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How to Become a Writer

how to become a writer

Become a writer

There is a big gap between wondering how to become a writer – and actually becoming a published author.

Here’s the weird story of how I got a contract with a publishing company, as well as some tips on how you too can find success as a writer.

This is what happened …

Some years ago – before I became a blogger – I decided to fulfill a childhood dream and write a book.

I started telling everyone that I was going to write a book. Some people laughed behind my back, but my friends urged me on.

Yes, something powerful happens when you commit to your calling.   Something is set in motion.

At the time I wasn’t web-savvy, but I had a sense that it would be good to publish some articles on the Net. So I started a simple site and published just three articles.

I then went on holiday to visit my family in Europe. When I came back home, I found a big pile of unopened letters. I was about to push them aside, when my eyes fell upon a letter from Duncan Baird Publishers in London.

A letter from a publisher? 

I ripped it open.

Dear Mary Jaksch, it said, we would like to offer you a contract to write a book on how to improve relationships. However, we would need a test chapter from you to ensure that you would be a good fit for us.

My jaw dropped – a book contract? Whaaat?

I raced around my home, squealing.

Then I read on and found that they were planning to co-produce the book with the US publishing house, Chronicle Books. Apparently they had spotted  my articles on the Net. I got more and more excited.

They said I was shortlisted as a possible author and they were waiting for a test chapter from me. The letter went on to say that the deadline for the test chapter was

… the very next day.

My joyful squeals were choked off. By tomorrow…? Oh, NO!

I sat down at my desk and tried to forget about jet lag, hunger, and the bags waiting to be unpacked.

I worked all night, grinding out the test chapter the publishers had requested. Finally, I emailed them my chapter  - and then three very slow weeks went by.

Finally, a letter arrived from the publisher. It took me six hours to muster enough courage to open it. When I looked inside, I saw the contract for my first book, Learn to Love.

This time I screamed so loudly that my son ran to my rescue, and my cat fled under the bed.

What a moment! Imagine if that was you …

It was like a miracle: once I had made the decision to write a book, it took only eight weeks to get a contract with a publisher .

I have to admit though, this book wasn’t all plain sailing. The advance amounted to a year’s income – which was fantastic, but there were some quirks in the contract that my lawyer failed to spot. For example, I never got any royalties for copies of Learn to Love published in other countries. My book was translated into eight languages, so I missed out on a lot of royalties.

However, being a published author isn’t just about the money.

One of the highlights was arriving in Brazil to find a whole shop-window decorated with my book – which had just been just translated into Portuguese!

Was getting this book contract just plain good luck? Or is there something to be learned from my experience?

I think there are five lessons here:

Lesson #1: Broadcast your dream

Tell everyone about your decision, even though you might still harbor some doubts about your plans. It can feel a bit scary to broadcast your dream, but it makes it much more likely that you will make your dream come true.

Lesson #2: Meet good fortune half way

There is a difference between luck and good fortune. Luck is random, but good fortune isn’t. If you want to have good fortune, you need to meet it half-way. You need to put all your energy into making your dream come true. When you do that, chances are that good fortune will do the rest.

Lesson #3: Be visible

If you look at how my book contract came about, the key thing was that I had published some articles on the Net. This is how they found me.

These days, it’s much easier to have a presence on the Net, especially if you have a blog. A blog is a great platform to show off your writing. It doesn’t matter whether you write fiction or non-fiction. A  blog will hone your writing and attract readers who will buy your book.

Lesson #4: Improve your writing

The more you write, the better your writing gets. This is one of the upsides of having a blog: it forces you to write regularly.

Lesson #5: Get feedback

The problem with publishing a traditional print book is that it takes a long time before you get feedback. This is another nifty thing about blogging: you get immediate feedback from your readers in the comment section.

I think my best decision as a writer was starting a blog. Blogging has transformed my writing. It’s an exciting way to connect with readers and get the feedback that helps you improve.

As you may know, I co-founded the A-List Blogger Club and have taught over 4,000 bloggers, many of whom are now super successful.

