I read Entrepreneur for various day job related reasons, and recently gave their 8 Slow, Difficult Steps to Become a Millionaire a read. Though I haven’t succeeded (YET) at the whole making a living off fiction business, their steps seemed pretty spot on for how I think about writing.
1. Stop obsessing about getting published.
Write good stories that you believe in. Then write some more. Then keep doing that. Trying to write to trends or craft what you imagine the market wants are recipes for disaster.
2. Get out of your hidey hole and interact with other people in a helpful, supportive way.
There’s this weird paranoia that some unpublished writers seem to have about being plagiarized or having their ideas stolen that causes them to go into full isolation mode. Sorry, but your ideas were never original to begin with (nobody’s are!) and so what if someone steals them? If you’re a better writer, you’ll write them better. If you’re not, well, keep working on that.
Also there’s a lot to be said for what you can learn by being cool and helpful to other people.
3. Stop thinking about being wildly successful and imagine the people who are excited they read your book.
Writing “for” other people is another fool’s errand, but thinking hey, I’m writing this cool thing that I bet people would enjoy is pretty motivating.
4. See making it as a writer as a chance to write more.
Writing as my full time job. It sets my heart a-flutter just thinking about it.
5. Do your thing better.
Whatever your thing is, get better at it. Write fluffy schmoopy romances? Hone your fluff and schmoop. Write detective stories? Practice those plot twists. Write epic adventure stories? Refine each and every sentence for maximum tension. You’ve got a thing. Focus on that and do it better.
6. Study people who are good at the thing you want to be good at.
They figured it out. Try to figure it out from them. This doesn’t mean copying, it just means watching and learning then doing it your way.
7. Have a way to know how far you’ve come.
I know it’s painful, but save old drafts of stuff with dates. Maybe do a year review where you look at what you wrote last year and what you just wrote. Is it different? Is it better? If you have a problem just sitting down and writing already, use 750words.com or a similar site to track how much you write, how often. Make sure that number gets better over time.
8. Create habits that make writing happen
The most important thing you need to do to be a writer isn’t introduce yourself at parties as a writer, isn’t to talk about that novel you’ve got in your head on Twitter, and isn’t to drink out of novelty writing-related coffee mugs. It’s to write. However you can make yourself do that, whether it’s with the aforementioned 750words.com, with betting friends, with setting 7pm-8pm as your absolutely must write time, whatever, do it.
Then, if nothing else, you’ll be writing. Hell, you might even like it sometimes. Whether or not the publishing, wild success thing works out, there are worse ways to spend your time than doing something you like.