Do you want to become an author?
Many people say they have a book inside of them but few actually commit time, energy and resources to turning their idea for a great book into a published work.
That’s a shame because it’s easier than ever to become an author today. The tools are more affordable and easily available than ever before. All you have to do is write your book.
In this article, we offer practical tips for becoming an author faster.
- 1. Pick a Writing Skill To Improve
- 2. Write More Stories
- 3. Don’t Let Perfectionism Halt Your Writing Career
- 4. Act Like a Successful Writer
- 5. Conquer Your Fear of Failure
- 6. Study The Writing Craft
- 7. Conquer Your Fear of Success
- 8. Try Self-Publishing
- 9. Take a Creative Writing Class
- 10. Explore Different Types of Writing
- 11. Cultivate Book Sales
- Becoming an Author
1. Pick a Writing Skill To Improve
If you’re worried your book isn’t good enough, work through your reps.
The more sentences you write, the stronger your command of language will become. The more clichés you terminate, the better you’ll become at editing.
The more chapters you write, the better you’ll be at articulating stories and ideas. And the more books you finish, the more you’ll know how to write a book.
And the next book.
And the next.
No, They Won’t Judge You!
In December 2016, a friend asked me to help with a street collection for a charity in Dublin. Being introverted, I procrastinated about it for two weeks before agreeing. Then, I donned a luminous bib for the charity, and I wandered out onto the rainy, cold streets.
I held out the bucket as strangers walked up and down the street. They looked at their phones their shoes, ahead, behind me. They looked anywhere and everywhere but at me and my half-empty bucket. (I couldn’t blame them. I’ve done the same many times.)
I was jingling the coins inside and studying a billboard for a new Star Wars film when a well-dressed middle-aged woman tapped me on the shoulder. She said:
I want you to know why I can’t donate today. They organised a big collection at church on Sunday, and I gave a lot, a lot.
“That’s good to know,” I wrapped my hands around the bucket. “I best get back to it.”
The woman nodded, pulled her handbag onto her shoulder and walked down the street.
That night, I wondered why this well-heeled woman was so concerned about what I thought of her refusal to put a few euro into my lonely bucket.
(I wasn’t even thinking about her!)
Many new writers worry their audience will judge them or what people close to them will think of their book or creative works. So they look away from the page, and they hold something back from their book.
I get it. I do it too.
2. Write More Stories
Every author should try writing a short story at some point. A short story won’t take months to write either. Even if you never publish it, consider it a type of writing practice that improves your storytelling skills.
You can also try using personal stories. That’s what I did.
Those messy personal stories – the party where I drank too much, called the host the wrong name and passed out in the bathroom.
Or the time they fired me because my maths wasn’t up to the task. Those don’t frighten me. I know how those stories turn out. It’s telling you about them. I care too much about what you think.
Even professionals worry their readers will judge them.
A while ago, I was one hundred pages into a non-fiction book by a New York Times best-selling author. I was enjoying the author’s way with words until he teased a personal story.
He told his readers about a time of inner crisis, only to announce it was too personal to reveal. Then, he promptly moved on without revealing anything more. I threw his book across the room.
What was the point in reading on?
This author, as accomplished as he is, was too worried that his readers would judge him.
Well, your readers want to know they’re not alone. They need you to share some essential truth from your life with them.
In a world of click-bait, fake news and cute cat videos, they crave authenticity. So instead of worrying they’ll judge you, be as honest as you can.
3. Don’t Let Perfectionism Halt Your Writing Career
When I was in my mid-twenties, I spent years struggling to become a novelist.
I wrote dozens of short stories and abandoned them. I researched articles I wanted to write for newspapers, and then I never wrote them.
There wasn’t any one moment when I learnt how to finish my work. Instead, I got a job as a journalist writing for a newspaper. There, I had to finish my articles by a deadline because if I didn’t, the editor would fire me.
I know this because he called me into his office after I missed a deadline and said so.
So I overcame perfectionism.
I stopped polishing my articles until they were perfect and I finished them. On more than one occasion, my editor sent articles back to me, saying I’d left out an important paragraph or my introduction needed reworking.
After listening to his criticism, I wanted to quit.
On other occasions, the sub-editors of the paper reworked my articles. This process felt like a brutal dressing-down, but at least I was getting paid to write.
4. Act Like a Successful Writer
If you want to act like a professional or successful writer:
- Write every day and not just when you’re inspired
- Commit to reaching a certain word count each day.
- Set artificial deadlines for each chapter, and stick to them.
- Tell your editor or readers you’ll have a draft ready by the end of the day/week/month.
The chapters you finish are akin to the threads of a cable, and you’ll weave them together day by day until your work feels secure and you become a better writer.
Then, you’ll have more opportunities to gain feedback about your book. In turn, you’ll gain the confidence you need to finally finish it.
5. Conquer Your Fear of Failure
So you got a rejection letter.
So your work sucked.
So your book wasn’t any good.
Accept it. Move on.
I don’t mean to be harsh.
Most authors have a lot of unpublished works on their computer and know more about disappointment than success.
