Fiction Writing Success: The Markers And Achievements

One of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is to define her success by some future marker.One of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is to define her success by some future marker. The successful writer isn’t the Hugo Award winner, the New York Times Bestseller, or even the name on a spine at Barnes & Noble. The successful writer is the one who writes. Did you write today?

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield talks about, “turning pro”. Many amateur writers approach the page casually. When a writer has a vision of success that is some future marker they approach writing as an amateur.

If you feel like you have to “be published” to be successful, your concentration isn’t on the writing, it’s on the need and desire to be published. You don’t want to be a writer, you want to be published. What happens when you reach this marker of success? Your first book is published, now what? You’re successful? The end? What about the second book? Will there be a second book? Perhaps a successful fiction writer is really the person who writes more than one book. Perhaps a successful fiction writer is prolific. The marker of success moves as you reach milestones and you never have the opportunity to enjoy a sense of accomplishment.

Perhaps your idea of success is the understanding and acknowledgment of a reader. This validation is valuable, but it’s not real success. If your sense of success is dependent on the compliments and praise of readers your sense of failure is equally dependent. Most writers receive far more rejection then they do approval. If your sense of success is founded on the opinion of others you’re on a swift road to failure. A bad review will destroy your motivation. Fear of rejection will paralyze you; it is one of the most powerful causes of writer’s block. You must “[seed] your professional consciousness in a place other than [your] personal ego”1.

It’s important to have goals and markers as we build our writing career. When we first pick up our pens we commit to a word, a sentence, a paragraph, a page. We build on our milestones; a scene, a chapter, a book. Our goals grow with our writing and they give us a strong sense of destination and destiny. But, these markers and achievements do not equate success. Success cannot be measured on future accomplishments. Success is in what you do right now.

Examine your personal motivations as a writer. Why are you really doing this?

Now, look again, look deeper, because your surface reasons aren’t your real reasons at all. The ONLY real reason any of us follow this career path is because, “we love to write”. If you don’t, get out now.

Every one of us has the right to choose which career we venture into and, unlike the basic “day job” where you show up, clock on, and get paid, writing requires a commitment that will not be sustained by any drive other than love. Writing is a passion and the rewards of that writing are secondary.

In knowing that we choose to write for love our success comes from the act and not achievement.

Success built from creativity, confidence, courage, focus, will, luck, motivation, time, imagination, intelligence, ideas, and hardwork.Each time you begin writing, you are successful. If you wrote today, you are a successful writer. (Ok, so in some parts of the world it’s early morning so we will allow you time before work to relax but did you write yesterday? If you did, you’re a successful writer.)

If you’re truly passionate about being a successful fiction writer and you haven’t written today, stop reading, fire up your word processor, and write, right now!

Did you write today? Congratulations! I hope you took a moment to bask in the sense of accomplishment within your success. Now, how do you feel?

1 Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art
Photo Credit: 02-04-08 © ayzek
Photo Credit: 10-13-09 © Janne Ahvo

A Day of Play to Recharge and Reinspire the Writer Within

Freelancing can be a rough business.  Receiving rejections, tedious rewrites, grumpy editors and more can plague everyone’s day and leave your family drained from the day’s ups and downs.  It might seem like a great idea to work later into the evening or throughout the weekend to catch up.  When deadlines are looming, a few extra hours is okay, but remembering to unwind and play is important, too.

Exercise is important for multiple reasons.  Exerting energy in bursts offers inspiration, boosts your metabolism, provides an outlet to physically exert frustrations, and helps keep your body healthy to handle the stressors of the day.  Spending the weekend away from the computer with your family offers plenty of activities that serve a dual purpose: exercise and bonding. 

