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This question already has an answer here:

I have an academic background in Engineering and work experience in tech companies. A few years back my life completely crashed. I had to quit everything in my previous life. For some medical and personal reasons, I am completely cut-off from any career in tech or otherwise engaging with people in the real world on a day to day basis. So finally I decided to start writing to bring out the creativity and make a living. I am aware that this will not happen in some months or even a few years.

Currently, I have started a blog and I am also writing a small novel. I have an intermediate level of English language and I have read few well-known novels like Da Vinci Code or Conan Doyle's books. I have a lot of knowledge about science.

To learn writing, I saw YouTube videos by authors and those for writers, but they felt like about technicalities, not about life as an author. I read a few websites and blogs about writing novels but it is also a bit further step from where I am.

Can you suggest me how should I begin towards becoming a professional? What should I look forward to? Should I take any courses? Based on answers I received for my previous questions here, I understand that my writing style is too naive how can I improve on that?

marked as duplicate by JP Chapleau, Community Aug 9 '18 at 5:41

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    The only plan you need is to write, and love it. Please see this answer: "most people that claim they want to be writer are fooling themselves, because what they want is To Have Written ... they don't actually love writing for its own sake. So they will not succeed as a writer, because you cannot fail for years and book after book doing work you don't really love, and that is what it will take, before you are good enough to make any kind of living ... you just aren't going to learn what you need to get better, even if you put in those years. " – Craig Sefton Aug 7 '18 at 12:10
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    @CraigSefton The OP accepted the duplicate vote, so this seems to answer their question. You can see that by hovering over the "Community mod" link in the close notice. – Secespitus Aug 9 '18 at 11:55
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    @CraigSefton The OP can't retract their vote, just like JP can't retract their vote now that the post is closed as a duplicate. They can vote to reopen their own question though. – Secespitus Aug 9 '18 at 12:48
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    I have voted to reopen, I don't think this is actually a duplicate. – Chris Sunami Aug 17 '18 at 14:53
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    I voted to reopen it. – user30875 Aug 17 '18 at 17:49
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It is very likely that you will not make a living with writing

Quite a few professional authors have answered your question. Their advice goes like this:


The likelihood of success

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a   81% of Americans feel they have a book in them.
b   60% of British men and women would like to become an author.
c   2009 there were 197,768 self-reporting writers and authors in the US.
d   One in ten authors can earn a full-time living from writing.

Currently, you are among the 60%. Your goal is to be among the 0.00006%* that can make a living. That's literally a one-in-a-million chance for you to become a writer who can make a living from writing.

(number of self-reporting writers / US population) / percentage of writers who can make a living writing


How to increase your chance of success

The good news: Your chances will increase tremendously, once you finish your first novel. Not many from the 60% of the population manage to finish their first novel. Most begin writing and eventually give up. So that would be your first step: Actually write – and finish! – your first book. If you can finish a novel, you are in a different league.

The second step is to keep writing. On average, published authors have written 3.24 novels before their first novel was published (by a publisher, not self-published). So write four or more novels and you have increased your chances to get published to a very high likelihood.


Advice

  1. Write.

    Do not torture yourself about the perfect idea, the perfect beginning, the perfect way to phrase that sentence. Just write.

    The only bad writing is not writing.

  2. Finish that book.

    Just f***ing finish it.

  3. Write the next book.

    Do not linger over your first novel. When you are finished, submit it, and then write the next one. Do not edit to perfection. You will gain more experience and skills by writing more books than by polishing more.

  4. And the next. And the next. And the next.

    Just keep at it. Writing is a long distance sport. Diligence and tenacity are more important than "talent" in any art.

