Three Important (But Difficult) Steps To Succeeding At Writing Fiction (#8)
Step 1: Learn From People Who Have Done What You Want To Do
The thing I notice most about writers with smaller audiences than me (currently, fiction authors, but in the past, bloggers) is that their plans to publish, to write, to build audiences, and to make real money are so out in left field. I could easily point out to them all the reasons that the plan won’t work, but to them, it looks quite reasonable.
They may even ask around to their friends or other people at their same level, who say, “That’s a good idea.”
Of course, none of these people are really right. They simply don’t have the experience needed to make a plan that actually works… so the reasonable sounds good, even though great things rarely happen from following reasonable-looking plans.
I encountered this myself when I started my video blog and began with the idea of doing one video, start to finish, filming, editing, and publishing, every weekday. I talked to a few people about it, and they thought, “Yeah, that sounds good. I would watch that.”
But it turns out that this plan is absolutely crazy—and almost anyone with even a mildly successful video blog could have told me that within about three seconds. They would have said, “You’re going to kill yourself with that schedule, produce crappy videos, struggle to stick with it, and probably build your audience unnecessarily slowly.”
And they would be right!
Look for someone slightly ahead of you on the path to where you want to be, and seek mentorship from them. If you like the ideas you read from me, you can work with me personally in my mastermind group, The Igniters.
Step 2: Get To Know Yourself To Stay Motivated
Writing fiction is the epitome of a long-haul career. Five to ten years is a reasonable amount of time to put in if you are serious about succeeding. So obviously, you need a lot of motivation, and obviously, that means get as much momentum as possible as fast as you can, right?
Not so. In my experience (and yours may be different, depending on your tolerance level), trying to go faster is a hamster wheel that just has you spinning circles.
It sounds strange, and maybe even counter-productive to go inward rather than to work outward. But self-knowledge is easily the best business strategy on the planet. The more you understand your work and what only you can bring to the table, the faster you’ll build an audience who appreciates your unique talent and offerings.
Also, you won’t need any crazy promotion tricks and tactics, because your voice will be so strong, that people who feel aligned to you will be moved to take action.
Furthermore, YOU will be moved to ask them to take action regularly, because you already know that the action you want them to take is going to make them much, much happier.
I can honestly say that I was able to go from publishing one book a year to nearly 10 books this year (and making nearly no money to *almost* making a full-time income) because I went inward. Going inward, I discovered what my natural strengths were (copywriting, high-concept, virality, word-of-mouth, and clean drafting) and was able to start using those strengths to create a serious advantage over others in the space.
If you’re looking for tons of self-awareness about your writing or your writing business, I’ve put together a toolkit of frameworks, activities, and scorecards I use to help you find and develop your voice. My toolkit is not only fun, fresh, and strategic, but it’s also going to produce a ton of a-ha moments for you.
Step 3: Take TONS of Action
Most of learning comes from experimentation, not books, blog posts, or studying. Especially if you are in a creative field or building something no one has attempted, your progress is going to come from trying a lot of things and failing at most of them.
A big mistake is avoiding this trial and error process and instead seeking out more information, as if it will bring clarity, focus, and self-assurance.
Unfortunately, those things come from taking fearless, bold action.
It’s like the people who say, “If only I had more money, I could build a bigger business.” We all know that the latter comes first.
So it is with clarity, focus, and self-assurance.
You don’t need more information. You need to take action.
Bonus! Step 4: Stay Inspired
You’re already in this for the long haul, and you can’t predict when things are going to click into place for you. I used to think my main job was to motivate myself, to push myself, to keep going, going, going.
But eventually, I realized that I was just along for the ride. My job was to stay inspired by what I was trying to accomplish, and let the rest of the details work themselves out.
Inspiration leads to motivation, which leads to progress.
Three ways to stay inspired:
- Do things you love. Take time off, play with your dog, make time for sex with your spouse, attend your kid’s school activities, cook healthy food, exercise, enjoy your hobbies. It’s all fodder for your writing. (I’m a workaholic, so it took me a long time to accept this. But it works. Trust me.)
- Level up your mindset. If you’re not working on your fiction career mindset, you’re completely blowing it. Your progress will be slow and will continue to absolutely repel people who could help you move forward quickly. New mindsets also help you connect the dots in your own business.
- Learn something new. I can’t stand doing things the same way every time, so I keep it fresh by learning a new skill every day. One of the things I love about writing is it *always* feels new to me. Every new book is a challenge, and every blog post has a different format or reaction. You’ll learn fastest when you put something out there and get feedback on it. Yes, it’s scary, but you can start small, as small as a tweet.
And of course, I am always here to help give you a little nudge forward 🙂
These steps are not easy, nor are they fun to digest; but in my experience, they work. I’ve done a lot of trial and error on my own, and the difference between me this year and me last year is that I kind of just gave up on my old ways of thinking!
Sounds crazy, but it was the best thing I ever did.
And besides, those weren’t producing the results I wanted, anyway 🙂