So you want to be a writer…

By Tom Gorman

Do you picture yourself as the new JK Rowling or Roald Dahl? How do you go about getting your stories published? How do you know if they will sell? Where do you start?

These are a few of the questions all new writers, including myself, ask themselves at some point. Whether you have a completed masterpiece ready to be shared with the world, or are interested in creative writing and short stories, here are my top tips for budding authors.

Get it reviewed
At some stage someone is going to have to read your work, and this way you can get some idea whether or not you’re on the right track and your work appeals to others. Your English teacher at school might be a good place to start, or friends and relatives who are interested in books. Try not to worry if they don’t like your first attempts, at least you’ll know if you need some different ideas or need to fine tune your storytelling skills.

Join a group
Your school or community centre might have a creative writing group or club, and if they don’t, then why not start one yourself? You can get feedback on your writing, practice different techniques, bounce ideas around and read some books as a group to help fire your imagination.

Eyes on the Prize
There are hundreds of on-line literary competitions for writers of all ages, so don’t be shy and have a go. It’s a great way to get recognised and you never know, you might win some dosh. Before entering make sure they specialize in young writers in your age group.

Read and read…and read some more
The more books the better. If you’re interested in writing about science fiction, crime, vampires, historical figures or pop stars; read as many books as you can on your favourite subject. This will give you an idea of different writing styles and techniques to see what works.

Do it yourself
There are a wide variety of self-publishing websites like Createspace, Lulu, Smashwords and MagCloud, to name just a few. Submitting your work can be fiddly so you may need a teacher or parent to help with this. The costs vary. Some (like Smashwords) are completely free but others are expensive, so always get permission from your parents first.

We all love social media
Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the forums where your potential readers hang out. Nearly 85 percent of all book sales are direct from the internet so this is where you publicise your work, get all your friends to like it, buy it and share information with others.

Last but not least, don’t give up! It took me three years from completing my first novel to finally getting a publishing contract, so be patient and keep on writing.

Tom grew up and went to university in Bristol. He’s had a wide range of jobs from auction room porter to local government manager, and now works at the University of Portsmouth to supplement his writing. He has written one volume of poetry called Transition Island Songs and his novel, Underclass, is the first part of a trilogy.

  • More information about working as a writer is available on the National Careers Service website.
  • Thinking of entering a writing competition? The Book Trust has an extensive list.

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