How Do I Become a “Writer”?

Written By: jOakes

Generally, in order to market yourself as something/anything, you have to be that something. For instance, if you are marketing yourself as a nurse, you must be a nurse and have the requisite experience that enables you to carry that title and certification. However, there is no “license” to write. How then – and at what point – does somebody officially become a “writer”? Everybody is a writer in a literal sense. We write letters, we text, we keep journals. But when you decide to become a working writer, you are making the leap from writing for practical reasons to writing for an audience – producing work that has a life of its own as opposed to functioning only as practical communication (i.e., letters) or notes to yourself (journals, reminder notes, etc.).

In general, people write for one or more of the following three reasons: a deadline, a passion, or an objective. When you want to write with the goal of being published, you should start with your passion –specifically, an area of expertise about which you are passionate. Although passion and expertise usually go hand and hand, you may have a deadline that cannot wait for your passion to be ignited. Having an area of expertise – particularly a unique one – is an angle you can use in order to market yourself.

Marketing yourself as a writer is closer to an art than a science. In order to win paid assignments, in most cases you will have to demonstrate a level of competence — which comprises your experience, style and skill as a wordsmith. You should know when you’re ready to be published — because the publication to which you submit work will certainly know. Realistic appraisal of one’s own writing is essential. Is it as good as it can be? Define your goals according to both your ambitions and abilities.

Start small. If you are a writer just getting started in the marketplace, would the first place that you submit work be Time magazine? Probably not. Be realistic. It is important that you have a confident, yet honest, sense of yourself. You must know that you’re good. At the same time, be sure that your target publication is right for you and what you have to offer. Ironically, often the best way to become a paid writer is to begin by writing for free. These assignments are often easier to get. Then, after you build a healthy resume, you will be able to sell yourself more effectively. Having experience is extremely important. As a writer you are selling your reputation as much as a story. If you have a great idea for a story, but the editor is unfamiliar with your work, you probably won’t sell it. By contrast, if you have a great reputation and an iffy idea (one that could either sink or swim based on the writer), you are more likely to be hired than if you have the opposite. Because a good idea is never a guarantee of a good story; only a good writer is. Always be aware of the need to excel; in most cases, you are selling not only a story but yourself.

Fields and Areas of Focus:

There are as many writing jobs out there as you can imagine. The government needs writers. Hallmark Cards needs writers. Advertising needs writers. If you specialize in fiction or creative nonfiction, you will want to contribute to magazines or journals. Or you may even want to write a book. In order to write for a magazine, start realistically. Get to know the publication. Find the contact information, which will be somewhere in the first several pages. You can often find contact info online. Be sure you write to the right editor. If you write fiction, you should contact the fiction editor; and so on. With this area of writing, you will be directly marketing yourself. You will not need an agent. If you decide to write a book: After the book has been written, you will want to secure a good literary agent. The better the agent, the more difficult it will be to gain representation. We will discus how to write a good query letter.

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