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18 Easy Steps to Becoming a Writer

Categories: Breaking In (Writer's Digest), Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Guest Columns.

One thing many people ask me is: How? How do I become a writer? Well, I’m here to answer that question once and for all. Keep in mind this applies equally well to deciding you’re going to write a short story or deciding you’re going to write a novel. Heck, it even applies to scholarly or work-related writing.


Guest column by Kiersten White, author
of Paranormalcy (HarperTeen; Aug. 2010), which
recently hit the NYT best seller list.
Check out her blog:
Kiersten Writes.

Step One: Decide you’re going to write a story.

Step Two: Decide it’s going to be brilliant. Imagine the response of your [teacher, classmates, reading group, agent] and how it will completely change the way they look at you.

Step Three: Open up Microsoft Word.

Step Four: Stare at the blank white screen stretching on into infinity until your eyes begin to burn and your brain hurts from the sheer emptiness of it all.

Step Five: Check your e-mail. If writing a novel, research agents for a couple of hours.

Step Six:
Stare at the blank Word document again.

Step Seven: Realize you need music. Spend the next hour finding the perfect “mood” music for what you want to write.

Step Eight: Inspired by [insert perfect music here], click back over to Word document.

Step Nine: Change Facebook status to: [Your name here] is WRITING!!! Realize you aren’t on Twitter, and that anyone who is anyone is networking/wasting time on Twitter. Sign up for an account and spend the next two hours figuring out how it works and what the crap # means.

Step Ten: Stare at blank Word document. Decide you need a title. Brainstorm for the next hour.

Step Eleven: Come up with a GENIUS title. Proudly type “The Scent of Green Papayas” at the top of the document, followed by your name. Happily consider how easily a story will come now that you have such an amazing, literary title.

Step Twelve: Take a four-hour break for snacks and naptime.

Step Thirteen: Refreshed, sit down and toy around with pen names for a while.

Step Fourteen: Realize to your horror that your genius title is actually the name of a Vietnamese foreign film you saw seven years ago.

Step Fifteen: Erase the title, pressing Backspace much harder than necessary.

Step Sixteen: Stare at the blank Word document until your eyes bleed.

Step Seventeen: Check Facebook. See that fourteen people have commented on your status, asking what you are writing. Feel both guilty and annoyed.

Step Eighteen: Slam your laptop shut and go to the movies. Tomorrow’s a better day for writing, anyhow.

See? You never knew writing was so easy!

This post is an online exclusive complement
to a spotlight on Kiersten in the Sept. 2010
issue of WD. If you don’t have a sub to
Writer’s Digest, what are you waiting for?
Get one now!

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16 Responses to 18 Easy Steps to Becoming a Writer

  1. Oh my God, so funny. And TRUE!

  2. I wouldn’t know anything about this.

  3. A Quinones says:


    That was really stupid, but so interesting!

  4. Fawn says:

    Oh, yes! That is so true. And let’s not forget cleaning and organizing the junk drawer or another nook that no one ever really sees.

  5. Jodi says:

    Oh, the lightness of heart you just imparted to me! God speed!

  6. Helen says:

    How did you know that’s how I act? Lol, thanks I loved this.

  7. Kazul9 says:

    I have nothing profound to say, but I just had to say how much I freaking love this. So, so, so true.

  8. Nikita Cat says:

    I am a Cat.

    I am a Writer.

    My Daddy Kiril is a Human.

    He is a Writer.

    Why do we say that, when all we have done is blog for 8 years, including poetry, humor, opinion, exposes, and other fun stuff, to tiny, but appreciative, audiences?

    What IS blogging if not a form of writing?

    Maybe it will all lead to something that pays, someday, who knows?

    Anyway, I liked your post, and after I tell Daddy about it, so HE can read it, I’m gonna go take a nap.

    Have a great evening! ;-D

    Nikita Cat

    Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat

    Proud Pussy Pundit Since 2002!

    Offishul Repurrter of The Cat Blogosphere Website

    Professor of the Nikita Institute of Pussydom Studies (NIPS)
    The Most Opinionated Pussycat in America, with Talent on Loan from The Ceiling Cat

    MOTTO: You Giva Me No Trouble – I Giva You No Smack!

    Creative writing, photos, experiences, observations, & opinions, on life, & the world around him, by an outspoken ManCat (Born 1998) taking one step at a time on the Journey of Discovery, & Enlightenment, that comes with having 9 Lives to work with.

  9. Gayle says:

    Could not wait–out of curiosity as a writer–to read these 18 easy steps. That made my day, especially the part about the title! Thank you for a very good laugh.

  10. I definitely love the sense of humor in this. Lol.

  11. This makes me realize how productive of a writer a really am. Huzzah!

  12. CD Coffelt says:

    OMG, you forgot blogging, answering blogs, writing blogs, crittering other peoples work, and cruising blogs for more blogs.

  13. I’m glad the first time I seriously wrote wasn’t this painful. But there have plenty of other days that sound much like this one!

    I loved Paranormalcy, so I’m glad you moved on from step 18, Kiersten.

  14. Cameron says:

    Step Nineteen: Realize that if writing is really that difficult for you, you should just give up now and stop torturing yourself. Seriously, if you go through all that and still haven’t managed to write a single word, find a different hobby/career.

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