Do you dream of turning your writing (passion, compulsion, obsession–it’s so much more than a hobby!) into a sustainable career? I’m not going to tell you that it’s easy, or even that it’s easier than working a nine-to-five for someone else. The truth is, you may start your career as a side-hustle, steadily increasing your income over time until you can afford to quit your day job. There will probably be many times you’ll wonder why you’re working so hard for so little return. It takes grit to launch your writing career!
But if that still sounds wonderful, if the desire to live by your pen is deeply rooted in your heart, it sounds like it’s time to get started. Here are seven books that made a big impact on my decision to strike out as a writer:
I found this book at a little island library I frequented during my college summers. This was in the days of dial-up, and that library was the only reliable internet access on the whole island. Of course I developed a deep bond with that place, and wasn’t too surprised when it offered up books like this one (and the one below). I still remember seeing the cover art and getting sucked in. There’s something a little spooky about the ‘bones’ in the title, isn’t there? And those dark stars lent to the effect. Anyhow.
Natalie Goldberg is one of those rare writing coaches who can make you feel both calm and focused AND energized and motivated. You can tell she’s a poet by her prose — it has a texture and vibration to it that’s absolutely captivating. This book is inspiring for many reasons, and will help guide you through the wilderness of your own mind. As woo-woo as that sounds, it will also help you establish a practical writing routine, no small feat for an enjoyable, easy read.
This is another book the magic island library coughed up to help me develop my creative life. The summers I spent there, waiting tables, reading on the beach, and writing anywhere I could, were times of deep thought and rumination for me. (College years are uncertain!) I seriously studied this book. In fact, I go back to it every couple of years; it still inspires me. Even though it isn’t a writing book, How to Think Like Leo will encourage you to be bold in your thinking, unashamedly curious, and outrageously you–all good things for writers.
The instant classic on the writing life, On Writing explores topics like how to cooperate with your tricky Muse, how to get started on a writing career, and how to tone up your grammar muscles. Interwoven with examples and anecdotes from his own colorful life, Stephen King doesn’t glamorize the journey. But he inspires hope in the aspiring author’s heart that, with a little finesse and a lot of hard work, success is possible. This book is the reason I have a paper spike on my desk…
Feeling confused about how you can make a living with your writing? Are you worried that if you try to make a career of your passion, you’ll drain the fun from it? The Genius Habit will guide you through a step-by-step process to identify your unique gifts, skills, and talents. Then, you’ll craft a way to use your “genius” more often and excel at work and play. The Genius Habit will also clear the job search fog. As you learn more about your strengths and motivations, you’ll feel less stressed and more blissed. If you have guilt hanging around, making itself at home in your spare bedroom due to all the “shoulda-coulda-woulda’s” regarding your writing, read this book right away!
One of my favorite author-speakers, Hal Elrod, reveals the driving force behind his famous best-selling book, The Miracle Morning. The Miracle Equation details the combined beliefs and actions that led to his massive self-publishing success.
Writing and publishing aside, you’ll be humbled and inspired by the powerful comebacks he’s made after multiple tragedies. He credits the Miracle Equation for his ability to beat the odds again and again.
One year, I finished my NaNoWriMo novel a good twenty-thousand words short of my goal. (This was before I conjured up my inner planner 😉 ) Half-relieved, half-discouraged, I turned to the comfort of online book shopping. Some idle browsing on Amazon yielded this book by James Scott Bell. My discouragement melted like the first November snowflakes on wet asphalt. He offers practical advice for the writer who’s looking for a path to success, and that ultimate goal: to write for money. Enough money to quit the day job!
There are no shortcuts or get-rich-quick hacks in this book, but there are plenty of clear how-to’s and valuable insider advice.
Bonus: Read this one directly after On Writing, since Bell lists Stephen King as a major influence, even paying an homage with the cover graphic.
When I first heard Chandler bolt on a podcast, I thought he was bananas. He admitted he wasn’t a great writer, that he nearly flunked his English classes before he dropped out of college, and that — horror! — you can write a book using voice-to-text. Everything even remotely literary within me wanted to revolt … except he made so much sense. His interview, webinar, and books on publishing were instrumental in changing my mind and leading me to self-publish my novel, Waiting for Jacob. I read his advice, and thought, “Well, I’m going to do what he says but I won’t get my hopes up; I’m a beginner.”
My own book launch not only exceeded my expectations, it was an incredibly positive experience. It could have been confusing and stressful, but this blueprint helped me write, publish, and market my first book in just a few months.
If you’re ready to take the plunge (or even dip a toe in the cool waters) into professional writing, I hope you’ll look into at least a few of the books I listed. They have each been a mentor and friend to me as I embarked on my own journey, and I know they can guide you, as well. Good luck to you, writer! Be bold and put yourself out there 🙂
NOW YOU: Do you know other books that can help launch your writing career? Which ones would you add to the list?
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