What It Takes to Be a Professional Writer


At the risk of being utterly cheesy, let's tackle the topic of what it takes to be a professional writer. At least we're going to tackle part of the topic. The very first part.

There’s nothing wrong with being an amateur writer just as long as you’re working at becoming a pro.

And not necessarily a pro as in a professionally published author making millions every other time he breathes. Just a pro as in someone who’s confident in his or her writing skills while still always seeking to strengthen them.

I know I addressed this basic topic recently in a blog post last month. But it’s one that I’m more than happy to discuss again from a different angle on a different platform.

Professional writers are not just born. We don’t just hatch out of eggs fully developed, knowing how to create riveting plots about charismatic characters full of engaging dialogue in the middle of stellar settings.

Far from it. We start out as amateurs too.

My very first novel, completed when I was 17, was atrocious. And it was still atrocious after I’d edited it repeatedly. The only way to make that manuscript non-atrocious would be to literally burn it and start from scratch.

Clearly then, it wasn’t the work of a professional.

My very second novel, completed when I was 24, was decent. And it was still decent after I’d edited it repeatedly. While it could probably be something more than decent someday, I’m not sure I have the time or desire it would take to turn it into something truly worth reading.

Which means that, until I change my mind about that, it too isn’t the work of a professional.

Then there was my very third novel, which I completed when I was 25 or 26. Today, it’s an absolutely awesome adventure about modern-day faeries: an action-packed exploration of Scotland – both above ground and below it.

But it still took me a decent decade of editing it before it was ready to be published. It was an amateur’s journey into becoming a pro.

Today, after having self-published 10 novels and counting – with two more hopefully debuting this year – I’m happy to call myself a professional writer right up there with being a professional editor who helps other people achieve their authorial dreams.

Yet I never would have reached this point if I had let myself get discouraged by my original “amateur” label.

If you’re still at the amateur stage, don’t let it get you down. If you just keep practicing your craft, studying up on it and letting your imagination out to play, who knows where you could be a decade from now… or even a year down the road.

Future professional writers, start your engines. This is only the starting line.

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