“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
—Sylvia Plath

How to Become a Full-Time Writer

Have you ever thought about becoming a full-time writer? If you’re reading this, I’m guessing that you have. Or maybe you’re already writing professionally, but would like to 1) find writing work you’re more passionate about or 2) earn more.

The question is, why haven’t you done it yet?

How to Become a Full-Time Writer

I’ve been there. I used to want to make writing my career but had no idea how to actually do it.

When I was 17, I remember reading a novel (A Tale of Two Cities) and waking up to the idea of becoming a writer. I thought, “How amazing would it be to get to do this all day, to sit and hang out with your characters, write stories about their lives.”

I studied writing in college and got my Bachelors degree in English Literature with an emphasis in writing.

After college, though, I found it almost impossible to find a job as a writer. Newspapers were laying off people with many more years of experience than I had, and I didn’t know a single person who was a professional writer to guide me in my options. To pay the bills, I got a job at a bank. On the side, though, I wrote on a blog and dreamed about that day when I would finally write books for a living.

It seemed like a long way off.

Honestly, back then I wasn’t sure it would actually happen. I certainly didn’t know how to make it happen.

How I Finally Became a Full-Time Writer

I fell into my first full-time writing job randomly. I had been helping a friend edit his book, and one day he asked if I wanted to help him write it.

“Sure, I’d be willing to do that,” I told him, but inside I was screaming, “YES! YES! YES!”

That first writing job lead to a second, this one on the coast of Southern Spain. That job turned into a third, this time writing for a magazine in Washington. Now, more than five years later, my writing supports my wife, our two sons, and me.

I think back to that moment at 17 when I first wanted to become a writer and think, “I did it. I didn’t know how it would happen, but I did it. I became a writer.”

Can You Become a Full-Time Writer?

I don’t talk much about my professional writing on The Write Practice, but for the first time, I want to open up and talk about how I became a writer.

More importantly, I want to talk about how you can become a full-time, well paid writer.

Writing is a secretive, competitive business. It’s not easy to learn the trade, and even when you do, it’s hard to break in and make it your career. It’s even harder to earn the big projects, the $20,000 to $30,000 or more ones.

When I was younger, I didn’t know anyone who could explain the business to me, but if you’re reading this, you do. You know me.

Tomorrow, I’m teaching a free training about how to become a full-time writer. It starts at 3 pm Eastern/12 pm Pacific, and I’d love for you to join me.

Click here to register for the free live training.

Be sure to register now because space is limited (we only have 500 spots), and arrive to the training on time if you’re able because there will be some time-sensitive material.

I’m really excited to get a chance to talk to you about writing professionally.

Please register for the training and learn how to make a good living getting paid to write. The training is tomorrow (Thursday, March 31) at 3 pm Eastern/12 pm Pacific. You can sign up for your spot here.

When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer? Tell me your story in the comments section.

PRACTICE

A little different practice today: what are three things you could do in the next twenty-four hours to get closer to becoming a full-time writer (or if you already are full-time, to earn more doing it)?

Write your three things down, share them in the comments, then go do them and report back here with your progress.

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • lilmisswriter17

    When I was in fifth grade, I was one of three kids in my class who won the essay contest for our DARE program. All I remember after that is starting my first novel in sixth grade. I’ve been writing since even before I won the contest, but it didn’t hit me until I did that writing was something I was passionate about.

    • I love that. It’s always those cherished memories from childhood that shapes us and allows us to persevere when things get hard. Hold on to that feeling!

  • Nina Gurgel

    I’m already a professional writer, but I never counted my work of translation and reviewing as writing as well, although, in a way, it is. Now that I read your post, I realize there are other things about writing than just creating a story, right? I’ll definitely be here tomorrow!
    Thank you for the opportunity!

    • Very cool, Nina. I think translation is such a creative endeavor (even if it doesn’t always feel like that). I’m impressed. Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.

