If you’re not treating writing as a career, maybe it’s time to step back and consider why that is. Is it because you don’t care if you are never published? That’s fine then. For any other reason, though (you’re too lazy, you don’t think you’re a professional, you think of writing as a hobby even though you think you want to make money at it, etc.), you’re not getting off the hook. If you hope to be published and/or make money from sales of your writing at some point, you need to treat your writing as a career, and you need writing career goals.
Here are my top tips for forming your writing career goals and achieving them.
1. Know the market.
I know, writing is an art, and you can’t force art, blah blah blah. If you are writing fiction for publication, get that notion out of your head right this minute. You want to sell, so you need to know the market. That doesn’t mean you have to write something exactly like what the market expects, but how will you know what rules to break if you don’t know the rules? Know what market you are targeting first (literature, mystery, romance, non-fiction, etc.). Once you have that nailed down, do as much research as you can about that market. Read the books. Join the organizations. Talk to authors who are already published in that market. Learn it. Know it.
2. Decide where you want to be in the market.
Within your chosen market, there are likely many different ways to be successful. I am a romance author, for example, so I could choose to go the category romance route, or the single title romance route (among others, but we’ll stick to those two for simplicity). Both have their advantages and disadvantages. It is my job to know what those are and which one fits better with my personality and my other goals.
3. Create steps to get to your desired place.
I’m going to use romance as an example again, because I know romance. Let’s say I want to be a single title author at a big New York publishing house. Now let’s say that the category publishers are looking for hot new voices at the moment, and I think I could probably write a category. I decide to do this to get my foot in the door and get some publishing experience before moving on to single title. (Disclaimer: I’m not saying this is how you break into single title. I’m just saying this might be one way to go about it.) The point is that you have to know your market in order to know what steps will take you to your goals. Ask other writers what steps they took, and whether they’d recommend it to someone else. There’s no substitute for personal experience.
4. Re-evaluate periodically.
Your writing career aspirations may change as you learn and grow. That’s ok! Just take the time to re-evaluate every now and then so that you know your short-term writing goals are still in line with your career goals.