How to make a living as a writer

Michelle & Joanne Harris

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to make my living as a writer. When I was small, I devoured books under the covers at night and browsed libraries starry eyed. In my two previous careers, I worked with other writers, first in book publishing, promoting authors, and then in national newspapers, correcting the spelling, grammar and phrasing of other journalists.

At the same time, I have always had my own writing projects on the go and today I’m fortunate enough to be working as a full-time writer, running my own copywriting business and working as a journalist. The diverse array of subjects I write about means that I can continue to soak up new information and broaden my outlook on life – all as part of the job.

When asked, I have given assemblies on the importance of literacy, whether you have ambitions to make a living as a writer or simply as a tool to broaden the options for your future career and open up your life choices.

Many people have an urge to write but, as it’s a solitary pursuit that requires a lot of self motivation, they struggle with getting started or completing their writing projects.

 

So what are the most important tips for aspiring writers of any kind?

1. Resilience and persistence

Write, keep writing and then write some more. If you get criticism, learn from it and use it as a tool to improve your next piece of writing. It’s a competitive field, so if you get knocked down, you have to get up again and sit yourself back down at your desk.

 

2. Practice makes perfect

Or at least, the more you write, the better you tend to get at honing your craft. Whether I’m writing a magazine feature or a technical brochure, there is always something new to learn but as your skills develop you’ll find that the words flow more freely.

 

3. Don’t be afraid of the blank page

Sometimes the words don’t flow. If you’re really not in the right frame of mind, give yourself a break. However, I can often kick start a project by filling the blank page with a few relevant words. Even if I don’t finish the piece that day, at least those words will be percolating in my head and I usually find it easier to get started the next time I pick up the project.

 

4. Find the right place and time for you

I write better in the mornings. I can write in the afternoons but it tends to take me longer to achieve the same results. For this reason, I try to block off the mornings for writing and use the afternoons for client meetings or working on the development of my business. Or walking the dog. It’s also important to clear a space in your home that is your sanctuary, where you can write in peace without being disturbed.

 

5. Think about who you’re writing for – even if it’s yourself

As a professional writer, my first question to clients is: “Who is this aimed at?” Whether it’s web content, a blog, brochure copy or a magazine article, it’s important to know who you are writing for. In the case of fiction, I have interviewed quite a few authors and they have all said pretty much the same thing when asked for their top writing tip: write what you yourself would like to read.

If you would like more information on feature writing or copywriting services, please take a look at the Key Words Home Page.

For recent examples of magazine articles I’ve written, please see my Journalism Page.

And for events, including author events and creative writing days, please see the Events Page.

 

Michelle Hodgson with novelist Joanne Harris at a Key Words event held in November 2011

 

Copywriting

Creative, affordable copywriting that will help you sell your products and services. From blogging packages and web content to press releases and e-marketing, we offer professional copywriting in Huddersfield and Leeds and across West Yorkshire and the UK.

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Journalism

Read my monthly column in The Eye magazine, interviews with top authors in Excelle magazine, features written for Around Town magazine and a variety of articles written for the national press.

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Events

From Joanne Harris to Iain Banks, find out more about events with bestselling authors and creative writing courses in Huddersfield run by Key Words.

For business there’s a choice of Writing for Business seminars, one-off masterclasses and speaking engagements, as well as our monthly Coffee & Cake Business Network event at Café Society in Huddersfield

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