How can I become a writer?

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How can I become a writer?

Oct 15, 2007 |Candice Watters
Question

I have this burning desire to write a book in the area of abstinence and purity. I have had the idea of writing a series of non-fiction books targeted toward teen girls focusing on real situations of the world addressed in a biblical way. The thought never leaves my mind, and I have prayed about it with such a thankful heart for this purpose God has given me. The problem is that I am a waitress/dental assistant, and I have no idea where to start in becoming a writer.

I would love to hear of how you got started or even if you have time to give me some knowledge and insight.

Answer

What must you do to become a writer? You must write. I know, it sounds so obvious, so simple, that it seems silly to even say it. But you'd be surprised the number of people who say, "I want to be a writer." But then fill their hours and days with anything but writing.

So start writing. Every day. Sit down at your computer and compose. Even if what you write doesn't get published for a while, even if another reader never sees those early attempts, it's practice. When you didn't feel like doing another days' worth of repetitive, tedious piano scales, Mom was right, "practice makes perfect." Writing is like that. Many days it's tedious. And repetitive. But it's not enough to be passionate, biblical or even insightful. Those things are essential. But you also need skill. Without it, no one will want to read what you've written. Without skill you'll be missing one key ingredient: an audience.

The second thing you must do is read. If you're thinking about writing in a genre, about a topic that is already well-covered — the way purity for young women is — then you must become familiar with what's already in the marketplace. That's the best way to begin to distinguish your own message in a meaningfully different way from all the other messages already out there. It's unlikely a publisher will sign a project that's more of the same. You need to take a fresh approach; to find an unmet need and then go about meeting it.

But don't limit yourself to reading books about "your subject." Reading good writing — lots of good writing — is essential to becoming a good writer yourself. Some of my favorite books are about things I didn't even know were interesting (e.g., thoroughbred horse racing, cooking for one, business marketing — all far afield from what I write). But the people writing them were so good at their craft that they made their subjects come alive. You can learn from writers like that.

The third kind of books you should read are "craft books." Not crafts as in paper cut-outs, homemade holiday wreaths and hodge-podge collages, but the craft of writing. The titles that most shaped my writing are: Strunk and White's Elements of Style, William Zinsser's On Writing Well, Jon Franklin's Writing for Story and Leads and Conclusions by Marshall J. Cook. Those last two were assignments from an editor who took the time to go beyond giving me work assignments (proofreading, short writing tasks, titling columns) and gave me reading assignments for after work hours. "Read this tonight," he'd say. "We'll talk about it in the morning." Rare is the boss who takes that kind of interest in developing the people who work for him. He was a gift. And his insights and instruction were vital for moving beyond my current skill level.

Thankfully you don't have to wait till someone's paying you to write or teaching you to write to get started. The Internet can make up for deficits. It's globally accessible, easy to use and free. You can start your own blog (web log, or online journal) today. I set up my first blog using blogger.com — knowing virtually nothing about how to do it — in a few hours. I was composing on my very own site before the day was out and within the week, people I'd never met before were reading and commenting on what I was saying. Never before has it been so easy to find an outlet for your ideas, with so much potential for capturing an audience.

As you get experience writing every day, you can branch out and start pitching ideas to other websites, blogs and magazines. There are numerous books and online resources for tapping into that network. I typed "Christian writers guide" into the Amazon search box and received 340 results of books that give all the details about marketplace realities, finding and hiring an agent, pitching ideas to publishers and more. (Many of these titles are available from your local library.)

Finally, pray. Ask the Lord to bless your work and direct your ideas. As you're faithful to develop your skills (the how), using his Word to guide what you say, He'll show you where you're best able to minister to the needs of your audience. There's never a lack of work where His followers are willing to serve.

Sincerely,
CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2007 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

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