  • Andrea

    Well, I was very young, I think about 8 when I started writing. Of course back then my stories weren’t all that good, mostly short stories about rapidly growing ideas forming in my mind. I’m 17 now and I’ve been writing ever since, now my stories are over 30 chapters long (mostly crime, fantasy, historical romances..etc.) though I’m still an amateur, I published a few of my stories on FanFiction.net.

    • Amazing Andrea! I love hearing stories like this, and I hope you keep at it until we’re all buying your books from bookstores! 🙂

  • Janet Aristotle

    I’d dare say, Joe, that you’re as good of a writer as a marketer. People DO want to earn more, and you found this niche very nicely, but authors writing for money won’t survive. They’ll just fall right out, collapse on the side of the race track. If you’re running for the money, find something else to do ’cause writing don’t pay well.
    Furthermore, I find that writing isn’t that competitive at all, and it certainly isn’t difficult to ‘break in’ and find an agent. Really, all you have to do to become an agent is invest in an advertisement; it’s not like there’s some bar test or anything. Agents grow on trees. Just phrase your opening letter nicely and you’ll get interest. Just don’t write crap and you’ll get published (though we’ve all seen poop in print. There are always exceptions…)

    Anyway, I have to admit that you do have more experience than I do with publishing and stuff, but really? It seems like our writing worlds may differ a great deal.

    • Hey Janet. Thanks so much for this point. I absolutely agree that if your sole focus is on the money, you’ll burn out, and I’ve written about that many times on The Write Practice (like here: http://thewritepractice.com/why-we-write/). And while it does sound like our world are very different if you’re finding tree-growing agents and publishing all your books with no competition, I don’t think our world views are as different as you might think.

      Money is fuel. If you can earn money from your writing, you can write more. If you can write more, you can get better faster. How much better of a writer could you be in a year if you could focus on it from 9-5 PLUS whatever extra time you’re spending on it now?

      Writing isn’t about money just as life isn’t about money, but if you don’t have it, it can make things a lot more difficult, right?

    • rosie

      For me it’s not fully about the money, but I want to earn a living writing because I love it so much. It’s about doing what you love and being paid for it!

  • Margaret Flory

    Joe, I love your enthusiasm for all things ‘Writing’ I have always loved the English language and enjoy both poetry and story. I have a dilemma – advice would be very welcome. I have had my first book published with Novem Publishing. Of course I was over the moon after sending my manuscript they were happy to publish. I was very naive and was asked for different amounts of money which I paid. I felt rushed but I didn’t mind at the time because I was nursing my Mother at end stage of cancer and she was, although weak, very excited about my book and I was trying to get a copy for her in a limited time scale. I did manage this and I watched sitting in bed, plumped up pillows around her, reading my book and giggling. She is featured in my book with my step father and made for great fun. However, after her death and not until I
    was able to function without crumbling, I took a long look at the deal I had got myself into. My royalties are 10% and I have a contract until next year. I have had to pay for most of the expenses. But, I am still unhappy because the finished book is littered with mistakes. I want to put the mistakes right and the general look of the inside but to do that and sent to the printer I am expected to pay again. It is very pricey and probably a waste of time now.
    My book is available on Amazon e-book, kindle and paperback and is sold in several countries. I have begun writing the sequel to the book but I don’t want to go through the expensive procedure again.I want to go solo! I would love feedback from people who don’t know me. I need constructive criticism to help me in my next book. I have wonderful comments from friends and acquaintances
    It is very funny apparently. I’m just fed up with it. The price the publisher is asking is crazy. The book in not good value. Kindle is less money and looks better but is expensive, I think it is anyway. I don’t want to give the details of my book – I am not advertising it, I am trying to improve it. I am not unhappy about the story because the stupid things that happened in it are all true.The genre is humour and travel mixed. Would anybody reading this please give me advise or any queries I can answer to guide me. We are all authors together and my new best friends!
    Oh, I can’t book a time for the editorial tomorrow – am at hospital all day. Will you be providing any more chances, Joe?

