Wednesday, May 3, 2017

8 Ways Aspiring Authors Can Build a Foundation for a Novelist Career

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A novelist career isn't built overnight. Similar to any other profession, aspiring writers must invest necessary time (and money!) into turning their dream into a reality. However, unlike other careers -- such as being a teacher, nurse, or a lawyer -- there is no straight path to becoming an author. A degree in English or Creative Writing doesn't guarantee a career as a novelist, nor is it absolutely necessary for aspiring authors to attain one.

This is why I'm grateful that I began my writing journey as a teenager: It's given me the opportunity to lay a foundation for my writing career. I was determined, at that age, to do everything I could do to begin walking on a path that would lead to the unveiling of my writing dreams.

No, it's not easy, nor is there a shortcut. But if you, too, are a young writer who has dreams of becoming a career novelist, there are several things you can go ahead and do now that will build the foundation for your future career...

1. Take your writing seriously by setting goals and treating it like a career. This may involve replacing TV or social media time with writing. When you begin to view writing as a profession rather than a hobby, you may find that you become far more determined and motivated to stop making excuses and simply get the job done. 

2. Understand why you're passionate about writing and why you feel lead to pursue it. Consider writing down your mission statement or vision as a writer so you can be reminded of the big picture as you pursue publication. 

3. Invest in your writing education. Attend writing workshops and conferences. Read books and blogs on the craft. Enroll in an online creative writing course. Join a local or online critique group. Writing isn't just an art; it's also a craft, one that must be honed if one hopes to become a career novelist. A writer must combine both art and craft in order to produce a masterpiece. {Psst ... I offer a 3-month writing mentorship course for young writers here.}

4. Understand how the industry works and be informed of the current marketplace. Frequently check out the best-seller list and read popular books. Research how the publishing process works. Subscribe to Publisher's Weekly. You may want to check out the below blog series on how to navigate the path to publication:

5. Gain experience in the field. Write for online and print publications; submit guest posts to blogs; enter and place in contests; write for your school's newspaper; join a writing organization. Not only is this great writing practice, but it will also get your name out there and impress agents and publishers when it comes time to submit to them.   

6. Build an online readership by creating an online presence on social media and potentially a blog. Engage with your followers. Provide valuable content. You may want to check out my posts on how to build a platform here.

7. Learn effective book marketing strategies and research how to become an "author entrepreneur". I'd recommend taking a course in business, if possible, to familiarize yourself in that area. If you become a novelist, then you will be considered a small business owner. It's also important that aspiring authors understand how to market their books, because this will be included in book proposals. Here's a great blog series by author, Melissa Tagg, on how to create a marketing plan.

8. Keep your future book ideas in a folder, and stay on the lookout for new story ideas. Agents especially love to work with writers who have the potential of producing several works rather than just one. (An exception is usually made if the writer has a huge platform, such as the pastor of a mega church.) You'll also want to flesh out about three of these future book ideas when you put together a book proposal. 

As you can probably tell, there's a lot more involved to becoming a career novelist than simply writing a good story. Amateur writers will submit their first drafts to agents and give up when the rejections roll in; professional writers -- writers who are in this for the long haul -- will understand that it takes hard work, excellence, education, and perseverance for their author dreams to come into fruition.

Sure, it might take several years before you begin to see your hard work pay off. But if it means that much to you, then those years of building a foundation will be pale in comparison to the fruit that you will soon bear -- fruit that will lead to the unveiling of your writing career.


How have you begun to build the foundation for your novelist career? Is there anything you'd like to add to this list?



  1. Another wonderful article, Tessa! I can definitely relate to these tips! When I started querying my first novel, I knew practically nothing about publishing, marketing, or taking my writing seriously. I loved writing, but it wasn't a career for me at that point... At least, I didn't see it that way. Now, even though I am still unagented, I've learned so much through experience. It's a continuous learning process, but the best way to learn is to DO. Writing itself is the best teacher. I also love how you said that amateur writers will give up as the rejections pour in, but professional writers will persevere and realize that hard work produces results. I needed that reminder during this leg of my writing journey =)

    1. I’m glad this was encouraging for you, Caitlin! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with aspiring authors simply enjoying the process of writing their book without it becoming work they dread. But if the writer is having trouble with actually finishing a manuscript, then I definitely think it helps to treat it with the same importance as a job, especially if they hope to make a career of it. You’re right: writing is a never-ending learning curve. =) Thanks for stopping by!



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