Once we've written for a while most of us have figured out what we're good at writing. The question early on is how do I determine that?
It's pretty easy actually, you write. The more you write the better you get and the more you understand what you're good at writing and what appeals to you.
And that, really, is the key. Those two elements go hand in hand. What you're good at and what appeals to you will, in most cases, turn out to be the same.
And as writers we're lucky. There are many venues in which to ply our trade. Fiction: Love to spin a yarn? Don't mind hard work? This may be the field for you. Nonfiction: Love facts and order? Enjoy outlining meticulously? Then try your hand here.
How about copywriting? A very well paid field once the writer breaks in, involving market research, an eye to how products will benefit the consumer, and the ability to turn a sparkling phrase. Or technical writing? Really not my forte, but lots of folks love it.
Then there are grant writers, folks who put together newsletters and other peoples' resumes, article writers, script writers for screen, TV, and radio; and then there's a whole bunch of other niches.
Point is there are lots of writing opportunities and my recommendation generally is to pursue more than one of them, at least certainly in the beginning. I would recommend it again after you get a foot-hold as well. Always better to have two or more potential streams of income instead of one. The "putting all your eggs in one basket" adage applies here. And if you broaden your scope just a bit you'll quickly realize that more than one area appeals to you.
So, how to figure it out. First, sit down and think about it. That simple. Think about all the places writers are needed and how. They write copy for news shows, they write articles for newspapers and magazines, they write advertising copy, books, scripts, instruction booklets, promotional pamphlets, greeting card verse, and more. Why if all writers just stopped writing for even one day the ripples would be felt around the world.
See how important your writing is? Okay, so you've given it some thought, jotted down a few possibilities. Next is research. Check into the areas of your interest. See what it takes to fill the bill. Organization? Research? Particular writing skills? Work out of a home office or at an office outside the home? Every kind of writing I can think of will take some research skills and certainly language skills. In which area are you already most skilled?
And finally, don't hesitate to stretch yourself, to reach beyond your perceived abilities. There are many opportunities for learning. Colleges offer classes in person and online. There are a lot of free tutorials online if you dig. Perhaps not enough to make you expert, but enough to let you know what you're getting into. If you already have the basics under your belt – reasonable spelling, good grammar, and interesting style – moving from one area into another isn't too difficult with a bit more study.
Writing is a highly personalized type of work, so chart your course. Take advantage of opportunities as they come along, sure, but don't end up sitting behind a desk somewhere writing something you hate.
In my career I've published fiction, optioned screenplays, written an episode for animated TV, and authored newsletters and articles for online publications and print. I've written short stories, assembled resumes, and taught classes online and on the ground about writing. What have I enjoyed the most? I keep going back to novels and screenplays. The pay can be great in those areas in lumps, or it can be mighty sparse. Best to have a little something to fill in those gaps. Best to broaden those horizons What will you pen?
Author of Doubleday western novels, Harlequin romances, Fictionworks' fantasies (eBook format), Peggy Bechko has also optioned screenplays domestically and abroad, written for an animated series and for variety of other venues. She's working on a new novel and collaborating on a animated series. http://www.peggybechko.50megs.com/