It’s overwhelming to think career once you’ve realised you want to be a writer. This might be because you already have a full-time job and writing doesn’t seem like much more than a dream. Or because you’ve written books before and none of the publishers you’ve submitted to have contacted you. Whatever it is that makes you nervous to think about your writing career, set it aside for a moment, and ask yourself one simple question: do you want writing to be your career? If the answer to that is yes, these four steps will help you figure out how to make that happen.
Step One: Figure Out Your Long-Term Goals
This should be your starting point: in the long term, what would you like to achieve in your writing career? Is the ultimate goal getting a publishing contract? Or is it getting an agent and a publishing contract? Getting a publishing contract from a specific publisher? Making enough money to leave your full-time job?
There are a lot of factors to consider here other than just knowing that you want to be a writer. Note down these long-term goals (which might change as time goes on), and move on to step two…
Step Two: Set Short-Terms Goals That Will Get You to Your Long-Term Goals
So, if you want to get a publishing contract, write down how you plan on doing that. For example, look at the submission calls for publishers who publish your genre, and start figuring out how you can answer that call. If your long-term goal is to make enough money to leave your job, figure out how much money that would be, and then look to publishers who offer advances that might meet that. You could also look at publishers who regularly have high sales figures, or who offer higher royalties to get you where you need to be.
You could also break it down even further. Look at how to get published first. Or challenge yourself by carving out a time of day or word count that will create a writing habit that will allow you to meet deadlines quicker. (Which will allow you to write more, which means more books, and then more money…)
Step Three: Be Realistic…and Patient
It doesn’t help for you to set impossible long- or short-term goals. Be honest with yourself, but also be realistic. Ask yourself whether wanting to be a bestselling author is really a goal you can work towards. Or whether you can afford to write full-time when you have three children and are the sole provider for your family.
And then, once you’ve been honest and realistic, be patient. Your goals aren’t going anywhere. If you want to be published, and it hasn’t happened with the first book, write another. And then another, and another, until one day, you do get a publishing contract. If you want to be a full-time writer, it’s okay if that doesn’t happen with your first publishing contract. It may take a few more before you can leave your job, and that’s okay.
But remember, the most important thing is to:
Step Four: Start at the Beginning
None of this will matter if you don’t start at the beginning. And the beginning, dear readers, is to write. It’s important to have a plan so that you know where you’re going, but having a plan shouldn’t be your only priority. Writing your book, and enjoying the process is more important. So, if you’re finding steps one to three hard, take a break, write your book, and come back to it later.
Because there will be time for it later. Trust me.