However, there are some new, exciting developments on the Net that are going to revolutionize online education. So I’ve decided to create a new evolution of A-List Blogging, the A-List Blogging Masterclass. It’s not quite ready yet, but we’re working hard behind the scenes.

What are your dreams? Please share in the comments.

 

About the author:

Mary Jaksch is Editor-in-Chief at WritetoDone.com and Creator of A-List Blogging. After creating two super-successful blogs of her own, Mary has dedicated herself to teaching students to grow profitable blogs that attract attention. Take her fun quiz to see how much you know about what makes a blog successful.

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55 thoughts on “How to Become a Writer

  • Ophelia

    Dear Mary, it is about a year that I have decided to become a writer. I love writting & somehow the experiences I’ve had in the past few years had put me in this direction. I have been more of a technical writer since I’m an engineer and work for a consulting firm. I must say that english is my second language but I really love to write in english. I don’t know may be I express myself better in it. I also have a vision of my book & also the subject. but I don’t know how to form it. there are lots of things I need to know & I’m happy that I’ve found you.

  • Gail

    I met a poet once at a workshop for adults with literacy problems. I was a tutor and sat in on the event. He said that his world changed the day he went to sign on (for unemployment benefit after his labouring job ended) and when they asked “occupation?” he took a deep breath and said “writer”. From then on, he stopped being sheepish about ‘being a writer’; because that is what he now was. My dream is to be a full time, not-otherwise-employed, income-generating (enough to support the lifestyle) writer. I dabble in my spare time, I have umpteen half-completed stories and have done online courses and competitions (one successfully) and subscribe to all kinds of blogs and newsletters on writing. But meantime, I still have to earn a living and that absorbs 5 full time days a week that I resent and need. In my dreams, I live in a cottage in the countryside with peace and time to write, write, write. I often think about that poet from Dundee, Mark Thompson, who inspired me to think of myself as a writer and I can almost hear a voice inside saying, “Go on, go on, just do it”. Unfortunately I am a coward and afraid of the risk of being poor and, of course, failure. But, I continue to dream.

    • Mary Jaksch Post author

      Funnily enough, it’s easier to write well when you are stressed and don’t have enough time. I once went to a beautiful Thailand beach with palm trees, distant islands, soft waves lapping … and my creativity dried up on the spot!

      Just start writing 10 minutes a day.

    • Mary Jaksch Post author

      Thanks for the heads-up, Leigh. I’ve corrected the mistake. It shows that you don’t have to be a great speller to become a successful writer :-)

  • Kim

    Can I just say how wonderful the timing of this post is?

    I first learned about A-List Bloggers about a year ago, and I wanted to join then, but the monthly price was impossible for me then. And over time, I guess, I kind of *cough, cough* forgot about it. Then this month I had decided to join a different type club, but wasn’t quick enough they ran out of space. And this very moment, I am SO GLAD it happened that way, because this is the club I belong in – Writing and blogging – couldn’t get any more perfect. Happy to say, I am now a member!

  • Anna Labno

    I didn’t like the end of the post. And for sure, I don’t like when people target others into monthly payments.
    Free advice is offerred everywhere. Why would people want to pay extra monthly fee? It doesn’t make sense.
    I rather buy two or three books for that price. You can learn a lot from books. Blogs are good but so distracting and take you away from writing.

    • Gail

      I agree with you about how distracting reading about writing can be, Anna. Just looking at one blog posting and following a couple of links can swallow up huge amounts of time. I keep telling myself not to look at the internet, eventually I can only be a writer by putting words down on a page and so I should just get on with it and stop procrastinating. Too much advice, I find, can be confusing and even demoralising. All things in moderation – I wouldn’t like to be without it at all, though, there is so much that is encouraging and thought provoking – like this!

  • Jill W

    The timing of your post was perfect! I’ve been questioning whether or not the time I’ve been spending on my blog is really worth it. Lately, I’ve felt it’s taking time away from other writing projects and studying the craft. There are so many pros and cons out there on the internet about blogging ~ thanks!

  • Archan Mehta

    Thank you for contributing this post: I really enjoyed reading it.

