So you want to learn how to become a writer this year? There are plenty of tools and knowledge available to help with your journey.
Maybe you're new to writing or you've been writing a secret manuscript for years, and you want to finally take the leap. First and foremost, congratulations! Writing is one of the most important forms of human expression and communication; a pillar of language, storytelling, and connecting people. If you've ever written anything, you can adopt the title of writer. It's not a secret title on the esteemed author can achieve! You're already a writer, but maybe I can help you hone your craft.
How to become a writer this year: Practice and patience
I have been writing since I was a teenager. I've been a successful professional copywriter and editor since 2017, and I published my first novella in 2020. Does that mean I'm qualified to advise anyone one becoming a writer? Maybe not, but it does mean I have some understanding of the process. I've chosen to take the title of "writer," and I didn't even have to make the NYT bestseller list to do it.
First and foremost, it's important to understand that learning how to become a writer is not an overnight process. It takes time, dedication, and hard work to build a writing career. Writers spend years of their lives learning language, grammar, the craft of storytelling, and the nuances of whatever industry they want to write in. The great thing about writing is that there's a lot you can do with it. Here are some careers you might pursue with writing prowess:
Copywriter: You can write web copy for ads, blogs, or other marketing materials.
Author: Many writers aspire to become an author, and it's easier than ever with self-publishing options.
Script writer: You might write scripts for videos, movies, or other visual media.
Technical Writer: This type of role involves writing technical documentation, such as user manuals, instruction guides, and technical specifications.
Journalist: Journalists research and write news stories for newspapers, magazines, and online news outlets.
Grant Writer: These professionals write grant proposals to secure funding from foundations and other organizations.
Resume Writer: These professionals help job applicants create effective resumes and cover letters to enhance their chances of landing a job.
Editor: These professionals review written work and make corrections, suggestions, and revisions to improve it for publication or other use.
The path to writing: 6 steps
Here are six steps you can follow to learn how to become a writer. Don't take them as gospel, but they are tips I follow myself to maintain my writing quotas and get started in the industry.
1. Practice writing...whenever you can
Practice your writing craft when you have the time. Sometimes, you might have to make time. The more you write, the better you'll get. Finding time to write can be a challenge, especially if you have a busy schedule. However, it is possible to make time for writing even if you have a lot of other responsibilities. One strategy is to schedule specific blocks of time for writing into your calendar, and to treat those blocks of time as non-negotiable appointments. This will help you to focus on your writing and avoid getting distracted by other tasks.
Another approach is to take advantage of small pockets of free time throughout the day, such as during your commute or your lunch break, and use that time to write. You can also try breaking your writing sessions into shorter periods of time, such as 20 minutes, and focus on getting a specific task done during that time. Additionally, you can set smaller and more realistic writing goals which are achievable in the given time. Remember that quality is more important than quantity and consistency is key.
2. Read...then read some more
I often see this debated in writing circles. Is it really so important to read if you want to become a writer? Personally, I think the answer is absolutely yes. Reading is essential for any writer. It's not only a great way to improve your writing skills, but it also helps you develop a sense of what works and what doesn't. You can learn how stories flow, what makes compelling characters, and what kinds of themes readers gravitate towards. Even if you're just writing blogs, look at other writers' blogs to see how they organize their content and optimize it for search engines. What keywords do they use? What headings?
If you want to be a creative writer, reading widely in the market you want to write in can also help you familiarize yourself with the kind of work that is already out there, and what agents or publishers might be looking for. This can help you have a better understanding of the industry, which is important if you want to be published.
If you're writing fantasy, try this list to get you started, curated by Time Magazine:
3. Learn the basics of grammar and style
"White and black printer paper photo" by Glen Carrie on Unsplash
Good writing starts with a solid foundation in grammar and style. Take the time to learn the basics, such as sentence structure, punctuation, and verb tenses. You can find many resources online, including grammar guides and writing handbooks. Learning grammar and style is important for becoming a writer because it is the foundation of effective communication. Grammar and style are the tools that writers use to express their ideas clearly and effectively, and mastering them is essential to making your writing compelling and easy to understand.
