Seven Steps to Guaranteed Success as a Writer

Every author seems to have a different idea of what “success” in their field means to him or her. For some, selling at least five thousand (in Canada) or ten thousand (in the States) books, thereby qualifying them to claim the lofty title of “Bestselling Author” is the goal on which they set their sights. For others, maybe it’s a hundred thousand copies, or a million.

For some, it isn’t about the numbers, but about awards. But which award is the one that will make them feel as though they have finally arrived? Is it the Carol? The Christie? The Pulitzer? I’ve noticed several big-name authors who have won awards in the past entering the contests again, so maybe one award isn’t enough. What, then, is the magic number?

Or maybe it’s a certain amount of positive feedback, a sufficient number of glowing reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, recognition at conferences or even on the streets, enough followers on social media.

You see the problem. Success is a wildly ambiguous and deeply personal concept. Chasing that elusive label can be and, I suspect, is in most cases, a discouraging, disheartening, and depressing endeavor. The intended audience for our work can be mind-numbingly uncooperative when it comes to providing us with the accolades, reviews, purchases, and general awestruck-ness in our presence that would finally push us up to that mountain peak we are continually scrambling to reach. So too, for that matter, can agents, publishers, editors, and judges of contests.

Success1

A month ago I posted on this site about my love-hate relationship with Christian writing awards. I have to admit I am coming down a little harder on the side of love these days as my books are currently finalists for five awards. Am I encouraged? Definitely. Am I grateful, honored, and excited? Absolutely. Am I able to bring myself to claim that I am now a successful author as a result of these affirmations? Not even close.

So what is the solution? To continue to blindly stumble along, attempting to achieve some random number of readers or books sold or reviews in order to feel that I am now a success? Or is it possible that I, as a Christian author, need to look at the whole success thing from an entirely different perspective? If so, the perspective that is inevitably the best one to try to view things from is that of Jesus. During his time on earth, Jesus said some radical, countercultural things about success. He suggested that “making it to the top” in the eyes of the world was not only a poor measure of success, but could, in fact, be considered spiritually detrimental because it is those who are the least in the eyes of the world who are the greatest in the Kingdom of God.

Not that we should refuse to work hard or strive for excellence. Quite the contrary. Working diligently and doing our best honors God. The difference is in the motivation. The Bible teachers that everything we do should be done as to the Lord, and not unto man. By that standard, our success cannot truly be measured by sales, awards, or accolades bestowed on us by other human beings.

For an author who believes, then, success can only be defined by whether or not our work accomplishes the purpose God has for it. So here, in my humble opinion, are seven steps to follow in order to be guaranteed success in your writing:

1)      Listen for and receive the words God has for you to write

2)      Study the craft so that you can write those words in a way that honors the one who gave them to you

3)      Humbly accept feedback and editing that makes the work better and stronger

4)      Pray about the best platform for your work to appear on

5)      When the story or teaching God has given you does come out in written form and become available to others, seek His guidance as to the best way to use the resources of time, money, and connections he has gifted you with in order to market and promote that work

6)      Pray that God’s will may be done through the words you have written

7)      Leave the results to him

If I follow the above steps and don’t find success in the eyes of the world—however I or other people may define that—I can still trust that the plans God has for my work have been or will be fulfilled, whether or not he ever reveals those plans to me. And I can let go of all my strivings, and rest in the sure and certain knowledge that my work is a resounding success.

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One of the One

Unseen Journey to Publication

Curves Ahead

It was not an encouraging statistic.

On a cool fall day, the speaker stood at the front of the seminar class and eroded my confidence with his authoritative words, “About one percent of writers succeed in getting published. Because most give up and drop out of the race.”

I’d waited until my forties to do anything with a secret desire to become a writer, so his gloomy prophecy almost made me run from the room. Thankfully, I didn’t let his statistical shadows deter me.

A Shadowy Path

Shadows Crowd the Writing Road

Instead, I silently inquired of God, whom I believed had brought me to this place, and asked what He thought about the publisher’s statement. The answer came as a whisper, “With Me, all things are possible.”

At that starting line in my writing career, I vowed, “I will allow God to make me one of the one percent who succeed.” Little did I know how I’d need my early resolve to navigate past future bumps in the writing road.

Writing Path with Obstacles

Obstacles Litter the Road

Practical applications were required to pave the way.

  • I devoured books on the craft of writing, the business of publication, the magic of marketing, and the art of building a loyal readership. (I’m still studying these necessary parts of the process.)
  • I turned off my television, powered up my computer, and started practicing what I learned.
  • I created a Writer’s Cave and pursued my passion.
  • I faced my Fears and wrote in spite of them.
  • I followed God’s lead when I wasn’t sure where to invest my talents.

    Hard to Know Where Your Writing is Going

    The Road to Writing is Often Unclear

I determined to follow and not race ahead of God.

  • When impatience threatened to devour my energy and time with tangled emotions, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that God controls my dream.
  • I sought God’s kingdom first, before the allure of writing success. Each day, I committed to read my Bible before I wrote anything.
  • I submitted my desires and said, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
  • I trusted God, as the Creator of Time, instead of sweating it when I couldn’t accomplish as much as I believed I should.
  • I wrote down encouragements, so when hardships threatened to swallow me, I had factual reminders that God created me to write. I kept the list close and read His positive reinforcements as needed.

Over time, the hours of study, priority-driven choices and submission to God smoothed the course. But I endured many personal trials along the way.

One shocking revelation brought the news that my dad isn’t my biological father. My youngest sister faced life-threatening illness. My grandson was hurt. Every day, circumstances fought to distract, but in between the upsets, I tenaciously wrote one word at a time. While I traveled tough terrain, I held onto my God-given mantra — I will be one of the one.

Cloudy Writing Days

A Straighter Road Under Cloudy Days

Eventually, the road to becoming one of the one straightened. My portfolio of articles grew, my speaking platform rose, and my writing improved. As I obeyed His voice, God cleared the way.

I’m steering toward my goal of being in the one percent of writers who succeed at their craft. My first book releases in 2013. Growth will span my lifetime, but I refuse to give up. If God says I can be one of the one, then who am I to argue? After all, He put me on the road to writing.

What gives you the gumption to speed ahead in pursuit of your dreams?