    However, you case seems to be the exception to the rule. A lot of people blog, for example, but most of them, I am afraid, are not so lucky to get book contracts or have publishers even deign to contact them.

    Your story gladdens my heart. It is great to know that you were able to grab opportunities that came your way.

    It is a good idea to start a blog and maintain it but do not expect miracles.

    As for me, I have been reading blogs for the longest time and dream of becoming a published writer, but so far that dream has not translated into reality.

    Not everybody can write like V.S. Naipaul, but we can still try to live up to our true potential.

    For every writer who attained fame and fortune and became a celebrity, there are millions of others out there–who are in a majority–who are languishing in obscurity and penury. That’s the harsh reality of most writers.

    Cheers.

    • Mary Jaksch Post author

      I think something new is coming about, Archan. The reason why so many writers languished in obscurity is because getting a contract with a big publishing house was the only way to success. Now, with the advent of digital books, everything has changed. People can publish their book on Kindle and become very successful.

      It’s good news for writers like you – who have a beautiful style of writing.

  • Daphne Gray-Grant

    Thanks for sharing your story, Mary. It is really inspiring. Archan, have you ever thought of self-publishing your book? You are right: the harsh reality is that publishers don’t approach many writers. But nowadays it’s actually incredibly easy to publish your own book.

  • Jim Bessey

    Yours is a wonderful story, Mary.
    For me, your #1 is so important. If you tell your peers and family all about your intentions and goals, it’s much more likely that you’ll find ways to follow through. Determination leads to results, for sure.
    Thanks for convincing me to rejoin the gang at A-List!

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  • Diane Somer

    Mary, a great sensible-advice post. I certainly t hink blogging is terrific for writers because it not only focuses upon writing and getting yourself ‘out there’ but it can generate invaluable feedback from readers and subscribers and generate terrific contacts. It also imposes some discipline upon you in order to regularly post and write – what could be more important for a budding writer? Thank you.

  • Julie Hyndman

    I love this article- just realised that I need to keep putting writing on my writing blog page (as well as my draws which have recently made an appearance) thanks for the jolt!!! May I share this article on my blog page please?? Thanks again, keep writing!!!!

  • Vinita Zutshi

    Mary,

    What a delightful experience! :-) But a learning one as well, because you are now wiser about your rights.

    Yes, blogging helps reach out to many people. I have found it also helps me clarify my thinking. I blog on Parenting, and find that blogging has helped me sort out how I feel about many issues. I’ve been on a hiatus with the blog, but need to restart once I rejig it to look the way I’d like it to.

    I am a published author working on my second (commissioned) book, but those are puzzle and game books. I have yet to publish any fiction. Your post is a heartening sign to carry on and stick with the essentials: the right attitude and the right actions.

    I particularly liked your point about the difference between luck and good fortune, and making your own fortune (pun intended!) :-)

    Thank you!

  • Tima Borges

    I have been writing for a few years now. Keeping a blog and been a guest writer on another group of bloggers. I appreciate your advice here. It is very encouraging. A few months ago I decided to write a book. I am working on a fiction novel for Young Adults. A genre I never thought of writing for before. You are correct, because of my own doubts and insecurities sometimes I am my own worst enemy. I have been weary about sharing with everyone that I working on a book. so your advice has definitely given me something to consider. Thank you.

    • Mary Jaksch Post author

      Hi Tima – great idea to target Young Adults! That’s a great niche market. I wish you all the best.

      And congratulations for sharing your dream here – YEAH!

  • Laura McHale Holland

    You have such an inspiring way about you, Mary. I have been uplifted by everything I’ve read of yours, as well as by your videos. This is probably the main reason I joined the A-List Bloggers club. Information abounds on the Internet, but it takes more than information to change habits, to become someone who takes action to realize dreams. I think you have a gift for getting people to take action. … I feel like I’m good at some aspects of the writing life, but I hold myself back in other ways that are so ingrained they’re hard to identify and change. I’m workin’ on it. … I started a blog, http://lauramchaleholland.com, because I was publishing a memoir (after a publisher sat on it for four years without publishing it, I took the rights back and decided to go it alone). Blogging seemed like a good thing to do, but I didn’t want to blog on and on about my book, so I made a commitment in 2011 to post flash fiction weekly all year, which I did. I’m now about to launch my second book. It’s the best of the stories I posted in 2011 (edited, of course). Not very many people visit my blog, though. I hope to take some smart actions to reach more readers.