Grammar also helps you develop a voice. The way you organize your words and ideas can convey a unique style, and show your readers that you're both competent and confident in your craft. You can use tools like Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid to sharpen your grammatical skills and catch your mistakes. Both have browser plug-ins, free plans, and are easy to use.
4. Develop your unique voice
Every writer has a unique voice, and it's important to develop yours. Having a unique voice helps your writing stand out. It helps you to differentiate yourself from other writers and can make your work more memorable. Your voice can also be what sets you apart from other writers and helps you to capture the attention of agents, publishers, and readers.
A writer's voice comes from their own experiences, thoughts, and emotions, and is what makes their writing truly their own. When your writing is authentic, readers may feel more connected to the characters, experiences, and themes of your story. For example, if you've experienced a life-changing heartbreak, you might write a great romantic story about someone who finds love after they lose it. Since you intimately understand that experience and the feelings that accompany it, you can use your voice to weave those things into the narrative and hook readers who've experienced something similar.
5. Network with other writers through groups or events
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of becoming a writer is networking with other writers and professionals in whatever industry you want to work in. Even authors must network with others in their field. Networking can help writers to build relationships, gain exposure, and find opportunities in the writing industry.
Building relationships: Networking allows writers to build relationships with other writers, agents, publishers, and industry professionals. These relationships can be a valuable resource, as they can help writers to get feedback on their work, learn about opportunities in the industry, and even find representation or publication.
Gaining exposure: Networking can also help writers to gain exposure for their work. By building relationships with other writers and industry professionals, writers can increase the chances that their work will be seen by a wider audience. This exposure can lead to more opportunities for publication, representation, and even collaborations.
Finding opportunities: Networking can also help writers to find new opportunities in the industry. Through networking, writers can learn about upcoming conferences, contests, and other events where they can showcase their work and meet other professionals. Additionally, networking can open the doors to opportunities such as writing for publications, collaboration on projects, and connecting with other professionals who can offer support and mentorship.
Establishing a community: Networking also allows writers to build a community of like-minded individuals. Writing can be a solitary pursuit and connecting with other writers can provide a sense of belonging, camaraderie, and support. It can also be a source of feedback, motivation, and inspiration.
Staying informed: Networking also helps writers to stay informed about industry trends and developments. By connecting with other writers and industry professionals, writers can learn about new technologies, changes in the industry, and new opportunities that may become available.
If you're unsure where to start, try reaching out to already-established writers or attending events and local writers groups. You can learn a lot form feedback from local writers and maybe even gain some friends who can help you stay accountable on your journey.
6. Choose the right tools
Unless you plan to write with pencil and paper, which is perfectly fine, of course, you're going to need the right tools to get the job done. Luckily for writers, there are hundreds of writing tools available, from the simplest word processors like Google Docs and Microsoft Word to more advanced software, like Scrivener and Campfire.
When you first start looking, it can be a bit overwhelming to choose from all the options. For myself, I started with Microsoft Word, and while it worked for a while, I found I needed something else for organizing my ideas and chapters. For that, I turned to Scrivener and Campfire. I actually have a full article on The Best Novel Writing Software of 2023 if you want a closer look at some of my favorite tools.
Bonus tool: Freedom
One of my favorite tools that I didn't mention on that list, is Freedom. Freedom is software that blocks out apps and websites so you can focus only on your writing. Freedom allows you to set scheduled focus times, block anything you want, and track your sessions. I use it whenever I write to block out social media, tempting apps, and gaming so I can focus. The company is also our first affiliate, so click the link below for your free trial!
Choose tools that help you achieve your goals. If you want to write a screenplay, Scrivener has templates for screenplays that can help you write in the correct format. If you need help with language and grammar, a tool like Grammarly might help. The best thing to remember is that you don't need any of these tools to be a writer! These tools merely exist to help with your productivity and efficiency.
Writing is a special pursuit. It doesn't take a lot of skill to get started, but becoming successful as a writer takes practice, patience, and perseverance. Being a new writer can be intimidating, but remember, you don't have to sound like the famous writers to find a niche and even some success. Construct your own voice, master your language, and always study your craft. Network when you can, and only use writing tools when you need them.