What To Read If You Want To Get Published & Make A Career Out Of Writing

by Charlotte Ahlin

If you want to be a writer, chances are you already know that you'll need to read in order to write. But being a writer and having a career in writing are, unfortunately, two different things. Anyone can be a writer, after all. You can write as a hobby after work, or on a blog, or as a secondary career, or you can write every day in a diary for twenty years and then cast it into the sea, to be read by fish and mer-folk. But if you want to be a professional writer, if you want to be published and sustain yourself primarily with the words you make up in your head, then here's a list of books to read if you're serious about a career in writing.

After all, no matter how many inspirational quotes you read, or how many vintage typewriters you own, the only way to become a professional, published writer is to write something and publish it. And you're probably going to have some questions about how you get from a shiny, newly finished manuscript to a publishing contract. So here are a few books on how to write the kind of manuscript that people publish, where to send it, how to get it published, or how to be a stylish renegade and publish it yourself:

'The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles' by Steven Pressfield

If you're looking for a gentle breath of inspiration...maybe look elsewhere. If you're looking for a no-nonsense, kick-in-the-pants kind of book to help you break through creative barriers, this is the book for you. The toughest part of kicking off a career in writing is the part where you sit your butt in the chair and write, after all, and this book is all about dragging yourself, kicking and screaming, to that dreaded writing chair.

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'Real Artists Have Day Jobs: (And Other Awesome Things They Don't Teach You in School)' by Sara Benincasa

Look, I know that you want to be a writer and support yourself only with writing and live in a house shaped like a typewriter. But real artists have day jobs. Sara Benincasa speaks candidly about the process of writing professionally and still working a day job. You can have writing be your main career and still have to take a second job. It happens. It doesn't make you any less of an artist. And Benincasa's funny, heartfelt essays are here to help you through it.

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'Writer's Market' by Robert Lee Brewer

Writer's Market is not exactly a fun beach read, but it is an invaluable resource if you're looking for where to submit your manuscript. There's business advice for authors and tips for formatting, but the real draw of Writer's Market is the list of thousands of places to submit your writing. Websites, magazines, literary agents, you name it—the address is in this book for your submitting pleasure.

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'The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction' by Brian Kiteley

Almost as important as knowing where to submit your writing is, well...writing. Every day. Even if you don't have any new ideas. Having a regular writing habit is crucial if you want to turn it into a full-time job, and The 3 A.M. Epiphany is a brilliant little book of original writing exercises and prompts to keep you going.

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'The Forest for the Trees' by Betsy Lerner

Betsy Lerner is an editor with a lot of pointers for all the writers out there. Reading The Forest for the Trees is like having your own personal editor friend to give you some tips before you have to inflict your manuscript on a real editor. Lerner is upfront with her opinions, but not too hung up on the *official* rules of style when it comes to writing, and she'll help you get your work in shape for submissions.

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'Let's Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should' by David Gaughran

Of course, submitting to agents and publishers isn't the only way to get your work out there. If you're wondering how that whole self-publishing thing works, Get Digital is a fun, informative book that'll take you through every step of the process. Self-publishing is no longer about printing out your own pamphlets and selling them on the street corner: people can make serious money by self-publishing e-books, and this is a great resource for any adventurous indie authors out there.

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'Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction' by Patricia Highsmith

Even if you're not writing suspense fiction specifically, master of the craft Patricia Highsmith can help you figure out how to put one word in front of the other. Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction is a guide to writing compelling work, the kind of writing that'll make readers want to keep turning the page, and that's useful no matter what genre you're writing in.

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'Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered' by Austin Kleon

Show Your Work! is both a guide to getting your writing out there and an inspiration for anyone who's feeling a little shy about their writing. It's upbeat but still helpful, with chapter titles like "You Don't Have to Be a Genius" or "Share Something Small Every Day." Read this book, and you might even want to start sharing your work with the world at large.

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