How to Become an Author: Advice from Bestselling and Successful Authors

You want to be more than just a writer. You want to be an author. You want to see your ideas come to life in published books with your name on them.

You want your story to be heard.

However, wanting something isn’t enough to make it true, and becoming an author is no easy feat. Whether you’re pursuing a writing career as a side gig or a fulltime job, both require a level of dedication and understanding that can take years to fully develop.

The journey from aspiring writer to accomplished author is long. Luckily, the Author Learning Center has dedicated years to help our aspiring writers become published authors. We act as a bridge between successful authors aspiring writers, allowing our members to learn directly from the masters.

If you’re ready to take the next step in your writing career, follow these tips from bestselling and award-winning authors we’ve worked with over the years at the Author Learning Center.

“In order to write the book you want to write, in the end you have to become the person you need to become to write that book.” – Junot Diaz 

1) Study the craft

Learning how to write is just as important as figuring out what to write. We call this writing craft.

Writing “craft,” is essentially the art and skill of writing.

You might be wondering, “Why is this important? My book idea is so amazing that it will not matter how well it’s written.”

Believe it or not, many writers with great ideas for books never find success as published authors because their writing does a poor job of expressing their stories. Poor writing can distract and sometimes confuse readers from the main idea you’re trying to express, thus making it a less enjoyable read. 

Writing is art with words. Like painters who carefully choose their brushes, paint colors, and brush strokes, authors must learn how to tactfully choose the right words, sentence structure, and tone in their writing.

Improving your writing skills and building your craft is a lifelong process. While you can’t become a bestselling author overnight, here are some things you can do to start improving your writing asap:

- Write all the time – practice makes perfect, especially or writing. The more you write, the better you’ll be.

- Read all the time – ask yourself “what skills does this author use to tell their story, and why?”

- Edit your writing and others’ – learn how to fix writing mistakes to better your own writing.

- Learn what your readers want – figure out what expectations your readers have for books within your genre.

- Get Feedback – constructive criticism from a trusted college or professional can give you a fresh perspective on what you need to work on.

- Learn from experts – follow author’s blogs or sign up for a creative writing webinar with an established author.

Learn more about how you can improve your writing here.

“So there’s writing, and as a subset of writing, there’s storytelling. I think with storytelling as a craft, there isn’t as much out there in formal education.” – Eric Penz, Writing as a Craft 

2) Make writing a part of your daily life

To be an author, you’ll have to write a lot, especially if you’re planning on publishing several books. Unfortunately this takes time, and studying the craft can take up even more time.  

Author and speaker Maureen Francisco discusses the importance of making time to write and understanding what works for you:

“Sometime I just don’t have the time to write. What I’ve learned is that you have to make the time to write. It’s like an exercise… you have to incorporate it every single day or you don’t do it. I would write during lunch breaks, in the evenings, I even wrote at the airport as I waited to board my plane. I wrote whenever I had the chance because every little bit counts. You have to make it a part of your life.”

Becoming an author isn’t live winning a trophy. It’s more of a lifestyle or habit you will need to get used to.

To start integrating writing into your daily life, make a list of your daily activities and life priorities that take up most of your time and energy. This could include anything from work and commuting to family and leisure activities. Even if you feel like your schedule is already busy, you might surprised by how much free time you actually have. For example if you commute to work using public transportation, you could use that time to get ahead in your writing. 

Using your time as efficiently as possible is a skill most authors need to master. 

3) Work hard and persevere through adversity

As an aspiring author, you’ll experience a bit a hardship trying to achieve your dream. From harsh feedback from your peers to rejections from publishing houses, the journey to becoming an author isn’t always glamorous.

Take the late comic book legend Stan Lee for example.

During the Great Depression, he worked various jobs to help support his family. He worked as a sandwich delivery boy, an usher at the local theater, and a publicity writer for a hospital in Denver to help his family pay the rent every month.

After high school Lee was torn between many career he wanted to pursue - a writer, a lawyer, an advertisement businessman - but Lee took the first job he could get which happened to be at a comic book company. He didn’t think he would stay long at the company and considered looking for his “real job” after working for a few years. Luckily, the company started making a hefty profit, comic books started to become popular, and his paycheck continued to increase, so he decided to stay and continue writing comic books for several years.

By the time he was 40, he had grown tired writing the same, action-heavy comics the company wanted him to write. He wanted to write comics with deep, meaningful characters that readers could relate to. However, the company didn’t agree with his ideas and turned them down.

He became discouraged, no longer enjoying his career as a writer. Just before he quit, Lee’s wife told him to write a comic script that he wanted to write despite the company’s opinion on the matter. So he did.

You know what he wrote? The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the Hulk.

The rest is history. Those comics became huge hits, and Stan Lee later served as president and chairman of Marvel Comics.

The only reason why we have some of the amazing superhero stories that we do today is because Stan Lee worked hard to chase his dream and didn’t give up. He faced the adversity head on by following his gut and writing what he loved rather than what sold well at the time.

Perseverance is one of the most important traits an author needs in order to succeed.

It’s also important to mention that Stan Lee’s wife is the reason why he didn’t quit his job or quit writing comics. She kept him grounded despite the whirlwind of discouragement he faced. It helped him focus on achieving his goal rather than on his unfortunate situation. If it weren’t for her, we would be living in a world without the amazing stories of Spider-Man, and that’s a world I’d hate to live in.

Not only do authors need to work hard and push through adversity, they also need a support system to keep them in check and on the right path. A spouse, friend, professor, or even a group of writing colleagues can serve as that support.

Whoever you choose to be as your support system should be trustworthy, encouraging, and honest. You need to be able to trust them with your writing and personal ideas. They need to encourage you when you’re down and be honest with you when you lose your way.

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  • Is there a community system on ALC where we can create a mutual support system? Whether it is a group or simply a 'motivation partnership?

  • Thank you! As a retiree I am happy that my time is no longer fragmented, but I devote myself wholly while enjoying the craft of writing. This is an adventure of a lifetime, and the story is mine! A memoir of my life, and perseverance through daunting circumstances got me through to the sunny side of life. 

  • I love the comment of Stan Lee. Very encouraging start, I'd say! Thank you.