How Can You Become An Author? Q&A with a College Student

ALETTA-pic-paperAlex B. for his college Composition 1 class asked me these questions on how to become an author. Thanks Alex! Hope you get a good grade on your paper!

1. How can you become an author?

The short answer is by writing and publishing your work. That is what makes you an author.
The long answer would depend on your specific situation.

2. Should I start a blog?

Only if you like to blog. You may not know if you like to blog. So in that case, I recommend that you start a blog and commit to writing and publish 20-30 posts over 5-6 months or shorter. That’s a minimum of 1 post a week. A great resource to get you writing on your blog is here: http://www.breakfastblogging.com/free-guide-your-quick-start-guide-to-writing-your-blog/ (I helped write this guide.)

3. Should I work for a magazine or newspaper?

Yes, working for a magazine or a newspaper is a great way to get experience and experiment with different kinds of writing for different kinds of audiences and purposes.

4. How to find a publisher to get books published?

There are several market guides you can use. The most popular one is Writer’s Market by Writer’s Digest. They also have an online version here: http://www.writersmarket.com/. Or you can get the book. Many reference sections at the library have a copy.

5. Where do I start?

Start with what you’re passionate about. If you don’t know where that is, then try lots of different things. Write different kinds of stories and formats — different kinds of fiction and nonfiction, short pieces, long pieces, for different audiences and for different purposes, in different points of view, etc.
Start with writing 1-3 pages in each of these different kinds of writing — mix and match — to see what you may like.

Different kinds of fiction (partial list)

comedy
horror
mystery
diary format
historical
fantasy
thriller
suspense
romance
sexy
science fiction
fairy tale
adventure story

Different kinds of nonfiction (partial list)

how to
argumentative
personal essay
rant
spiritual rumination
memoir/personal story
summary
book review
outline
evaluation
critique
manifest
screed
speech

Write for these different audiences (partial list)

your peers
children
a boss
teens
adults
students

Points of view (partial list)

First person (I, we)
Second person (You)
Third person (he/she/they)
A much older person
A much younger person
A person of a different gender
A person from the past/future/a made-up time and place

Different purposes (partial list)

To:
Inspire
Encourage
Scare
Motivate to take a specific action
Make laugh
Evaluate
Criticize
Create an escape
Educate

6. Should intern with an author?

I think you’re asking if you should intern with a writer. Yes, this is a good idea, if you can find someone who is open to it. I’d be open to having this conversation with you. Follow up with me if you’d like to intern with me.

7. Which is harder, journalist or author?

That depends. Try both to see what you like and commit. Both avenues have their challenges and rewards. I’ve tried both and chose fiction writing as my main focus.

8. What to do about writers block? (I have bought your book.)

Either I set the timer to get me writing, and I set a very specific goal, like how many words, or how much time I want to be focusing on my writing. Or if I’m just not into writing and it feels too hard, I take a break to take my mind of my writing and refresh my creativity. Often while doing something completely unrelated and usually something physical — like washing the dishes, walking, or gardening — I think of what I want to say next in the story or article I’m working on.

9. How do you know what you’re writing about is going to be good?

I have no idea. I only know if I’m enjoying myself while writing. I evaluate later and ask for the opinions of others, all the time.

10. Anything other advice you could help me with would be great.

If you want to be a writer, then your job, and main job, is to write. Writers write. That’s what we do.
I recommend carrying a journal or other writing implement and get into the practice of writing down your ideas all the time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what the ideas will blossom in to. What’s important is that you get good at taking what’s in your head and putting it in words on paper or the computer or whatever device works for you.
Another piece of advice: Get feedback on your writing, not for a grade, but for impacting your audience in a desired way. I highly recommend you join a peer critique group that is supportive and good at noticing what works and doesn’t work with the writing and doesn’t criticize the person writing. Make sense?
Also: Writing is about feeling, more than thinking, though of course, there is a lot of thinking happening. Writing is deep thinking. Writing forces you to articulate what you really think and feel about something.
Your job is to create art with your words. To create art and impact your readers, you need to know what impact you want to have. The key question is: What do you want your readers to feel? In some cases, like with nonfiction, you’ll also want to ask: what action do I want my readers to take? But action is also really about feeling and the experience your readers want, so hone in on that core experience.
Lastly, what is your purpose of wanting to be a writer? I encourage you to brainstorm on this. There is no right answer; there is only your answer. And your answer could be: Just Because. That was my answer. Also, my answer is: I chose writing as my art form; I could have just as easily chosen something else. 🙂
Let me know if you have any more questions!
Good luck!
Best,
Beth

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