Tips and Suggestions:

  • A picnic lunch at the park.
    • When planning your picnic out, remember to include plenty of items for outdoor fun.  Outdoor balls, wiffle balls and bats, plastic golfing games, frisbees, horseshoes and a volleyball serve in a pinch depending on your location.  If you find a part that serves different outdoor sports, invite friends and extended family to come along for added conversation and fun.
  • Walking along the waterways.
    • There’s a great program sponsored by called, “Cache in, trash out.”  You can apply the same principle to any outdoors walk you take.  Carry with you a couple of small trash bags and pick up any debris along the way that could harm the space you have to meander.  Not only are you doing your body good when walking, you’ve made a positive impact on the environment.  Who couldn’t feel good about that?
  • Biking and Hiking in the hills and mountains.
    • Planning a trip to the mountains takes a bit more planning.  You must remember all your basic necessities including water, survival tools (knife, flints, flares) as well as pack high energy foods capable of sustaining you in the event you are trapped for the night.  Investing in insulating blankets to carry is a wise idea, too.  Seldom do people find themselves stuck on the mountain with no way down, but if it happened to you, it would provide an amazing story to pitch to an editor once you return to civilization.
  • Visiting a zoo or other local museum.
    • When the weather is less than favorable for an outdoor adventure, spending time inside might just serve you well.  As long as you are away from your work space and doing something outside your normal routine.  Walking through a zoo or large museum will exercise your body and mind.  Animals and displays from the past will recharge your inspirational pool. 

For many writers, finding balance between home and family can be difficult.  No matter how you are pulled to put in an extra couple of hours, make sure you are choosing your hours wisely.  If you can spent time out recharging yourself and build memories with your family, it’s more than worth staying up an hour later or rising an hour early to finish out that assignment.  Afterall, why work hard to achieve success when you aren’t reaping the benefits of what you sow?

Does a Freelance Writer Need a Blog?

Does a Freelance Writer need a Blog?Blogging has come a long way since the days of angst-ridden teenagers sharing bad poetry on Live Journal. Many social media experts insist that every business needs a blog. If you’re a freelance writer, is this true? Do you need a blog? Maybe.

The Purpose of Business Blogging

Blogging keeps you connected to clients, potential clients and fellow writers in a way many other media cannot. A well-targeted blog (by that, I mean one that covers a specific topic relevant to your audience), permits you to:

  • Showcase your writing skills
  • Provide advice and information to fellow writers and clients
  • Share your accomplishments as a means of subtle self-promotion

Remember, though, if you want to see a return on your time investment, you’ll need to market your blog. You may be better off marketing your writing business in other ways that will lead directly to assignments.

Before you start a blog

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who will be your readership?
  • Are you willing to make the commitment to blogging at least once or twice a week, promoting the blog, and staying connected with your readers by responding to comments?
  • Do you have something worthwhile to say that is different form the thousands of other writing blogs on the Internet?

I used to maintain my own blog, but in the face of paying writing assignments that showed an immediate ROI, I had a hard time staying committed to updating it and building a readership. Besides, the topic I blogged about (writing) served to attract other writers rather than potential clients, so it wasn’t an effective marketing vehicle for my freelance writing business. Now, as a writing coach, it makes more sense for me to blog about writing to draw clients to my website, but I don’t want to invest the time in building up a readership. That’s why the WRA writing community is perfect for me. The Freelance Writing Collaborative Blogging Project has a built-in readership who come here looking for people like me to share my knowledge. If one writer promoting a blog is good, a whole staff of writers promoting that blog is even better.
Click here if you’d like to write for WRA, too!

Niche Writing and Blogging

If you specialize in a particular topic — say, technology, pet care or paintball — a blog targeted at your niche market (not other writers) may help you attracts clients in the industry. You can build a name for yourself through the blog, building a platform for books, eBooks or information products you want to sell. If you’re a niche writer, a blog can be a very effective way to market yourself.

Websites and Writers

I want to emphasize: a blog and a website are not the same thing. I believe most writers need a website. This can be a place to post your biography, list contact information, and put links to writing clips. (Side note: Don’t ever send an editor to the main page of your website expecting him to find your clips; instead, select particular articles you want to highlight and send the direct links.) A website helps you establish yourself on the Internet as a legitimate writer. But does your website need a blog?

Not necessarily. What do you think?

Do you have a blog? Does it generate leads and assignments? If not, what can you do differently so that it does?