  • You give those stats to begin with (good data finding and presentation, by the way :) ). Then you seem to say that if you just sit down and write 4 books, then the 1-in-a-million chance will happen. It feels like you've missed the thousands of books which are published each year but which don't provide an adequate income for the author to rely solely on that income. – AJFaraday Aug 8 '18 at 8:59
  • You have two extra zeros in your percentage: should be 0.006%. – Jules Aug 8 '18 at 19:09
  • @AJFaraday - "It feels like you've missed the thousands of books which are published each year but which don't provide an adequate income for the author to rely solely on that income" ... I've met and spoken to authors in exactly that situation who despite that manage to live on their income for writing... because they work hard and publish multiple or even many books per year, increasing the amount they earn until they have enough. Now, not everyone is capable of writing the 5-10 books per year you'd need to be able to write to survive on the income from low-selling books, but it's ... – Jules Aug 8 '18 at 19:15
  • ... achievable for some people at least. – Jules Aug 8 '18 at 19:15
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The posters here are absolutely right, the first thing you should do is look to an alternative income source. Making money from novel writing is a long-term goal and takes decades, not months or years and if you are relying on it for income, it will put you under incredible strain to succeed. Writing should be a joy, not a chore, don't do that to yourself.


Next, start with your basic English writing skills, your local university should have English 101 courses that will improve your grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence construction. I'm a native English speaker but I still took this course before starting my writing career.


Personally, I would recommend a creative writing degree if you're able to afford it/can find a good one locally. There is a lot of debate over whether creative writing can be taught in this way, and whilst I have learned far more from actually writing, it did enable me to study the classics and gave me a good grounding in story construction. MOST IMPORTANTLY though, a good creative writing degree will teach you how to critique your own and other people's work and this is an essential skill. You will also meet other writers and a support network is vital on this journey.


Devour books on writing. I would start by reading the following books:

"On Writing" by Stephen King

"Stein on Writing" by Sol Stein

"Writing a Novel and Getting Published For Dummies" by George Green and Lizzy Kremer

"Word by Word" / "Bird by Bird" (the audio seminar) by Anne Lammott

"Writing Down The Bones" by Natalie Goldberg (audio version is great)

These books will give you a feel for what it takes to be a professional writer.


WRITE WRITE WRITE nothing teaches you to write like writing does. Write like your life depends on it and get it out there. Submit to online critique groups, send it out to magazines, get your work torn to pieces, get rejected, learn to take feedback on board and then write again.


Finally, to give you an idea of what you're up against, let me share my personal story/timeline with you:

After quitting a well-paid job in I.T., I spent 4 years studying creative writing at three universities around the world and read voraciously on the craft. I spent three years writing my first novel and made mistakes with it I couldn't foresee despite years of study. It got rejected. I spent a year re-writing it and it still got rejected. It now sits under my bed. I spent another year writing my second novel which, having learned from my mistakes, I was lucky to secure agency representation for. We have spent a year in re-writes and are finally submitting to publishers next month.

It has taken me a decade to get to this point and publishers will take approx 18 months to get my novel out. Or, I could still get rejected. My story is not uncommon. The majority of successful writers out there have several published books before they find success (let alone the unpublished ones under their beds). Wiki any successful author you know and see how many books they published before succeeding with a breakout novel.


Finally, read this, so you understand the realities of traditional publishing and consider whether self-publishing is for you:

https://www.societyofauthors.org/News/Blogs/James-Mayhew/November-2016/James-Mayhew-Fair-Trade-for-Authors


If this is a dream for you, don't give up. It's by far the most rewarding (though often painful) thing I've done with my life. But start this journey with your eyes wide open and plan for the long game.

Best of luck to you.

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    Thank you very much for sharing your experience. This helps a lot. – user30875 Aug 7 '18 at 10:43
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Some amount of benign sarcasm follows

I think this depends on who you are.

If You are a Gift from the Writing Gods

Then you may be well endowed with a natural talent to write well on the first try without only extreme exception. If you do struggle, it's likely because you've chosen to or the gods have given you a quest, which will surely allow you to reach new heights in the writing pantheon. Whenever you hand your writing out to someone else, they immediately fall in love with it and gush. You inspire all of the best things in people with your writing and you're very charismatic. You have the connections, and where you don't have them, people generally like you anyways.

