ANYONE CAN BE AN AUTHOR
The skills to be an author are available to you.
Many people want to write. Storytelling captures humanity’s connection and expression. A good story holds as much value today as it did millennia ago.
But so many people who want to tell stories don’t.
Maybe you think writing takes some unlearnable talent. Maybe the book industry feels daunting (which it can be). Or maybe you don’t know where to begin.
Here are some tips to help you start your journey as an author.
Anyone Can Build a World
There are many ways to write a story. I’m not going to profess one way as the only one. But almost every story has one thing in common.
Stories take place in a world of the author’s design.
Think back to your high school English days. A setting is a time and place. But as an author, think beyond that basic idea and forge a world that makes adventure inevitable.
You might be thinking, “I want to write a contemporary story set in XYZ city.” Even something set in a real place needs invention, a series of tweaks that makes it unique.
Does NYC have an underground bar where the story takes place? Does Kansas City have a secret club of magicians who practice elemental magic? Does God live in the small town of Whatever, Connecticut?
Small adjustments can make even a mundane place special. Tweak it, then tweak it again!
Whether it’s a generation ship set for another solar system or a football club for mythical creatures, every setting has basic elements such as:
Government - who’s in charge and how do they run things?
Resources - what stuff do they have/need?
History - what’s led up to this moment?
Culture - what are the dominant beliefs, values, ideals, etc.?
Keep in mind not all of these elements are literal, depending on your setting. Governments can be anything from the US Congress to the popular clique at school. Resources can be physical (water or oil) or intangible (beauty or intelligence).
With a good setting—one that really lives and breathes—the characters and their adventures will start to appear to you on their own.
And don’t take my tips as the only ones! Always search for advice from the writing community online.
We’re a collection of storytellers here to help each other.
Anyone Can Make Friends
Sometimes it’s not what you know; it’s who you know.
The book world is an industry like any other. It’s worth your time to make friends.
Even if you’re an introvert, there are numerous ways to connect online, a truth reinforced by Covid lockdowns. Social media are key.
The social media landscape is always changing. You can join Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Hive, and more. All of these platforms have communities of writers and book lovers.
You also don’t have to be on every platform. The amount of options is nauseating, so pick some you enjoy most.
Most importantly, make connections!
Over my time as a writer (though I’m young), I’ve made friends in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and more!
Writers love to gush about books to each other. There are plenty of opportunities to strike up conversations about WIPs, including community events on social media.
Many writers also take on other roles, such as:
As you make friendships in the community, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Getting a story from idea to shelves is tough, and people are willing to offer guidance if you’re genuine and respectful.
Some even offer services, such as editing, as part of their own business!
Anyone Can Run a Business
No matter your feelings about art and capitalism, many writers strive to make money. If that’s you, there’s background information you should know.
I am not a tax expert, but making decent money as a writer will affect your taxes. Pay attention to the tax laws of your state and/or country.
Pick a publishing path for the kind of business model you desire. Each one is its own can of worms, but there is:
Traditional publishing (the Big 5)
Not all paths are equal. They have pros and cons.
Self-publishing is—you guessed it—done by yourself! You write the story, you pay for an editor and cover designer (or do your own), and you market the book.
Traditional publishing includes big names like Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. This arena is harder to break into. You write a query letter, hopefully get an agent, and hopefully that agent sells your book to a publisher.
These kinds of presses have a small business feel and can cater to specific genres/niches.
Hybrid is a mix of everything. Writers could publish three traditional projects and another one solo, for example.
There’s no single right way to get a story out there!
All of this is meant to be a broad overview. There are many steps to being a successful author, and people accomplish their bookish dreams in different ways.
Keep learning, keep reading, and keep writing!