Investing in your writing career: when, why and how much?

money-1090816_640Let’s start with a fact we all know: building a writing career is hard work. It’s hard to become a freelance writer and it’s much, much harder to become a successful fiction writer. Even the best and brightest among us put years of hard work into their craft before they see any measurable success. The few who do manage to become popular with their first published novels often wrote several others first; those who get the first book they wrote published have often spent years writing short stories.

Luckily we live in the internet age, which means there are thousands of resources to help you speed up your own career. You can learn about how to get excellent freelance jobs from Linda Formichelli of The Renegade Writer or Sophie Lizard of Be a Freelance Blogger. You can read about character development and fiction writing on Live Write Thrive or the DIY MFA blog. You can even take a free course in fiction writing at Open University or the Purdue Online Writing Lab.

Yet sooner or later it becomes crucial to invest real money into your career. You probably know you need to invest in a website, but have you thought about investing in yourself?

Why investing in yourself is key to your writing career

If you’ve already written a book you probably know how irritating it is when people assume anyone can write a book. If you’ve edited a book you know how frustrating it is to see people believe you can just write a first draft, publish it and become successful. And if you’ve been at this for a while you’ve probably realized there is always more to learn. You’re prepared to commit hundreds, even thousands of hours to building a writing career, so why not invest some dollars too?

Yes, there is a lot of great free content online, but a lot of the best content is locked away in some sort of paid course or ebook. Paid courses also often come with actual mentorship and feedback from the instructor as well as your other classmates. Not to mention encouragement in real time(ish) when you’re struggling with an issue. This feedback from real professionals can leapfrog your writing by years if you use it well.

Committing real dollars into your writing education also helps you stay committed to learning and to your career overall, even when you’re feeling tired and discouraged by all the things you have to do to become successful. Sometimes a financial commitment to your career propels you to take your career more seriously than before.

When is the best time to invest in your writing career?

Any time is a good time. Making a small financial commitment to your writing education every month or year can keep you constantly moving forward. Every time you study a new aspect of writing or even a new writer’s process you learn something about the craft. Every investment will speed up your progress towards success.

So what should you actually invest in?

Like so many things in writing it all depends on what kind of person you are and what goals you have. If you happen to be independently wealthy and have full control of your time you might want to invest in an MFA. If you work a day job you might want to take evening classes at the local community college or purchase an online video course you have 24/7 access to.

Generally, though, there are three main things worth investing in: actual courses(online or offline), books about writing craft, and one on one mentorship. I believe every writer should invest in at least a handful of excellent books about the writing craft that they can refer back to. Having both books about overall writing and books that focus on specific topics relevant to the genres you write in is a good idea.

Should you take a writing course? I think you should try to take a few, either advancing a specific style of writing or exploring a new style of writing. I also think every fiction writer should take a script writing course because even a basic script writing course can change how you think about storytelling forever, especially if you’re a novelist. What type of course you take is entirely up to you and your goals. How much feedback do you want? How much structure? Do you want to take an existing project in or work primarily on exercises?  How much can you afford to invest in an extensive course?

What about one on one mentorship? One on one mentorship is great, but depending on the type of mentorship and who you want to work with it can be quite expensive. A mentor who works with you one on one will often provide the highest level of motivation–at least partially because it is so expensive–and the most detailed feedback. Hiring a freelance editor is similar: you’ll pay a fortune, but you’ll learn a lot and jump several levels in writing skill if you apply the lessons from the experience to the rest of your work.

In short, only you know what you really need and can afford. We can all benefit from investing in our career but every writer’s path is different. A

Want something a little bit more specific? Here are some resources & classes I’ve loved:

For Fiction Writers

Worldbuilding: From Small Towns to Entire Universes by Kevin J. Anderson – I loved this book so much I wrote a review!

Writing Fight Scenes by Marie Brennan – I’ve also written a review for this excellent guide. – I’ve taken the YA fiction and screenwriting courses here and quite enjoyed the exercises and examples given. They do put the courses on sale every once in a while so you might want to watch out for those.

For Freelance Writers

Escape the Content Mills – I actually got to beta test this course for an extremely low price and I absolutely loved it. The hand outs were great and the community on the forum for this course was also amazing. I love working with Linda Formichelli(you might notice this) and would recommend any of her courses.

Freelance Writer’s Den – Run by Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli, this is a paid forum where you can network with other freelance writers, ask questions of experienced pros, get feedback on query letters and letters of introduction and even find jobs.

These are the best resources/classes I’ve invested in so far. Of course, everyone I listed above sells ebooks or online courses and there are also hundreds of other reputable writers and schools who can teach you new writing skills and offer excellent feedback.

What have you invested in/are you thinking about investing in? Let me know in the comments below!