So you want to be a writer? That’s cool, <ping!> you are a writer.
Yep, it’s that easy. Anyone can call him/herself a writer. Now, if you mean you want to be an AUTHOR, that’s slightly different. Selling a book today the old school, traditional publisher way is hard. Your work must be similar to the Greats (so a publisher knows which shelf to put you on), but not exactly the same as anyone (they call that plagiarism). You must have a hook, an angle, or a twist that separates you from the others. It may sound simple to type out a story and sell it, but this is one of those professions where the more you learn, the more you realize there is to learn.
writing = storytelling + language + emotion + edge
A writer must have experienced the heights and depths of every emotion possible, especially the difficult ones, in order to create characters that readers care about. Readers want to go on a fabulous, dramatic journey—for less than twenty bucks. Your job is to make it meaningful, too. So how do you prepare yourself to be a good writer? You need to experience life, especially the not-so-pretty parts.
Where to begin? Hmm… If only you’d been born ugly…
Oh well. Sit down, shut up, and I’ll tell you what you gotta do.
1) Recall everything your high school English teacher taught you, then forget it all again.
2) Read all of Ian Fleming’s books; alternately, buy every spy gadget that Sharper Image sells.
3) Start spying on people, especially when they’re whispering to others. Take copious notes; get juicy dialogue quotes.
4) Break up with your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse for an imaginary reason and record their reaction right up to the point they call a moving van. Then tell them Never mind; it was just an experiment.
4a) Tell your kids you and your spouse are getting a divorce. In fact, go through with the divorce and record the way you mess up their entire lives. Eventually apologize.
5) Or, skip 4a and watch every John Hughes movie. Watch The Breakfast Club twice.
6) Get arrested. Stay in jail for at least 24 hours. Preferably in a small cell with a cranky psychopath.
7) Go to an animal shelter for a day. Watch the unwanted puppies be put to sleep.
8) Or, skip 7 and watch nothing but CNN coverage of the wars in the Middle East for at least two years.
9) Become schizophrenic. You must be able to think/act/talk like a thousand different people. You must be so good at this your spouse will want to divorce every one of you except The Stripper. This ain’t amateur impersonators night at Barnes & Noble, people.
10) Go on and on and on about your dreams to people who weren’t even in them. Do this until they actually care. (Note: this could take years of practice because no one really cares about another person’s dreams unless they were in them.) Once you’ve mastered the art of describing what goes on in your head to the point that people actually LISTEN (as opposed to just nodding their head until you shut up), then and only then proceed to step 11.
11) Write that sh!t down. This is what good literature is about. No one wants stories of pretty/happy/lucky/nice people. This makes readers feel BAD about their lives. Readers want to feel SUPERIOR to the characters in your stories. Why else would they waste their time reading about them? Occasionally let the handsome good guy get the girl. That gives your readers a modicum of hope (and prevents ALL your readers from committing suicide, thus ending the career you’ve ruined your life for).
12) Buy a coat of armor, ear plugs, and a blindfold. Because the better you do at all of the above, the more likely someone will say your writing isn’t even worth spreading on the bottom of a birdcage. They’ll say they need to put down shredded trash BEFORE putting your work in the cage because it’s worse than the bird poop.
And when that happens, you’ll know you’re a worthy writer—because that means your critics are jealous—or at least that you’re good enough for them to give you the time of day.
(wild applause)(deep, humble bow)(picks up roses thrown to my feet)
You are welcome, dear friends. Best of luck to you.