“If you are willing to do something that might not work, you’re closer to being an artist.”
—Seth Godin

The Biggest Secret To Becoming a Writer

If you’re reading this, you want to know how to become a writer. You want to be paid for your writing. You want your office to be whichever library, coffee shop, or couch-cushion-in-your-pajamas you choose.

That’s the writer’s dream (or at least my dream).

The Biggest Secret To Making It as a Writer

There is one piece of advice that you must know. I am convinced this is the most important thing you need to know if you’re going to make it as a writer.

The Secret: You Have To Be The Best

There are thousands—hundreds of thousands—of people who want to be writers. Of course there are, right? The life of a writer sounds like a romantic dream. (We know it’s not, at least not all the time.)

After the last year of trying to make it as a writer, seriously pursuing a platform, writing a book, and gaining experience, I’ve discovered that the secret to becoming a writer is that you need to be the best. 

With so many other people competing for readers, you need to be the best if you want to become a writer.

What does it mean to be the best? Here are three ways:

1. Becoming a Writer Means Working the Hardest

You might be a better writer than me. You might even be more disciplined. I’m positive you are probably better at grammar than me.

But being the best writer is not about knowing all the grammar and having the best prose. It is about hard work and never giving up.

Being the best means working the hardest.

Long nights, early mornings, and everything in between.

As an amateur in this writing world, realize that you need to get all the experience you can. That means taking risks on projects and learning as you go.

A publisher isn’t going to take a risk on a beginner, with little to no experience when there are experienced writers who want the same job.

Gain experience, even if that means working for free. In reality the experience you gain is worth more than anything you would be paid.

2.Becoming a Writer Means Making the Best Friends

Friends are important. I can’t imagine where I would be without the community of writers I spent the last eight months with. There are days you want someone to sit next to at Starbucks while you both stare blankly and angrily at your computer with.

Being the best means making friends.

You need other writers who know the pain of writing to share the agony.

Making friends is vital to becoming a professional writer because the more friends you make, the more support you have.

3. Becoming a Writer Means Being the Most Committed

 

Being the best means being constantly committed to writing.

I’m a writer. I’m also a baker. I work a full-time job. I volunteer. I also try to have a social life. I’ve found that in all of these activities, and at all times, I am above all, a writer. I see the world through the eyes of a writer, and so do you. You think of how you could describe the sunset, or the parallel you make while eating ice cream to world change.

You must be constantly committed, because you are made to write. In the midst of baking, hiking, and conversations with friends, there too you must be committed to writing. Carry a notebook of ideas, or use your smartphone, and write.

You are a writer whether you have a computer, the beach, or piles of work from your “real job” in front of you.

Imagine the Competition

I want you to close your eyes and imagine all of the other people who want your spot.

Imagine everyone you know that wants to be a writer. There are thousands of book proposals and manuscripts being sent to publishers.

Now ask yourself this question: What makes you any different from the next writer, the next stack of papers?

Is it the experience you have working with other popular writers? Is it the platform you’ve built? Is it the friend of yours who knows the publisher?

This is the secret to making it. You have to be the best. What are you going to do to step up your game today? Let us know in the comments section.

PRACTICE

Take fifteen minutes and make a plan. Decide what you want to do to stand out and create action steps to accomplish your goal. Post your plan or goal in the comments below and leave another writer encouragement!

About Kellie McGann

Kellie McGann is the author of the soon-to-be-released memoir, Undeserved Grace. Be sure to check out her blog, kelliemcgann.com, and follow her on Twitter (@McgannKellie). She contributes to The Write Practice every other Wednesday.

  • I feel like you’re talking to me, sitting right next to me, and you know my whole story.
    I love what you said, that you ‘see the world through the eyes of a writer’. Once you become a writer, you never go back!
    As for my plan:
    My first step is to find somebody, find friends, like you said. I’ve been looking into writing groups in my area, but I haven’t a clue what I am doing.
    Next is to find a magazine that will accept 80-line poetry on controversial subjects.
    Third is to get up and finish my novel, (but I’ve read several places not to try to start a career with a novel, so the other two have to come first).
    But first, before I do any of that, I have to get my control-freak self to actually trust that God is going to do a miracle. But that’s step one in everything, not just writing!
    Love the article!

    • Renette Steele

      Keep praying Reagan GOD will show the way.
      He keeps telling me to share more and He opens the doors for me to do so.
      i will be keeping you in prayer

      • Good to now there are fellow Believers on here. Thank you so much, and I’ll be praying for you!!

        • Trudi McKinney

          God wants me to write. I know He wants me to write for healing. I don’t know about the rest. I know my plan needs to be to obey Him. Thank you Reagan and Renette. Your posts encouraged me. I will lift you up in prayer right now!

          • Renette Steele

            Thank you Trudi

          • Thomas Furmato

            Funny, I posted up on Tom Farr’s wondering if mentioning God would make people squeamish, and then I wander down to your table of comments. Praise His name.

          • Amen!!! “For I am NOT ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth”!

