It’s easy to write. Open a laptop, pull out a blank sheet of paper, grab a chisel and stone…and get to it. But becoming a career writer is another matter entirely. I often hear, “I want to be a published author, and I’m doing what I can to get there.” Sometimes what they’re saying is true, more often it’s not. So how do you know if you’ve taken the steps to become a career novelist? To be honest, I’m not sure. But I will say most authors I know do the following (at a minimum). So ask yourself, do you do the following? Yes or no?

 

1) I have a dedicated writing area in my house. Not your bed. Not your couch. It doesn’t have to be much, but most career writers have a designated area (usually includes a desk) where they write, edit, hang plot notes, etc. The pic above is my own area. Do you have a dedicated writing area?

A) Yes
B) No

 

2) I have concrete, short-term writing goals. “I want to finish my book” doesn’t count. “I want to finish my 350 page book titled Only by Sea by October 1, 2012″ does. See the difference? One is specific and measurable. The other isn’t. Do you have concrete, short-term goals?

A) Yes
B) No

 

3) I have concrete, long-term writing goals. “I want to be published” doesn’t count. “I want to be published by a publishing house with print retail distribution within 24 months” does. Again, the difference is one is specific and measurable. Another example for the seasoned author could be, “I want to make the NY Times list by the time I’m 40 years old.” Do you have a concrete, long-term goals?

A) Yes
B) No

 

4) I have weekly word count goals. This is a biggie. Do you hack away and write whatever you feel like, or do you actually–considering your short-term goals–say, “I want to finish this manuscript by October 1, 2012, so I need to write 10,000 words this week. And next week. And the week after. Etcetera. Most career writers have weekly word count goals. Do you?

A) Yes
B) No

 

5) I have a critique partner. A critique partner isn’t someone in your family, or a friend, this is typically another writer who reads your work and gives you constructive feedback. Do you have one?

A) Yes
B) No

 

6) I embrace marketing as part my job. Are you on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads? Do you spend 30 minutes, 5 days a week creating a brand for yourself and building a readership?

A) Yes
B) No

 

7) I attend 2+ writing conferences and/or conventions a year. Career writers do this. They’re costly and tiring, but you make great contacts and will learn much about your craft. Do you do this now?

A) Yes
B) No

 

8.) I subscribe to literary magazines. A lot of career writers get their monthly copy of Writer’s Digest or The Writer or what-have-you in the mail each month. Or they may get a weekly e-newsletter in their inbox. If it’s the latter, the question is whether it actually gets read. It’s easy to delete an email. A bit harder to throw away a magazine you know you’ve paid for. Do you have a subscription to a writing magazine?

A) Yes
B) No

 

9) I read. I don’t mean a little. I mean a shit ton. Like, a book a week at a  minimum. Do you read it just for fun, or do you also try to learn how to write better as you’re reading? Do you read?

A) Yes
B) No

 

10) I read books on writing. I know you probably like to read, but do you actually read books on how to write, written by professionals? Career writers may read 1-2 books a year on how to write better to stay sharp. Do you?

A) Yes
B) No

 

This list is by no means exhaustive. Not even close. But if you answered with all yeses (or close to all yeses), you may be a career writer…or at least well on your way. It’s a hard road. No writer will tell you differently. But if you have a passion for story-telling, a drive to share your own story with the world, and the dedication to treat writing like a business, then you’re probably a career writer.

Congrats.

Now go drink some coffee.

And keep writing. 😀