If your reality actually matches your perceptions of your abilities, then you don't need a back-up plan. In fact, you likely have been writing all your life. It's all you know how to do. And people already love you for it. Just keep doing it and doing it well. That's your plan.

That's probably not who you are if you're on this site as you likely are writing a story right now and wouldn't possibly have the time to read this.

If you have the ability to excel with focus & time, and want to write a book...

Then you must provide yourself the time and space to succeed. That means someone has to support your basic and frankly distracting human needs while you churn and work your words. If you are not in a position to feast upon in the beneficial grace and wealth of others, you may find you have to provide for yourself. Here you may find you have to make distinct and hard choices about what type of life you want to live. You only have 24 hours in a day. How much money can you make using that time while still sleeping, eating, socializing, and working. Probably not much, but with some hard choices perhaps you can sacrifice for a time until the writing becomes the thing you do.

This line of work is difficult. You may be popular today and unpopular tomorrow. Your space may become unpopular. You may lose a hand while wresting your two year old son out of an alligators mouth. The dangers are many and varied and unique to your situation, but they exist.

The person who chooses to be entirely safe will never be published, but the person who publishes without being safe may become a life lesson to other writers who want to make it past a young age.

If you do not find you have the ability to excel with much practice then you may just become a life lesson.

If you like to write, you don't need to be a novelist

The act of creation is wonderful, but books are perhaps the worst way to exercise it for a living. See helpful graphs elsewhere. That said, there are plenty of ways to express thoughts and opinions in the written form while making money. Some may be more to your taste than others, but they all tend to pay a living wage more regularly than writing novels. And you may have time outside of that normal job, to work on a novel in addition. Many writers feel the need to write and get paid and so they do all or some subset of the following:

  • Technical Writing - The form of writing which documents existing infrastructure. This is the how-to, the manual, and the pamphlet of documentation. The world would not work as well as it sometimes does without adequate documentation. Perhaps you have less freedom in this role, but if you're good at it, you can get paid and work a 9-5 in most places that have engineers.

  • Ad-Copy - Advertisements are, in general, written in some capacity. They scripts, short bursts of dialogue, etc. You get a bit of freedom, but it comes with deliverables/parameters. I don't know how this pays, but I assume it does given that advertisements are the life blood of most media companies. Maybe you travel more than with technical writing. Maybe you aren't quite as secure if the general tastes shift away from your specialties. Might suffer from old dog/new tricks syndrome.

  • Journalism - Almost all of the news gets written down at some stage. If you're good at relaying information of the non-technical sort (not that there isn't technical journalism) then maybe this is the role you want to take. Journalism has been shaken up a bit by the new media landscape, but so has almost every other writing job. You've got to like getting attention and holding it to do the job; and you may not be able to erect many work-life boundaries. You may also need to chase stories quickly and stick to hard and fast deadlines, which may not always allow you to write your best. Creativity is rewarded, but so is flim-flam. Money exists, but has some of the same super-star problems that novel writing has. The good news is that almost any one can be a journalist.

Other creative writing professions do exist, such as editing; which involve you helping others to write better. These jobs are essential and some people make better money at them and have a better life than the writers they support.

There are other non-novelist writing jobs. Many people who hold jobs must write and do not call themselves writers. A lawyer will write a brief, and boring as it may be, he is still a writer. I could not list them all. But, I think it is safe to say this:

  • Writing is hard, unless you're particularly lucky
  • Making money from writing is about as hard as anything else
  • A rise in creative freedom leads to a rise in responsibility and danger
  • There are lots of ways to be around writing that are more secure than being a novelist.
  • The world is changing. A new printing press has been invented. In ten years what we knew yesterday will seem a flimsy thing. But, in ten years you certainly won't have more than 24 hours in a day to live your life.
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There are many types of writing, and some of them are more career-oriented than others. Technical writing, content writing for businesses, websites, or textbook companies, and copy writing for advertisements are all jobs that people can get, and potentially even do from home. Having a relevant degree, good research habits and impeccable technical writing skills can help here. You get such jobs the same way you get any other job --network, send out resumes, interview, etcetera.

