The measure of success
What does it mean to be a successful author? To be honest, it’s different for each person. For some writers, it means getting a publishing deal. It doesn’t matter if the book is a hit or if it even gets printed. As long as they can say they signed a book deal, they’re happy. They’ve made it. But for others, book deal or no, it’s all bout the writing.
Even if no one reads their books or if they never publish them, all that matters to those writers is the act. Being able to say that they spent time on a project and completed it is all they need. So when we talk about success for a writer— every writer—what we need to think about are the broad strokes. What makes someone a success across the board?
In this case, I am defining success for a writer as being a published author or pursuing publication while actively working on improving their craft. If you are trying to break into publishing, working on a draft, or deciding whether or not writing is for you, this article was written with you in mind. These practices and routines can and should be done at every stage of your career, but starting early will give you a jump start on your career and getting your work published.
7 practices you can implement to ensure success
1.) Read and analyze more than you write
At the beginning, it’s tempting to dive headfirst into the writing. It’s even told to many beginning writers that they should write as much as they can. But that won’t actually help beginning writers later in their career as much as learning from what has already been written. Read far and wide, but don’t just devour. Actually ask questions of the text, contemplate the author’s choices. Analyze what is on the page to glean technique and craft lessons.
2.) Work on building up your confidence
Confidence is what is going to keep you writing, submitting, and publishing after your 1,000th rejection. It is the spark that keeps you going. You can go about building your confidence in many different ways. My advice is for writers to build their confidence by learning story and craft. This way you can begin to understand when and why something isn’t working instead of writing in the dark.
3.) Analyze what is currently being published within your genre
A lot of writers starting out pull inspiration and their knowledge of story from books that they read growing up. Older books. Books that don’t show the shape of the publishing world now. Analyzing publishing trends, themes, and buying habits within your genre or niche will allow you to see where your work fits in your genre and if it has a chance at finding an audience.
4.) Learn how to consume story wherever you encounter it
You can learn how to write a story from more than just books and magazines. You can learn it from games, movies, TV shows, celebrities, TikTok videos, and so much more. Story is everywhere. Learn how to recognize story, its beats, and how it resonates with its audience. By doing this, you’ll be intuitively learning how story works.
5.) Become a salesperson and marketer
Sales and marketing are how you find your niche. It’s how you figure out which publishers or markets to submit your work to. It’s how you interact with the editors. Marketing is all about your brand and helping you reach your reader base. Some writers have become successful solely because they are good at selling themselves. As a writer who can both write and sell stories, you’ll be unstoppable.
6.) Learn other forms of storytelling
Have you heard of the crick crack form? What about Jo-Ha-Kyu? Probably not. Often in storytelling and creative writing classes, the only forms of story taught are the hero’s journey and the three-act structure. It causes a limited view of what you as a writer can actually do with story. Learn as many forms of story as you can by reading outside your culture and researching various storytelling forms.
7.) Network and interact within your community
Whether it be in real life or online, building and interacting within a community of writers will help you get opportunities, stay motivated, and grow as an author. There was a recent viral tweet in the writing community about other writers being your competition. This type of thinking is toxic. Other writers are your inspiration, they are your friends, fellows in the trenches. Be kind, and you’ll find that more doors open up to you.
Anyone can be a successful writer
Don’t think the lack or gift of talent decides whether or not you’re going to be successful. I’ve worked with and helped many writers who had loads of talent but not confidence, perseverance, or the knowledge to make writing work as a viable career. It’s all about what you are willing to commit to and do to become smarter and better.
And if you feel any amount of resistance to these practices, check the emotion. Analyze it. Is it coming from a part of you that has given up hope that you will ever make it as a writer? If so, shut it down. That voice, those emotions are not going to help you in your journey to publication. They will only get in the way of the work you need to do. The work that I know is bubbling inside of you.