’s like exercising a muscle.
Create a writing routine
Find the time in your schedule for writing. Maybe it’s early mornings. Maybe it’s late at night. Maybe it’s at lunchtime. It really doesn’t matter when as long as you make the time for your writing. Then, stick to your routine. Make it an unbreakable appointment with yourself.
Revise, revise, revise
Here’s another thing I always tell my students: Your first draft is never the final draft. It’s a starting point, a place to begin. And with tweaking and polishing, it will go from good first draft to great final draft. So don’t fool yourself: be proud of your first draft, but don’t mistake it for being done.
Take criticism well
This is absolutely key. Everyone needs an editor — an editor helps you polish your work by pointing out holes, asking questions and letting your know where you get too wordy. Even the best editors needs editors themselves. An editor might remind you to show, not tell. They might even tell you to write more in a certain section. Listen to them. Hear them. Think about it. Don’t jump to defensiveness. You might, ultimately, not agree with everything they say. But they are trying to help you improve your writing, so take the constructive criticism in the vein in which it is intended.
A deadline isn’t a suggestion or request. It’s a time when you are expected to have your work submitted. There are many reasons you should make sure you meet deadlines. It’s the professional thing to do. And turning in clean copy by the deadline will endear you to editors (read: it will get you more assignments!). And it’s good for your own psyche too. No one needs late work hanging over their heads, causing stress.
Keep at it
Every writer has set backs and more challenging day. Keep going. Keep writing. Try a brain dump to clear your mind — or take a walk. But whatever you do, don’t stop writing.