I failed to build a career as a news journalist. I failed to hold down a well-paying contract with a magazine I read. I failed to turn a well-paying freelance job into a profitable permanent job.
Worst of all, I failed to write and publish a book before I was 30 (a life-long goal). It’s tough to get over these common writing mistakes.
On good days, I felt restless, and on bad days I felt depressed by my lack of progress.
Writing is a personal thing, and not something you can fake or dial in. If you want to finish writing your book and become a successful professional writer, you’ll fail many times before you get there.
6. Study The Writing Craft
The writing craft can take a lifetime to master and often involves making many mistakes. Use these as learning opportunities that help you reach a goal.
Instead of wallowing in self-defeat, though, salvage what you can, and use the experience as a lesson to improve your craft.
You see, failure and rejection are pit stops along your journey to becoming a better writer.
Wondering if you’ve got what it takes, blaming your editor and suffering from a martyr complex won’t help you write a better book next time. Feedback is invaluable. It’s your chance to learn how to become a better writer for free.
Neil Gaiman offers lots of tips on becoming an author.
My favourite is his writing advice:
Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.
Learn what you can from the experience, and write a better book next time.
Besides, when you finish writing 62,386 words, your career gains momentum.
You become the kind of author who thinks of an idea, fleshes their idea out, edits, rewrites, polishes and the rewrites some more, then presses publish.
That takes guts.
7. Conquer Your Fear of Success
One new writer emailed me to say she worried what would happen if her book was a success and she became famous. After asking for more tips on becoming an author, she said:
I want to tell stories, and I want people to read them and get joy and satisfaction from them, I just don’t want to become a subject under a microscope!
I get it.
Publishing a book can feel like you’re walking out onto the street wearing no pants.
Will people treat you differently?
How will you react when they talk about the stories you told?
And will this change you?
Yes, your imagined answers to these questions may feel embarrassing, but your real problem isn’t what people think. It’s getting their attention in the first place.
I’ll Let You in on Secret
The prospects of becoming Malcolm Gladwell-famous for your work are slight. That said, it’s natural to worry how those around you will react to your book.
It’s normal to wonder what will happen if you become known for being a writer.
Well, it’s impossible to please everyone, so if some people aren’t comfortable with your success, that’s their problem. If you succeed, you’ll discover a new side to yourself and your craft, which will only enrich your life.
After all, you will regret not having the courage to see your ideas and your book through later. So hold through to your values, and finish writing your book.
At the very least, you’ll be able to afford some new pants or a gym membership.
Arnold would be proud.
8. Try Self-Publishing
Years ago, a young writer had to learn how to write a book, find and agent and land a book deal. Traditional publishing is a tough gig to break into when you’re starting out with no name recognition.
These days, you can write and self-publish a book on Amazon for several hundred dollars. Technically, you can do it for free, but I’d recommend budgeting for working with an editor, proofreader and cover designer.
Self-publishing a book will teach you how the process works and help you discover the types of titles you want to write in the future.
It may even land you a traditional book publishing deal as happened with Hugh Howie, author of Wool and E.L. James author of Fifty Shades of Grey.
9. Take a Creative Writing Class
Wanting to become an author can feel like a strange writing goal if you’re not spending much time in the company of other creatives. On the other hand, spending a few weeks or months in the company of aspiring authors may inspire you to work harder on your craft. What’s more, you could form connections with future professional authors.
A few years ago, I spent a year taking creative writing classes in the Irish Writer’s Centre in Dublin. At least one student went on to become a published author with a traditional book deal.
10. Explore Different Types of Writing
Writing a book can take months or even years if you don’t have a plan and money to keep the lights on.
To avoid this problem, I recommend trying different types of writing including technical writing and copywriting. You could also try working as a freelance writer.
Although these types writing jobs won’t help you write a book directly, they will pay the bills while keeping your foot in the door of the creative work.
11. Cultivate Book Sales
As an author, your job doesn’t end when you submit a manuscript to a publishing house or upload it to Amazon. Whether you’ve got a traditional book deal or not, you still need to sell more copies.
Many publishing houses write off the cost of book deals because they don’t believe a book will sell. Others simply don’t do a great job of selling a book of behalf of their clients. To avoid this problem, learn the basics of author marketing.
- Set up an author website
- Build an email list of engaged readers
- Run promotions regularly
- Send advanced copies of your book to an early readers group for feedback and reviews
- Study how Amazon ads work and use them
Becoming an Author
Most people spend more time telling their friends they have this great idea for a book. But, they don’t spend much time turning their vision into reality.
No matter what tips on becoming an author you learn, please understand it takes a tremendous amount of hard work and mental discipline to write a book.
While it’s smart to release the best possible version of your work, you’re going to need some self-knowledge to finish it.
There will always be a gap between what you want your creative project to be about and what comes out on the blank page.
The best way to narrow that gap and improve the quality of your book is to put in your reps: write more often, finish your work and publish it.
Because when you’re done, you’re done.
Join over 15,000 writers today
You'll get a free book of practical writing prompts.