The path to becoming a writer

When you ask yourself "what do I want to be when I grow up??"This question, which in childhood still comes with anticipation, later with slight panic, is not infrequently answered promptly with "writer" or "writer’s wife". I’m sure the thought has popped into some of our heads once, twice, three times; because let’s face it, what could be nicer?? Writing about things that move, interest and fascinate us, a cup of coffee in the morning and a glass of rose in the evening to support it – and earning a lot of money with it, that’s it. And writing, they say, is something that anyone can do.

That in reality neither the way to the profession of a writer nor the actual existence as a writer is so easy-going, is already apparent from the fact that it is unclear which path one should actually take if one is pursuing the goal of writing fame. To find out what kind of opportunities there are to prepare for the writing life or to educate yourself in this regard – keep on reading.

What do I need to become a writer??

In response to the above question, one must answer, simple, but true: fun in writing. Not only the goal, the own book, but also the way to it, the writing, should be exactly what you want to do. Imagination and creativity are required, of course, but also certain tools of the trade, such as solid knowledge of spelling and grammar, or the knowledge of how to build a stringent story. And also: read, read, read! From the examples of other authors one can learn best, how one or woman would like to (not) do it.

What you also learn from frequent reading: you can write about all kinds of things. As long as it’s good, people like to read it. Just think of Thomas Mann or Jane Austen. In The Magic Mountain or Pride and prejudice little in the way of actual plot (let alone action) happens, but both authors have perfected the art of making the mundane readable.

But still, pay attention: Writing about what breakfast cereal you ate and what socks you put on afterwards – to make that worth reading, you really need a writer in the stature of Thomas Mann. Be sure to write about what is close to your heart and also worth telling about. Not everything that is worth thinking about, and not even everything that is worth experiencing, is also worth telling.

Another thing you can learn from other writers: It’s never too early or too late to start writing. Fantasy author Wolfgang Hohlbein wrote his first novel at the age of ten, while children’s author Cornelia Funke didn’t turn to writing until she was thirty-five. Both have written many successful and popular books today.

What does training as an author look like??

In fact, the profession of author is not a training profession. Most German writers are self-taught. In Germany, there is only one course of study, "Creative / Literary Writing," which has the career goal of "writer" directly in its sights. Here, the focus is initially on basic knowledge of literary history and genres, the study of poetry and prose, narrative theory and the successful structure of a story. Later in your studies, your own writing projects are also encouraged, discussed and accompanied.

However, this creative path can only be taken at the universities of Hildesheim and Leipzig, where places are few and far between. In order to be accepted, one must first prove one’s "artistic ability" in an aptitude test. Other, less exclusive courses of study that introduce you to the broad field of literature would, of course, be German studies, linguistics, linguistics or literary studies. Here you can also learn a lot about the handling of the pen – and as I said, even if you have studied engineering or biology: If you want to write, you may do so either way.

Another possibility to further educate yourself, even if you are already in professional life, are distance learning courses, such as those offered by the Institut fur Lernsysteme (ILS), the Studiengemeinschaft Darmstadt (SGD), or the Schule des Schreibens (School of Writing). There is no specific aptitude test required, but these courses are not cheap. And beware: it pays to be well informed before signing up. The study time of serious offers varies mostly between 18 and 36 months; one should keep away nicely from offers like "in 30 days to the best-seller".

The rocky road to success

A long breath is an advantage, would like to create a marathon. This applies from the writing process, to working with editors and publishers, to publishing, and beyond, in much the same way.

You also have to cope with rejections and refusals from publishers. Many now famous writers can tell you a thing or two about it. Joanne K. Rowling, for example, the author of Harry Potter, Had collected dozens of refusals from publishers before the publisher Bloomsbury Publishing Agreed to publish the young wizard student’s story – and only because the publisher’s boss’s young daughter was apparently blown away by the manuscript (we’re all grateful to her).

Of course, there is also the possibility to self-publish with the help of self-publishing platforms or crowdpublishing. Here, if you look at crowdpublishing, on-demand or e-books, the financial risk is limited. However, even if you’re not working with a publisher, it’s beneficial to have a freelance editor or proofreader proofread and read through the manuscript.

To dispel another myth: as an author, it is extremely rare to become rich, even if your books are published and sold. Most writers still have side jobs to keep their heads above water, such as copywriter:in for companies or translator:in.

What makes the profession "author:in?

Of course, the biggest part of the job is the writing itself. But also around it there are some tasks, which a:e writer:in must face up to.

Background research can be very time consuming, depending on the book. For example, if you are writing a historical novel or even a biography, it takes a long time to gather all the necessary information to be able to write a good and well-founded work. If you write a fantasy book, you can make up the world yourself, but it should still be coherent so that it seems credible. Always applies: How does my world? What works in it, what does not; which countries, peoples, languages, characters, norms and values appear in it??

Once the story is ready, it’s time to approach publishers with a cover letter and synopsis. If you are lucky enough to be signed, a close collaboration with the publisher and editor follows. In addition, there are readings and other tasks that have to do with the production and marketing process of the book – so you are not sitting alone at your desk in the ivory tower all the time.


Although anyone can call themselves a writer, since there is no regulated education and thus no corresponding degree, the path to becoming a successful author is anything but easy. In addition to imagination, a love of reading, and the fun of writing, it requires some Know how and stamina.

What speaks in favor of the profession: If you love writing, then you spend a lot of time doing what you love best. Creativity can be lived, the genre can be freely chosen and one is also master of one’s own working hours. What speaks against it: There is a big competition on the market and financial security is anything but given.

Nevertheless: If you want to write down your story and shout it out into the world, you should take the risk, because, as the German writer Jean Paul said:

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