    • I’m sorry it was such a difficult experience, Margaret. Just from hearing your story, I would never publish something with Novem Publishing. Honestly, publishing doesn’t have to be expensive. You can hire people and do most of it yourself (Jane Friedman has a great resource: https://janefriedman.com/self-publish-your-book/). If you need more guidance, I recommend a company like bookbaby.com, who can do all the extra work behind your books at very reasonable cost. The fact that they made you pay to publish your book AND are taking 90% of your royalties makes me very angry. Check out Jane Friedman’s resources to start, and let me know what you think.

      Oh and we’ll have a replay of the training, so no worries about missing. Please sign up and we’ll send it to you when it’s ready.

      • Margaret Flory

        Many thanks, Joe, for taking time out to read and reply to my post. It is greatly appreciated. Thanks also for the links. I will spend time this weekend sorting out my plan of action. I will look again at the contract with a view to ending it asap.Wish me luck. Thanks again.

    • Tamsin Urquhart-Taylor

      Are you self-publishing? I don’t think any publisher or agent legally should be asking you for any money. There job is to take commission from the sales but you don’t pay them. It may be that these aren’t the best people to be working with. This book lists all the decent agents and publishers out there – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Writers-Artists-Yearbook-2016-Yearbooks/dp/1472907078/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=1NN145NC2MAMS8J3JZF4 I wrote a post here about publishing if helps – http://magicalwonderings.com/2016/03/21/who-needs-a-literary-agent/ (My site is currently getting a re-vamp so I do hope it doesn’t go blank when you click the link.) Happy writing!

      • Margaret Flory

        Dear Tamsin, thank you for taking time to read my post. I really appreciate it. The links you cited will be fully explored by moi, and I will take an in depth look at my contract which has been proved to be a waste of space. I think they saw me coming.

        • Tamsin Urquhart-Taylor

          Good luck. They can’t hold you to much I suspect. 😉

          • Margaret Flory

            I appear to be very selfish and demanding of your time, Tamsin.
            My plans for following your links, to sort my contract and take up my quill (sp. ?)to continue with the sequel to my first book came to nothing. Why? Life happened… Wonderful stuff to write about but leaves me feeling wrung out.
            Family comes first, but really after 40 odd years of nurturing, educating, washing, ironing, cooking, nursing and being an agony aunt you would think such times were well behind me. Nope. Why? Because my two girls managed to find two of the biggest bastards in the area and married them.
            My emotional batteries are gone, finished, dried up, no more phut. but round four hundred and twenty two will start again in the morning.
            I will, however, tackle the publisher asap.
            Regards-Margaret

          • Tamsin Urquhart-Taylor

            Email me if you like when you get a free mo. 😉 magicalwonderings@gmail.com – I can send you all the articles that may help to save you time sifting. Never give up on your dreams 😉

          • Margaret Flory

            Dear Tamsin, I tried to access your e-mail but my message came bouncing back. I will try again tomorrow. I could have made a mistake in the address. Everything going on – brain addled.

  • Kristi Baker

    I could be more dedicated, practice more and focus

  • Josh Lewis

    I think one thing I could do is finish my current story, as finishing is something I’m having difficulty with. Also, I could start making plans for a blog to begin my platform as a freelance editor and writer. Finally, I could become part of the regular writing forum to sharpen my skills.

  • LaCresha Lawson

    That is awesome taking the time to teach how to become writers full-time. Thank you so much! You must have had your share of stories to tell!

  • James Bekenawei

    I would continue to write intentionally.
    Participate fully in writing tutorials offered by thewritepractise.com and look for online and offline writing opportunities and take them.
    Hopefully this can be a step in the right direction towards becoming not just a better writer but one who gets paid doing what I love.

  • Tamsin Urquhart-Taylor

    Was the live training recorded. It would be great to see it. 😉

    • It will be, yes. Just make sure to sign up and you’ll get sent the recording. Thanks!

      • Tamsin Urquhart-Taylor

        Thanks Joe. I have to work tonight but I am signed up to your email subscriptions so I guess you will send through a post link or something when poss?