  • Renette Steele

    My plan is to do more of these practice exercises and to write more about what goes through my head. just get it on paper. no body can hear the story in my head i have to write it down. looking into a tablet i can write on as once it is written i have a hard time making myself type it up. Thus the work harder comes in. think of myself as a writer not a dabbler. And like Reagan seek GODs will and ask Him to guide my pen that it might bring honor to him. Seeking writing friends. i have joined several communities but have been leery to jump in and participate, Asking GOD to help with the fear.

    • He gives us the stories. Our job is to write them down, then give them back to Him. Then He’ll take care of the rest. It seems so simple, if we’d just trust Him.

      • LilianGardner

        Wonderful! Your post is simply and encouraging, and just what I need.

  • I’m working on a serialized story I’m planning on publishing for free on Medium. I’ve written the first couple episodes.

    It’s about a guy who graduated high school and planned on marrying his high school sweetheart when tragedy strikes, first ending all hopes of getting married, then all hopes of any remnant of a happy life. Refusing to accept what’s happened to him, he begins to uncover a world he never knew existed, but the truth may be more than he can handle.

    I’ve done serialized stories before, but this is the first one I’ve mapped out beginning to publish it. Pre-planning will be the key difference that I hope will make this series reach an audience.

    • Kellie McGann

      Tom that sounds really interesting! Post the link on here after you publish it! I’d love to read it! That planning sounds good!

    • Thomas Furmato

      That does sound like a good plan. Let us know the link to the Medium site where it first lands.

  • Jean

    I am following write practice for more than a month
    but didn’t have courage to post comments (even if how much I wanted to) because
    I am not confident with my grammar. Your post “But
    being the best writer is not about knowing all the grammar and having the best
    prose. It is about hard
    work and never
    giving up,” – made me
    realized that writers were also experienced in grammar trouble when they were
    started but they never gave up that made them successful. Also making friends in community of writers
    will be impossible if I let myself hide in a community where I joined. How can I
    call myself “writer” if I have fear to be the one of them? What touches me most
    is “I see the world through the eyes of a writer, and so do you”, this is what I
    wanted to be; being seen my world because of my writings, (maybe someday, I am).
    Thank you Kellie, really inspired me.

    • Kellie McGann

      Jean, be encouraged. I am seriously terrible at grammar. You’ll learn in time, and maybe not, but that’s what editors are for. 🙂
      Thank you for commenting, keep doing it!

    • Thomas Furmato

      Jean don’t let yourself stand in the way. You’ll always have limitations of time and talent, but don’t let that stop you from seeking more time, or improving your talents. Being a writer is one of the best occupations (even unpaid) that we can aspire to. Keep in mind that God chose it to give us his message.

      • Jean

        You are right. Thank
        you for reminding me about His Grace Thomas. 🙂

    • Babbitt

      I can relate to what you shared. That was me! Anyway, I decided to put a little more effort into it, so I could feel confident. I took a copyediting course, which was really helpful; plus, I got to learn from a seasoned professional that really knew what they were doing. Now, I can’t say because I took that course or read up on grammar and punctuation that I’m perfect and never make a mess, because that would be untrue. That’s when I have to remember that writing for me is more than just the mechanics. Writing is an extra limb that I could no more do without than the air I breathe. So I laugh it off, make corrections where need be, and keep writing.

  • Thomas Furmato

    I don’t have a plan yet. But, this is the most committed to writing that I have EVER been in my life. I’ve written articles for my own blog, and written theological rebuttals, but I live with a mind that is constantly writing out scenarios of things that make me think, which is everything. Maybe the first part of any plan I would make is to continue with this community, and to give back in participation as much as possible.

    A long ago friend contacted me yesterday, saying he wanted to become a writer, and asked if I would help him. He had no idea I was as active as I have been, he just heard my name mentioned and thought of me for it. Step two might be in this plan that I don’t have, could me to help others.

    It didn’t look like at first an interesting prompt. But, I’m thankful that I was pulled in and will definitely ponder what a plan might look like.

    • Kellie McGann

      Glad to hear Thomas. Hope to see more of your writings on here!

  • Babbitt

    I created a writing bag that I carry with me everywhere. I print out the current chapters I’m working on, along with short stories I need to edit, and make sure to bring an extra pencil or two. This way when there’s a moment in between life’s happenings I don’t sit and wish I had my writing with me because I already do. I’ve also been keeping a writing journal to keep track of my progress, as well as collect the positive remarks I receive so I can remember them when I can’t on my own. Love your posts!

    • Good idea!

    • Kellie McGann

      Thanks for the idea! I love that! I have to do something like that!

