The way to the 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". The thought has probably popped into some of our heads once, twice, three times; because let’s face it, what could be more beautiful?? 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 you – and earn a lot of money with it, that’s what it would be like. And anyone can write, honestly, just the other day I wrote a letter to my grandmother and she said I had great talent, so there you see.

The fact that in reality neither the path to becoming a writer nor actually being a writer is so easy-going is evident from the fact that you don’t even know exactly which path you could actually take if you really wanted to pursue the goal of writing fame. To find out what possibilities there are (apart from just writing wildly) to prepare for the author’s life or to educate yourself in this regard – keep on reading.

What do I need to bring to the table to become a writer??

In answer to the above question, one must answer, simple, but true: Fun with 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, such as a 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 writers, you can best learn how you (don’t) want to do it and puzzle together your own writing style.

What you also learn from frequent reading: You can write about anything. As long as you write well, people like to read. Just ask 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, watch out: 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 you care about and what is worth telling. Not everything that is worth thinking about, and not even everything that is worth experiencing, is also worth telling.

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

What does a writer’s education look like??

In fact, the profession of an author is not an apprenticeship; most German writers are simply self-taught. In Germany, there is only one course of study, "Creative / Literary Writing", which has the career goal "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, the students’ 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 be, of course, German studies, linguistics, linguistics or literary studies; here, too, you can learn a lot about handling the pen – and, as I said, even if you studied engineering or biology; if you want to write, you can do so either way.

Another possibility for further education, even if you are already in professional life, are distance learning courses, such as those offered by the Institute for Learning Systems (ILS), the Studiengemeinschaft Darmstadt (SGD) or the Schule des Schreibens (School of Writing). There is no need for a specific aptitude test, but these courses are not cheap. And beware: it’s worth doing your research before signing up. The study time of serious offers varies mostly between 18 and 36 months; from offers such as "in 30 days to the best-seller" one should keep away nicely.

The rocky road to literary success

A long breath is an advantage if you want to complete a marathon. This applies to the writing process, to working with editors and publishers, to publication, and beyond.

You also have to deal with rejections from publishers; many now famous writers can tell you a thing or two about this. Joanne K. Rowling, for example, the author of Harry Potter, had collected dozens of rejections from publishers before the publisher Bloomsbury Publishing agreed to publish the story of the young wizard student – and that only because the young daughter of the head of the publishing house was apparently blown away by the manuscript.

Of course, there is also the possibility of self-publishing with the help of self-publishing platforms or crowdpublishing. Here, looking at crowdpublishing, on-demand or e-books, the financial risk is kept within limits. However, even if you don’t work with a publisher, it’s a good idea to have your manuscript corrected and read by a freelance editor or proofreader, so that you don’t make a complete fool of yourself.

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

What makes the profession of an author??

The biggest part of the work is, of course, the writing itself. But there are also some other tasks that a writer has to face.

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 your own world, but it should still be plausible in order to be believable. The following always applies: What does my world look like?? What works in it, what doesn’t, which countries, peoples, languages, characters, norms and values appear in it?

Once the story is written, it’s time to approach publishers with a cover letter and synopsis; if you’re lucky enough to be signed, you’ll work closely with publishers and editors, plus readings and other tasks related to the book’s production and marketing process – so you won’t be sitting alone at a desk in an ivory tower all the time.


Although anyone can call themselves a writer, since there is no regulated training 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 a passion for writing, it requires a great deal of know how and stamina.

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

And yet, if you are itching 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, "As long as a man writes a book, he cannot be unhappy."

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