  • I think the biggest thing I could/should do is make my writing more of a priority. It seems that life gets in the way much too often. Second, be more disciplined and consistent about writing. Third, write even/especially when I don’t feel like writing.
    I believe that I’ve accomplished all 3 of them in writing this comment? The

  • Kelley madick

    First listen the presentation. I need to schedule my time better. I need more discipline in my day.

  • Jenny

    When I used to watch TV, I used to think what would happen if a certain show would end differently, and this led me to think about new ways to end a certain TV sequence and ultimately, realizing that I wanted to become a writer!

  • Lenke Slegers

    I dont want to become a full time writer, but I defo want to write again (since childhood). So just finished my second prompt (focus) and wrote the following trying to inhibit comments on my first prompt. Again, I am not a native speaker):

    Prompt 2

    Write for 30 mins with your eyes closed. Focus.

    How does a baseball player prep before a match? How does he prep his mind? Does he visualize the game? Does he think about his first match or first time he played in his life?

    Hosea is about to play the match of his life. Ever since he saw Babe Ruth winning that home run, hitting the home base hard and getting cheered on by his fans, Hosea wanted to feel the same.

    He started playing baseball since he was 9 and has loved it. Started collecting all the famous baseball players stickers, trading with boys in school, haggling to get the better, nicer and more rare ones. He always got his way. The boys in school loved him for his perseverance, and now the fans love him for the same trait. He just won’t quit. When all odds seem against him for reaching the next base before the ball hits hit, he still makes a run for it. Often he wins, even if it is just by putting of the other team for a second with his faith, or how they call it: his stubbornness. And a second is often enough in this game. A second of hesitation, which he always puts to his advantage.

    Of course by now the other teams know him, know how he hopes to bring them of balance to go for the weirdest odds, and they focus better.

    But still he makes it more than half of the time. Which is enough to keep doing his thing.

    (I should change the main character in a she.

    Or not.)

    Hosea has been playing for more than ten years, which in this business means he is becoming a fossil. His body is tired, overworked. He sits in the dressing room, shuts out all noises around him. The clamoring of the lockers, the rushes of clothes being pulled off and on, the chatting of the boys, the swooshing of somebody trying out a bat, the goggling of another gulping down a liter of water.

    Behind that is the pressure of performing. To show the young boys he is still good and strong. That he still has the edge. Razorsharp.

    But his mind drifts of. Is he still razor sharp? Is his body still tuned to perfection? The tone of his muscles in perfect balance with his mind? Ready and willing to make every move his brain orders them to do?

    The fact that he doubts drives him mad. He shouldn’t give in to these thoughts.

    But they are there, more and more the last couple of weeks. More and more after that young brat beat him in pushups.

    Of course he had to accept the challenge. To do pushups until one gave up. He did good, very good. He wondered how many of the other kids would have done the same. Would have paced up.

    But the kid was better. Stronger in his mind.

    And that’s what it takes. A strong mind. You can do anything if you want if. Mind over body has always been his motto.

    But now it seems his body is taking over. Saying no more. The question is: is it peer pressure? Other people saying it is not possible that he still does with his body what he wants? Is it like a subliminal message that his body started to believe? Is that what is undermining his mind?

    He will fight it. He will do a glorious match, do more homeruns than ever, show them that his mind is still boss over his body.

    And then he will retire. Give his body some well-deserved rest. Maybe go teaching sports or something to young kids. Teach them about mind over body.

    (Djees its hard to keep my eyes closed. Only halfway)

