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Elliott Serrano Presents:









“I don’t want to belong to any club that will have me as a member.” – Groucho Marx.

It’s funny that I get asked the question from time to time. As a columnist and comic book writer, I chuckle to myself when a reader asks: “How do I become a writer?”

I find it funny because before I made my career ‘break’ I often posed that question myself to established professionals. I can remember the pained expressions on their faces as they struggled to come up with an answer for me. And when they did, they’d give me some very thoughtful advice, some of which I’ll repeat here.

The first thing to realize, though, is what you’re actually asking.

If you ask me ‘how do I become a writer’ I’ll tell you ‘start writing – now you’re a writer.’ But let’s be honest, that’s not what you’re asking, is it?

What you’re asking is: “How do I become a PROFESSIONAL WRITER.”

Am I right? You wanna know how to get paid to write. How to make a living by sitting at your laptop all day, sipping lattes and spinning golden tales that will enthrall the masses so much that they’ll give you enough lucre to pay your rent. Right?

Of course I am.

You see, in today’s age of blogs and do-it-yourself web-sites, ANYONE can be an ‘air-quote’ “writer”. If you’ve got enough brain power to rub two sticks together, you should be able to handle the effort that it would take to get your ramblings out on the internet for the entire world to see.

And with print-on-demand, you don’t even have to be a good writer to get published! This isn’t to say that writing for POD makes you a bad writer, case in point: Comics Waiting Room EIC Marc Mason has a collection coming out on POD that really shouldn’t be missed.

But getting a publisher to pay you to write for them, well that’s another story.

So what can I say? What’s the answer to the million-dollar question? Let me try to break it down and give you the strategy that worked for me. No guarantees are made, but it may work for you:

STEP ONE:

Be a good writer.

First, you have to be a decent wordsmith with a way of expressing yourself that people find interesting if not entertaining. So yeah, you’ve gotta be “good.” But here’s the tricky part. Just what is ‘good’? I know several very talented scribes whose writing I find way more amusing than anything I’ve read in the latest Entertainment Weekly. And yet, the folks at EW are cashing checks while my associates work day jobs as baristas at Starbuck’s. I think being ‘good’ has a bit to do with…

STEP TWO:

Be lucky.

You’ve gotta be lucky. And when I mean lucky, I’m saying you’ve gotta be in the right place at the right time, talking to the right person, saying exactly the right thing, so that you can get your shot. Depending on your skill, you’ve gotta work on improving your odds. Make sure you get out there and meet as many editors and industry folk as you can. Give them a face to go with that name they read on those inquiry letters and e-mails. Be yourself. Be confident but not pushy. And for God’s sake BE PROFESSIONAL, which means in no small part to show respect…and take a bath.

If STEP ONE gets you to STEP TWO but you flub it, then go to…

STEP ONE B:

BE PERSISTENT.

Keep working on your writing. Keep working on your people skills. Keep blogging or writing in that journal. Keep writing down those ideas that you’ve been saving for when you finally get a chance to write that 12-issue comic book series featuring the return of whats-his-face from who-knows-where. Because if you truly stick at it long enough, I believe in my heart of hearts that you’ll get to…

STEP THREE

Do the job.

Now that all the stars have aligned for you, and you’ve gotten your shot to show your stuff, you’ve gotta produce. You’ve gotta get past all the pressures and insecurities.

(What? Insecurities? Writers are insecure. Of course they are. Any writer that tells you different is a stinkin’ liar and you should tell them that to their face. The follow them to the bathroom where you’ll hear their quiet sobs coming from a stall. But I digress…)

Sit down and WRITE something that makes it worth the while of that editor who gave you that shot to get your ideas in front of an audience larger than your weekend writer’s workshop. In other words, DON’T FLAKE OUT. I’ve heard some stories, believe you me, about aspiring writers who finally got their chance at a paying gig only to get performance anxiety and never be heard from by their editors again.

So yeah, be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.

And there you have it, my guide to becoming a professional writer. Don’t go treating this like the Ten Commandments, because I’ve been known to break these rules myself from time to time. But at least now you’ve got MY answer to the question. Now go get to work, I need something to read.

Elliott Serrano is a comic book writer/Columnist/Blogger/web show host who really needs to work on his people skills. He also needs to bathe more often and stop following that cute girl who works at the 7-11 next to his comic shop. Just because a woman tells you to ‘have a nice day’ doesn’t mean she wants to marry you. Elliott needs to keep telling himself that.

E.R. Serrano

Visit CWR at Unsungheroes!    

 

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