Photo Credit: 07-15-08 © Kronick

Know Your Freelance Writing Style

Every person has a style of writing that is completely unique.  The education received and language heard while growing up plays an important roll in the structure of sentences and construction of paragraphs.  Knowing your personal style will offer an edge in marketing yourself to the right publications.


Are you able to turn a serious subject into an easy reading and roll on the floor laughing piece?  Do you find politics the root of all jokes?  If you can answer yes to either of those questions, anthologies or politically geared websites and magazines makes a great starting point!


Have you noticed a trend in your writing that leaves the reader wanting to know more about the subject?  Are you able to entice a person with a small number of words?  It’s high time to be looking into product descriptions and copy writing!  There are numerous companies in need of your skills.


Do you describe scenery so vivid the mind can see?  Are you quick with flowing analogies and find writing lengthy stories a piece of cake?  Fiction magazines and short story compilations are one way to go.  Shortening your word count considerably while providing an amazing story could be an option too!  Flash fiction is fun and pays decently, too!


Are the words you share connected with powerful emotions?  Are you able to describe physical reactions to difficult situations by showing your readers?  (Tom faced the firing squad.  As the blindfold was placed over his eyes, he wiped his hands along side his ragged pants.  Showing nervousness by the sweating palms.)  Looking into life-story websites and columns for a steady income is wise.


Do you understand pie charts, graphs, figures and instructions?  Are you up to date in medical or scientific terminology?  Are you able to work through a project step by step and accurately explain how to make it work?  Writing instruction manuals doesn’t typically offer a by line, but the pay as a technical writer is nice.


When writing, do you feel as though you are carrying on a conversation with your intended audience?  Are your paragraphs short and concise?  The art of web logging or blogging is right up your alley.  The ability to carry forward with conversational pieces draws in a reader and keeps them hooked.  Some of the popular bloggers maintain this same style of writing.

Know Your Style!

Knowing your style and understanding the types of publications geared towards brand you will help eliminate the guess work of which direction to take.  Eliminating certain genres will help narrow the type of writing gigs to search.  You are left with a solid beginning for your writing career and brand.

Is your writing style a combination of these?  If so, you will probably be one of the many who is able to bridge the gap between different markets and truly persevere with your writing goals!  Now to ask, what is your favorite style of writing to read?

Can you think of other writing styles? In what other markets could each of these styles excel? Which writing style dominates your own writing?

Fear and the Blank Page

We’ve all stared down the blank page, fighting an inner turmoil, fear, anxiety, uncertainty, a disquieted soul that rumbles at the expanse of white. I’ve often wondered if I suffer more than any other as, of course, is a common egomaniac response to phobic anxieties. Because, by it’s very essense, these fears are irrational and larger than life, which means no one could possibly have lived through such an experience and written to tell the tale.

Fear and the Blank Page: How do YOU conquer your fears?The truth is, fear of the blank page is common. I suffer it every day to varied extent and fellow writers have suffered it since the dawn of the written word. Perhaps that dawn was delayed by the fear too!

How do YOU conquer your fear of the blank page?

Just Do It!

In the end, one tried and true method seems to be the only one that works every single time, “Just Do It!” Unfortunately, the theory is as usual, easier than the practice. It is one thing to say, “Just start writing…” and another to quell the beast within long enough to put a word on the page, any word at all. What’s worse is that each word feels tortured, ripped from the gut and splattered in all its messy gore onto the formerly pristine perfection of a blank page.

Writing is messy. The demon within begs us to be neat, orderly, tidy. Backspace! Delete it! Scratch it out! We beat him down, and beat him down again, “Not now!” His screams make us more uneasy but we’ve been told that by facing the page it gets easier to face again and again. We subdue the demon, vowing to call on him when his time comes. He has a purpose, later…

Meanwhile, we scrawl in blood on the page, drip by crimson drip, because putting something on the page is the way to get back to breathing. Putting something, anything, on the page is a way to loosen the knot in our stomach, the tingle in our fingers, the stutter on the tip of our tongue. Still, the words feel awkward, stupid, clumsy…

Today, I wanted to write. My heart aches from being locked away from the words but even with my deepest passions calling me to the page I quiver, anxiety’s baited breath against my throat. I stare at the blank page as words fall upon it and wonder, “WHEN!?! When will this get easier?”