If you want something a little more creative, writing non-fiction for magazines and trade journals is another good niche job. You'll generally reach out to the editor of said magazines. Again, having relevant expertise will help, as well as being thoroughly familiar with the specific outlet (journal). Along the same lines, writing book-length niche non-fiction can be quite lucrative. I highly recommend Damn! Why Didn't I Write That? if that appeals to you at all. If you have a specific area of expertise (tech?), many authors and self-publishers successfully combine consulting, lecturing and book sales. Based on your self-description, this might be your ideal lane.

Novels, journalism, short stories, screenplays and creative non-fiction are the high-prestige dream jobs that few enough people ever make a living doing. If you want to do one of these --and most of us do! --you'll have plenty of competition, and a lifetime's worth of hard work ahead of you. You'll need to build a reputation, promote yourself tirelessly, be good... and also be lucky! You may also need to supplement your income with public speaking, workshops, teaching, or other writing-related ways of making money (or an unrelated day job).

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If author-fronted youtube channels seem 'too advanced' for you, I wouldn't pin all your hopes on being a professional writer.

I'm sorry for any misfortunes you have in your life, but frankly, looking at your other questions, you've got a lot of fundamentals to iron out before you can start preparing for 'the life of a professional writer'.

I've written non-published novels while being a student, and have written 3/4 of a novel I intend to publish while not only maintaining a day job, but searching for a better job and changing to it.

Full time writing, while a dream of mine, is unreliable financially, at least until one proves themselves. I'd try to find a day job, any day job, to give yourself some stability while you hone your (still lacking) skills.

  • Thank you for your answer. You said, 'you've got a lot of fundamentals to iron out', how should take the first step in that direction? – user30875 Aug 7 '18 at 8:01
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    Firstly, ask yourself why you're writing, and what you hope to explore. Instead of just reading poorly written genre fiction like Dan Brown, read literary works like Bukowski or any of the classics, really. Ask yourself what they do right. Also, check out a few basic writing adages, like the law of conservation of detail, iceberg theory, the fundamental types of conflict, etc – Matthew Dave Aug 7 '18 at 8:05
  • There's a certain level of snark here, that, while entertaining, doesn't really improve the answer. Remember, our answers address not only the OP, but also a general audience that may have similar questions. I'd recommend moving the last paragraph first (it's the most direct answer to the question) and toning down the personal advice. – Chris Sunami Aug 8 '18 at 18:35
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First, get an income stream you can live on while you write. It could take a long time to become successful, if you ever do.

Second, read more than a few novels. If you like something, try to figure out why you like it. Read some classics. Neither Brown nor Doyle are world-class fiction writers, no matter how popular they are, and you'll have a better chance if you at least know what good writing is or can be. You can also read about creative writing. Some of the stuff you read will be very helpful, and some will be useless, and nobody else can tell you which is going to be which.

Third, write (you're starting on this one). Finish what you write. Do at least some rewriting, but don't go hog-wild.

Fourth, make sure your ego is resilient. You are going to write stuff you love, and you made it, and people are going to tear it to pieces in front of you.

Fifth, find some sort of writing group so you can critique each others' work and ask each other questions. From where you are, you're going to have to go through a lot of criticism before you're successful, and it would help a lot to learn how to criticize other people's fiction well. Face to face is best, if you can manage it.

Sixth, submit what you write when it appears to be good enough. There's plenty of resources on the mechanics and what you have to do.

Seventh, persist. Don't get discouraged for long (you will feel discouraged from time to time, but you need to snap out of it soon). Keep working.