    Hosea closes his eyes. He wants to be perfectly prepared for this match. The match of his life. He breaths in hard and puffs out in many small puffs. He hears the sounds around him, but he drifts of easy. He is used to meditating, his team mates now what he is doing, he is not bothered by any stares, which aren’t even there. He drifts of and remembers again, in every tiny detail, Babe Ruth’s performance of that night, December 9, 1987. Against the Sox. The Bulls being down, time running out. All pressure on Babe Ruth. They need this homerun or they will be out for the rest of the season. The swingman does his swing, a perfect hard short curveball which the batman hits equally hard to try and give BR the best of chances. But the ball doesn’t go far. BR saw it happening and set of. He is like a wildebeest sensing the approaching cheetah. Dust swerves from under his feet as he pushes of the base and calls all his cells in his body to bring it on. Hosea sees the arms and legs of BR go in slow motion in his mind. He feels the muscles burning to give all the energy they have. BR reaches top speed on first base, holding in ever so slightly to curve on to second base. Not watching the ball, not hearing anything from his teammates shouting. He just runs. Hitting second base, of to third. Hosea feels the body next to BR jumping in the air to catch the ball. Feels his arm going backwards to throw it to honk man. At the same time the ball leaves the hands of the player, BR sets of from third base. And hits home base a millisecond before the ball does.

    Abrupt Hosea opens his eyes. He was BR. He feels his cells tingling with that same kind of invincible feeling.

    That’s what he wanted. That’s what he needed. And that’s what will make him play the match of his life.

    • William E Daye

      Love this. I am writing a young adult baseball story. This is really awesome. I love that you chose baseball to write about. Great job.

      • Lenke Slegers

        Waauw thx!

  • 1. Send more query letters out to marketing managers (for my freelance copywriting)
    2. Send manuscripts to more publishers (for my children’s picture book)
    3. Self publish and market like hell (for my literary fiction)

  • I’m determined

    Yes, I’m working at becoming a full time writer. That’s why I’m Determined. Haven’t got there yet – too many glitches tripping me up. I’ve wanted – needed – to write since I was a small kid. Stories would come to me, fill my mind. Okay, part of it was also trying to evade the hell hole that was my family life. Joe, how about a writing blog on using one’s (hell hole) family life, on being able to use all that pain writing it into a (fiction) story?

  • William E Daye

    1. Make a writing schedule
    2. Write at least one chapter a week
    3. Buy tons of coffee lol

  • Will there be a recap, because I was driving home from work at the time of the workshop? I’d love to at least listen to a recording of the training.

  • Andressa Andrade

    Oh, no! I was working and missed this one! Will there be a recap? Is there anywhere where we can watch or just listen to it? =(

  • Robin Staley

    Decide what I want to say to the world and find the means to do it. Take a class, blog, etc.
    Carve out a schedule and stick to it!
    Find a writing community

  • P.

    I love writing, I love it! But I don’t do enough of it what with my ‘real’ yuck job. I struggle with creating a problem for the protagonist. I know, it sounds daft – isn’t that the story?? But other than that I have interesting characters. I struggle with the story – the actual what’s going on. Does anyone else have this problem? I don’t practise enough for sure, but I would love to develop a strategy or something to help me along because I KNOW I can write. Any advice will be most welcome. Thanks and I love your blog 🙂

    • 709writer

      It’s not just you – I am the same way. It’s hard to come up with the story and problems for the protagonist. You could try asking, “What is the worst thing that can happen?” when you’re stuck with situations for your protagonist. It’s ok to torture your main character. That will show you what the person is really made of.

      Something else you can do is try writing in different places; for example try writing on your lunch break at work, while laying down in bed, or sitting outside on the porch. Writing in different environments can free your mind and help you brainstorm a bunch of ideas.

      You can even put your main character in different, unusual, or even every day situations, and just see what happens. Maybe your main character goes to a cafe to meet with someone and accomplish something, and an armed robber comes into the cafe. Or maybe your main character is just walking up the street and a car swerves off the road toward him. The possibilities are endless! It’s just getting your mind to see things from different angles and asking, “What is the worst thing that can happen?” Hope this helps. : )

      • P.

        Thanks so much. I actually thought it was me, like I was doing something that was hindering my productivity. I will try these tips for sure and get the finger out once and for all 🙂

        • 709writer

          You’re welcome! Good luck. : )

  • 709writer

    I don’t think I could be a full time writer, because I love free writing without fear of deadlines. If I had to meet deadlines, I would feel rushed, and it would take the joy out of writing for me. But, I do have three things that could improve my writing: I need to write every day; I need to write for at least 10 or 15 minutes and write as fast as I can; I need to stifle my inner editor.