And, with over ten years experience it dawns on me, “It won’t.”

Choosing to be a writer is an act of desperation. No one would choose this life of inner agony, heightened emotions, and tremulous turmoil if they could live their life another way. I find comfort in the fact that sometimes, sometimes fear gives way to a soul-encompassing joy. Sometimes, writing is like breathing. Sometimes, it is bliss, it is harmony. Sometimes…

Six Myths: A Writer’s Life

One of the most exhilarating choices you may make in your life is to become ‘a writer’. There are many images and expectations about the writer’s lifestyle. It can be filled with joy and steeped in the wonder of language and expression. Writer’s have the opportunity to give something to the world. Writing is a profession often connected with the freedom of doing what you truly love for the rest of your life, but is it really?

Myth 1: Writing is like paid vacation.

Being a writer isn’t about having a book on the shelves of Barnes and Noble; it’s not about signings, tours, or discussions with your editor. Being a writer is about writing. You’re going to face occasions when you are challenged. You’ll have days when you doubt your ability to succeed and you’ll wallow in the misery of failure, not because you’ve failed but because you aren’t where you expect yourself to be. Writing is work, and it’s hard work at that.

Myth 2: Writer’s Enjoy Solitary Lives.

A common misconception is that writers are hermits. While the actual act of writing is often one best done in contented mental (not necessarily physical) solitude writing is about people and life. You can’t be a great writer if you don’t immerse yourself in your subject, in your readers. You can’t live in a black hole, never having seen the sky and write about the life of a bird. You have to live, meet people, get to know who your audience is, and write for that world, not yourself and the earthworms.

Myth 3: Writing is easy.

If you’ve chosen to be a writer because writing is easy you’re in for a shock. I don’t think any professional writer would ever say that this career isn’t more challenging than any other they’ve had in their lifetime. Writing is hard. The difficulty is a part of what makes the best writers so good.

Myth 4: Writers are rich.

This is one I really wish were true. The truth is, only a very select few, very good and very lucky writers ever get rich. Beginning writers make very little money. Many writers never make great money. In the early days of your writing career you’ll probably need a day job and you’ll probably still eat out of a can and scrimp for toilet paper.

Myth 5: Writers know everything.

Yes, writers come to know a lot but I’ve never met a writer who thought they had learned enough. Curiosity seems to be a requirement for writers. We are constantly striving to learn; we research, we study, we take courses, we workshop, we read, and read, and read. We thirst for knowledge and explore. We take chances and we fail, a lot. Writing is a journeyman’s life. There are no masters and it is impossible to perfect the craft (that doesn’t stop us trying).

Myth 6: Writers are always relaxed and happy.

There will be good days and bad days. There are days when we could sing from rooftops and others when every word feels dragged (slowly and painfully) from the depths of our souls. Writers tend to feel everything to a thousandth of a degree. Every tear is a thunderstorm, every kiss a rainbow. It’s important to allow yourself to feel every extreme and every emotion because these are vital for great writing. The best writers are the ones who can bleed onto the page, dragging themselves through every heartbeat, reliving every moment and create it with such intense reality that readers feel every beat as if it were their own heart pounding.

Writers are a kooky bunch of people. We come from all walks of life and each of us brings something unique and amazing to the world’s literature. The only people who will truly understand you are fellow writers. While your family shakes their head at this odd creature that inhabits their home we smile at our own families who are doing exactly the same thing.

It is a wondrous, heart wrenching life to lead. You’ll love it and hate it in every breath but you never really give it away. Our writing isn’t really ours to give up. It’s like a calling for the priesthood. Being a writer is about being who you are.

