Q&A Advice for Young Writers

Once long ago, I was a university career counselor, and so I absolutely love getting questions about careers and goals and what it takes to be a writer.

First off… if you write, you’re a writer. Full stop. There’s no need to tell people you’re an aspiring writer, or an unpublished writer. Just like if you’re an artist, it doesn’t matter if you sell your art or not to be one – you just are.

The best thing you can do right now for your writing is to read as much as possible, and read from every genre: fiction, non-fiction, romance, fantasy, science-fiction, horror, graphic novels, fanfiction. There’s something to learn from every one of those. If you only stick to one genre, then you’ll end up writing what everyone else writes. You can pick up ideas and writing techniques from everywhere!

If you want to be a published writer there are two ways to go about it: self-publishing and traditional publishing. I am not an expert on self-publishing and so I’ll mainly talk about traditional publishing here. (There are many resources online for self-publishing if you just do a search.)

Most traditionally published authors have a second job or career in addition to writing fiction. It might be hard to do two things at once, but it can be worth it: for the financial security, and also to have expertise beyond just writing – which will help your writing too!

If you’re looking for writing related careers to complement your fiction writing, there’s also copy writing, or technical writing (that’s what I do!). In general, being a good writer will help you in most careers you choose, and the career you choose doesn’t have to be related to writing at all. For example, a career in medicine could be super helpful if you’re also writing murder mysteries. (John Grisham was a lawyer for many years while writing novels.) It’s valuable to have a life beyond writing, because the more you experience the more you can write about.

Here’s a good link that talks about writing careers: The Business Behind Becoming an Author (Thanks Anna!). You can also check out my Links page for more traditional publishing resources.

My final bit of advice: follow the love. Have fun with what you write. It doesn’t matter what you write. The love of writing is what will tide you through this industry. It can be disheartening and difficult at times facing rejection, but if you love the writing and don’t give up it’s all worth it.