There is no single educational path to follow in order to become a writer, but there are things a person can do along the way to improve his or her chances of succeeding in the professional writing business. An early interest in creative writing and English is always helpful, along with a high school course load which emphasizes English and other helpful disciplines such as journalism or foreign language studies. Some writers may have an innate talent for words or composition, but most writers have to start from scratch like everyone else.
One way to become a writer is to major in a discipline such as journalism, English, communications or creative writing in college. These fields allow students plenty of opportunities to hone their writing skills in real world settings, like a college newspaper or literary magazine. Good writing is a skill which requires the same level of discipline and training as any other creative art. It is often valuable to explore all different styles of writing in order to become a writer worthy of attention in the professional world.
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Many writers start out by writing short stories, nonfiction fillers and poetry. While the pay for such writing may be minimal or non-existent, submitting manuscripts to real editors is an excellent way to establish a disciplined work ethic. Rejection letters and other negative responses should not discourage a young writer from pursuing his or her craft. The idea is to establish oneself as a promising writer with a number of publication credits, even if those credits are from smaller or lesser-known magazines.
One way to become a writer is to work for a local newspaper or magazine in an entry-level position. Professional writers often have to work under considerable time constraints, and working in a newspaper office can certainly teach writers how to write concisely under pressure. Writing content for online informational sites can also be an exercise in effective time management and research skills. The life of a professional writer may seem glamorous, but in reality, the majority of writers spend their time working on mundane projects.
A practice known as ghostwriting can also help a person become a writer. A celebrity or other notable figure may be approached to write a book on his or her personal life, for example, but lack the ability or time to actually write it down. A ghostwriter agrees to do the research, conduct the interviews and actually write the book in exchange for a writing fee. Sometimes the real author receives a credit, but quite often he or she works in obscurity.
Writing a novel or play or movie script is also a good way to become a writer of interest, but the publishing field is notoriously competitive. One thing a beginning writer needs to find is a literary agent willing to present his or her manuscript to publishers. Many publishers will not even look at unsolicited manuscripts sent through the regular mail, so it is often essential that a writer develop a professional relationship with an agent in order to level the playing field.
Rejection is an unavoidable by-product of the publication process, and a good writer learns to keep going until he or she finds the right publisher and the right audience for his or her work. As in any other creative field, not all writers have the talent or the discipline to succeed in the profession. For every John Grisham or J.K. Rowling, there are literally thousands of unknown writers struggling to get their work read by professionals. It is not easy to become a writer, but the eventual pay-off in terms of recognition and respect can make the early sacrifices and training worthwhile.