  • NerdOfAllTrades

    Step 1 (immediately): Post here, reply to every prompt. I don’t necessarily have to be punctual (life does, after all, interfere) but I have to come back and catch up if I miss a prompt. I’m rusty; I need all of the practice and lessons that I can get
    Step 2 (also immediately): Stop trusting my memory to hold my ideas. So many times I come up with a great idea for a story, so great that I’m sure I’ll never forget it. An hour later, I remember that I had a great idea, but the idea itself escapes me. I carry a smartphone. I sit in front of a computer for at least five hours a day. I have paper and pens lying everywhere. I carry a smartphone. There is no good reason for me to forget any ideas.
    Step 3 (summer): Join a writing circle. I need honest, on-on-one feedback, and, more importantly, I’ve found that for any resolution I make, I need someone to keep me honest. If I don’t (for example) have a guitar lesson coming up, chances are, I won’t practice my guitar. I need the writer’s circle, most of all, to give me consequences (if only shame) for not writing.
    Step 4 (after my ankle finishes healing, so, soon): Start running again. It’s a terrific meditative exercise, and I find it really helps shakes some ideas loose. Plus, anything that improves your body helps your mind. A sound body removes distraction, gives you confidence, and just generally makes you feel better and more energetic.
    Step 5 (now until November): Keep hammering out everything I need for my November story. I need to flesh out my outlines, to write scenes in the heads of each of my characters, to figure out what is going on with the setting and the plot, to figure out what themes I want the book to reflect, and how I want those themes to influence the plot. The rules of NaNoWriMo are that I can’t have written any of the novel itself beforehand; if I’m writing in first-person or limited-third-person (as I plan to), then anything that’s not focusing on that one character is fair game, and useful to figure out how my other characters think.
    Step 6 (November): Plan time off for NaNoWriMo. I generally need a vacation from work about that time anyway; if I take the first week of November off, it’ll give me a head start, and it’ll make me feel really guilty if I don’t write.

    • Kellie McGann

      This sounds great!! Can’t wait to see how this helps.
      Have you heard of the Becoming Writer course/community. It’s something Joe (founder of Write Practice) started and it’s something that sounds helpful for your step 3! Check it out here: http://thewritepractice.com/members/about/

  • CHERRILYNN BISBANO

    “There are days you want someone to sit next to at Starbucks while you both stare blankly and angrily at your computer with.” I loved this line. Thank you so much for the encouragement and the direction. I need to make a writing schedule and stick to it. Please pray for me. I am also looking for a small online writing/editing group. One that holds each other accountable along with encouragement.

    • Kellie McGann

      I’m glad you like that! It is my life on a daily basis, except I don’t always have the friends to do it with! Communities are so great! Check out the Becoming Writer course that Joe offers. (http://thewritepractice.com/members/about/)
      That’s his idea behind the whole group, and I hear it’s been really great!

  • I would also suggest that part of the biggest secret to making it as a writer is knowing your specialty and being the absolute best at it that you can be. No one else on the face of the planet has your particular combination of heritage, DNA, experience, skill, and vision. No one else can tell the story you can tell in the same way you can tell it.

    That’s your niche.

    Be the best you can be in that niche and others will find you.

    • Gary G Little

      I like this. Great thought Carrie. I would add to always be ready for your niche to change, because it will.

    • Kellie McGann

      Exactly Carrie! I love that, thanks for sharing!

  • Marie Kravitz

    How odd. The e-book “Writing Naked” by another writer who recently posted an article here (Marcy McKay) encourages us to never fall for the internal belief that “I’m not good enough.” Then this article says “you have to be the best” or you’ll never get anywhere. I guess laying on the pressure is good motivation for the highly ambitious, as many of these comments seem to show, but anyone who is on the fence about their own ability will probably find it feels like a vote against them pursuing their secret dream.

  • LilianGardner

    There are moments and even days when I would like to do nothing else but write, write, write. It is when I write from the heart. If only my family would understand my mood and let me carry on undisturbed, I know I could complete a short story, or write a good chunk of my novel.
    Aiming to be a writer definitely requires hard work, research to a certain extent, even in fiction, and honest feedback from anyone outside the family.
    Will I ever be a writer? I want to try.
    Can I call myself a writer? I’d love to.

    • Kellie McGann

      Lilian, you ARE a writer.
      It’s sometimes hard to find the perfect amount of undisturbed time, and motivation, but keep going-you’ll get there!

      • LilianGardner

        I love what you said, Kellie. Thanks so much.
        There are many things I wanted to accomplish in my life, and being a writer is one of them.

        • LillianGardner, I so agree with what you said about things you want to accomplish in your life, writing being one of them. I too want to be a writer…. So I have begun believing I already am, and if you say it often enough with conviction it will happen. I will be turning 50 next month and I often think of the years that I was not writing because I was spending that time living. Well I can say now the 1st 50 years was living a life I can now write about during the next 50. And there are some great memories in the past 50 years. Dream it! Be it! Achieve it!

          • LilianGardner

            Fantastic! ‘Dream it! Be it! Achieve it!’ I’m in!

  • You asked what I’m doing to be the best. I’m writing, reading, and then writing some more. I ask questions of every writer I come across in my general field, literary fiction. I’m always on the lookout for new tools that really help and aren’t just something I’ve come across before. I seem to look everywhere for new story ideas.

  • kim wilson

    good discussion for a amateur motivated writer Iam learning through my mistakes more and more each time the writing course moves on hoping to gain more writing experiences

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