Book Review: George Singleton’s Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds

George Singleton's Pep Talks, Warnings & ScreedsOne of the most notable things I realized while reading “Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds: Indispensable wisdom and cautionary advice for writers” is that its author, George Singleton, must have a great deal of ‘STUFF’ on his desk. I wonder how he manages to write between his can of WD-40* (a reminder that writing daily prevents rusting), his compass* (because “stories and novels need direction”), his grappling hook* (“to remind him that every foray into pulling stories and novels from the depths doesn’t always succeed”), and the several other trinkets he has gathered. Somehow, he does manage to write, and has turned his pen to over 100 published stories and two novels.

While I don’t think that a cluttered desk is essential, the points George makes with his “Essential Tools” are important to remember. Beyond these tools, George includes sage advice on how to approach being a writer and the rocks beneath the muddy surface of the publishing industry.

Dead Meat

Every last story should be considered dead meat. If anyone ever asks, “What’s your favorite story or novel that you’ve written?” it should be what you’re working on at the moment, for you are always getting better, and striving.

~ Pep Talk: 98 (Dead Meat) from Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds by George Singleton

Singleton is an opinionated writer with firm ideas of what being a writer is and how writing should be done. In some respects his advice could be controversial. How would Starbucks survive the current economical downturn if writers and wanna-be writers remained at home in their shoeboxes rather than downing caramel lattes?

How many writers would remain obscure if not for their blogs? Indeed, one might wonder how George Singleton can justify his Blog Tour this month given his poor opinion of bloggers and the “bloodsucking parasites” we carry?

Despite getting my hackles firmly spiked and my own opinions leaping to the defensive, “Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds” has its mix of great content. For authors this book is worth reading.

George has a strident voice, he knows how to hook a reader, how to influence their thoughts, and he has done his time in the trenches of fiction. Much of his advice and wisdom has rich value to new writers. More experienced writers will find themselves laughing out loud (to strange glances from family) at the ring of truth in some parts of this book.

Getting to the Marrow

A butcher might argue that there’s a relationship between meat’s taste and its proximity to the bone. The closer to the marrow, the better the flavor. I don’t know how to complete this analogy for vegetarians. Maybe the center cuts of beets, carrots, and tomatoes offer more excitement for the consumer. Let’s pretend that’s the case.

In stories, the closer to the marrow a writer can get, the more enjoyment a reader will receive.

~ Pep Talk: 150 (Getting to the Marrow) from Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds by George Singleton

Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds” is worth reading on any road of your writing journey. It is a valuable mulch to cultivate your future as a writer. Go forward into each new pep talk, warning, and screed with an open mind but allow your own experiences and preferences to discern which lessons you will take to heart. You’ll enjoy the ideas George expresses, and be eager to get back to your own writing.

Get a copy of Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds from Amazon
Read 21 Aphorisms from George Singleton

WRA Welcomes George Singleton – March 2009

This month, we have the wonderful pleasure of hosting talented author, George Singleton. George’s latest book, “Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds“, is now available and to celebrate its successful launch WOW! Women On Writing has organized a grand blog tour.

On Tuesday, March 3rd, George will share a captivating guest post. You have the opportunity to greet George and ask any questions you may have for him during his visit. I will share my review of “Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds” and discuss some of the topics highlighted in George’s book.

March is also the perfect month to stay tuned because later this month I will be giving away a copy of George’s book, “Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds“, to one lucky winner. Subscribe today so you won’t miss out on the contest details.

Please, join me in welcoming George Singleton! I hope you’ll enjoy your visit, George, and congratulations on your continued success.

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EVENT: Zen Habits Master, Leo Babauta

Tomorrow, Leo Babauta, the brilliance behind Zen Habits and Write To Done is making himself available to answer reader questions. Have you got questions about blogging or writing? Well, you could ask me, but this is a fantastic opportunity to ask someone who really is in the trenches?

With over 75,000 subscribers to Zen Habits and over 5,000 subscribers to Write To Done, Leo knows how to pull readers and captivate his audience. He understands what makes a blog work and how to work a blog to it’s fullest potential.

Tune in Tomorrow: “Ask Leo” Your Blogging and Writing Questions – 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday (Nov. 20, 2008)

Click here to find out more.