Becoming an author is a challenge many people are keen to take up. An essential tool is the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook or the Children's Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, both published by A & C Black. Both directories contain everything you need to know: contact details for literary agents, writing tips, how to get started, information about book fairs, literary prizes, publishers' addresses, advice about publishing contracts, marketing, illustrating, tax and much more.
A popular route into writing is via a post-graduate qualification. Many universities have MAs in Creative Writing, so look for a course which most closely meets your needs. Bath Spa University offers Writing for Young People; City University, London EC1 requires students to write a complete novel. The University of Central Lancashire has a new MA in Writing for Children and an MA in Publishing. The University of Winchester has an MA in Creative and Critical Writing and an MA in Writing for Children. These are just a few examples. Entrance requirements vary and include samples of writing and a willingness to read and discuss other students' work.
Most courses have a strong emphasis on being taught by published authors. Some have authors as course leaders or tutors which might make a particular course more attractive. For example, children's author David Belbin is Programme Leader at Nottingham Trent University for its MA in Creative Writing. Many courses have visiting authors, agents and publishers. Check which courses have a good track record of graduates finding agents who will represent them and of being published. Check what the university does to help launch their students to the publishing industry (some hold launch readings or publish a book of first chapters).
A qualification is no guarantee of success but, as well as improving the standard of your writing, it will encourage serious consideration of your submission by an agent or publisher. Students' testimonials also suggest that courses can give an insight into publishing, experience of receiving and acting on constructive criticism of their writing within a supportive writing community and networking opportunities.
Writers' groups and online communities provide an arena in which to give and receive feedback and can alleviate the inherent solitude of the writer's life. Or perhaps a short Arvon Foundation or other creative writing course would allow a toe in the water… details in Writers' and Artists' Yearbook.
Also, see 'Arts & Media'.