    • Mary Jaksch Post author

      Thank you so much for your encouraging words, Laura!
      I’m impressed by your strategy to publish flash fiction. You are obviously a woman of action and I look forward to seeing you blog bloom.

  • Sarah L. Webb

    Whoa! This gives me renewed motivation to continue with my blogging efforts. I really like that you emphasized the need for effort, not just waiting for luck. I’ve also had trouble with broadcasting my dream, but I’m getting over that. You know, the whole fear of failure thing was keeping me quiet. But I think not sharing my dream is a sign that I don’t really believe it.

    Thanks!

    • Mary Jaksch Post author

      You say: “But I think not sharing my dream is a sign that I don’t really believe it.”

      That’s the rub. Of course we don’t quite believe in dreams. That uncertainty is what makes dreams so powerful.

      The most important thing is to go ahead and broadcast your dreams – in spite of your lingering doubts.

      “Feel the doubts and do it anyway” (doesn’t have the same ring as ‘Feel the fear and …’ does it?!)

  • Liz McGee

    HI Mary,

    I like to write, but I have to say, it still takes me a long time to compose something I think is worthy of publishing. Even then I can go back and look at what I wrote and critique it to death, then I become discouraged. Ever do that?

    I think part of my problem is that I don’t write enough. I think that’s key. Having a blog, like you mentioned, is a great way to keep writing, but for someone like me, it’s almost not enough. Writing is a skill, and like with any skill you have to practice, a lot!.

    Liz :-)

  • Lynette

    Hi Mary:

    I’ve been telling my family for the last few years that I want to write a book, but never got started! I think joining A-List Blogger is a great investment, because it gives me the structure, knowledge and motivation to get going. Most of my extended family and I have been in and gotten out of a cult, and our experiences would I believe be perfect fodder for an interesting story line on my blog or in a book. So thanks for this opportunity. I’m looking forward to the new things A-List Blogger Club will be presenting.

  • Jevon

    Hi Mary, you made it sound so easy. Its great that you had such good fortune. As an aspiring writer, it’s important for me to take note of tips like these. Thanks.

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  • eathan

    You’ve been an inspiration to wannabe bloggers like me. I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts. Thank you for the insights. You have not only shared tips about writing but in a way or another, you’ve influenced me to believe once again that nothing is impossible to pursue one’s passion.

  • Sean prendergast

    I’m sort of glad i came across this, being such a sceptic I can’t fully appreciate how wonderful your story is. On the other foot I’m also a dreamer so, wow if this can happen to you it can happen to me!

    I have a huge desire to write about my life’s experiences and turning it in to a story, the problem I face is self doubt and the fact that I have never been taught how to write, o and some more self doubt!…….I would also like to say although I’m 28 years old, by that I consider myself a young man who should know his way around the net, I haven’t the first clue about blogging haha, shameful I know.

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  • jusprado

    Hi Mary!

    Thank you very much for this inspiring words!

    I love to write about my experiences through a sort of self-knowledge journey! I have a blog and I love to share it with my friends, ex-students and everybody who stumble across my true stories.

    I wish one day something very similar as happened to you could happens to me!

    All the best,

    Jus.

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  • Sandra

    Soooo needed this boost today, I’ve fallen behind and need to get back to writing.

    My one goal this year is simple: finish a manuscript.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  • Julie Hyndman

    I’d love to finish my book about Life with a FIFO (fly in fly out) Worker, need to keep plodding, staying inspired is difficult some days, staying focused to also hard, then I get lost, and can’t see where I need to go next- all normal writer issues!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Cara

    So I don’t want to write a book right now…. due to the fact that I am only 13 years of age, but I have taken an interest in blogging. I love to write short editorials, but how can I really jump start a blog?

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