    Thank you for the post! : )

  • smousse

    Write every day.
    Trust myself to do a good job.
    Stop setting myself up to fail by setting lofty unrealistic goals, just write and enjoy it.

  • Jerome Xia

    Write every day.
    Also repeat to myself,”If you aren’t aiming to be the best, then there’s no point in this world for you to write.”
    Continue to research.

    • Zerelda

      A word of caution (though you may have it under control). I often default to thinking something very similar to you, but I’ve learned this: Don’t aim to be the best. Aim to do the best you can do.

      What’s that one quote? Oh yeah… “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Ernest Hemingway

      *dances away*

      • Jerome Xia

        If you become superior to everyone, you will be superior to your former self at the same time, the self that was not superior.

        • Zerelda

          The problem comes when you (not you personally) base your expectations of your abilities on what everyone else is doing. I know that even if most of the kids in my math class are getting B’s, I can still get an A. Maybe I am “superior” to my classmates with an A, but I know I can still do the bonus questions on every test and the extra credit anyway.
          Trying to be the best you can will only limit your ability if you believe you aren’t capable of very much. What I’m trying to say is to not focus on what the status quo is (though it’s a good point of reference for what you can reasonably expect from yourself) and to instead focus on whether or not you have enough strength at the moment to take the next step.

          P.S. In case you aren’t aware, the way you came across in that last comment made me want to smack you.

          • Jerome Xia

            Your first sentence doesn’t make sense. You state that you may be superior, then use but before saying you still able to do every bonus question. The logic doesn’t follow because if you were superior to math then of course you would be able to do bonus questions and extra credit. Then, you say how your ability is only limited to how much you believe you can do, if so then just believe you can become a superior writer to all, that isn’t an opposition to my argument. I argue to not limit yourself and to strive to be the best. At the end, you change your argument to, “whether or not you have enough strength at the moment to take the next step.” Well, under the aiming-to-be-the-best philosophy, I would say to find that strength and take the step no matter what, or give up and do something else.

          • Zerelda

            I said superior to your classmates, not superior to math *cough*. I say “but” because I’m not talking about capability, I’m talking about going the extra mile. If you have an A then you don’t have to do the extra credit or the bonus questions (ha ha, having an A doesn’t mean extra credit is easy). If your goal is to be better than a B, then there is no reason to do anything more once you have an A. You are already the best. If your goal is to do the best you can, then you have a reason to do more even when you have an A. You can do better than 95%.

            I did not say, “your ability is only limited to how much you believe you can do,” I said, “Trying to be the best you can will only limit your ability if you believe you aren’t capable of very much.” I was using “believe” as interchangeable with “think” because “think” gets repetitive pretty quickly. I am not saying that believing you can means you can (seems like a form of relativism). I am saying that most people have the potential to do most things and if they have confidence in that fact then they have access to their potential. If someone assumes they don’t have potential then even though they do have the same potential as anyone else, they don’t get to use it.

            “At the moment”. If you get stuck on a step that you just can’t get past even when you take a breather then I agree that maybe you should climb a different set of stairs. At the same time I kinda believe that you’d find a way to climb the next step if you just didn’t give up. I guess you’d have to make a judgement call on whether you really want to go to the length of “no matter what” or if it would be better to give up and do something else. (I could word that better but I have to run.)

            You argue not to limit yourself and to strive to be the best. The only difference between us is that I argue to strive to be your best. We have different philosophies. I have tried to use be-the-best and I have been the best and I’ve also hated myself for how I think and act when that is my moto. I’ve used be-the-best-you-can and I am a lot happier without my output changing. Both will move you forward but on different paths to different destinations.

            Anyway, I’m finished. I just wanted to offer you some advice because I don’t think trying to be better than other people will lead you anywhere good. Take it or leave it but I wasn’t trying to start a fight and I would rather spend this time writing a story than a rebuttal.

            Adiós.

  • Jerome Xia

    Okay, so the free training was about ghostwriting… I have to say that I don’t thin I ever want to go down that path.

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