This is the third edition of the book. The first was written on a typewriter.
This book was recommended by Ogilvy, Pope of Advertising.
In a memo to his staff… he advised them to read it at least thrice.
This is the third edition of the book. The first was written on a typewriter.
This book was recommended by Ogilvy, Pope of Advertising.
In a memo to his staff… he advised them to read it at least thrice.
We would like our work to be as perfect as possible on the first attempt. Sometimes the words come out right. More often than not, they aren’t to our expectations.
We react to the ‘imperfect’ words’ and then set about changing them.
Dive in Immediately
One way to avoid distractions is to dive in when the time to write arrives. Don’t delay even for a few seconds.
While your computer is powering on, you may want to check out a file you see on the desktop screen. Resist the temptation. Better still, have a clear sky screen except for the recycle bin and your word processing program icon.
Anyone embarking on a writing career is often told what it takes to be a writer. Advice is aplenty. But are they valid?
The thing is if you believe some of them and treat them as gospel truths, you may be shooting yourself in the foot.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t make much progress as a writer and even give up on writing if you give more than a passing glance to these half-truths.
Unless you’re writing for fun you should set writing goals to achieve any measure of success in writing. If you’re just setting out writing, you goal may be to get published, whether in print or online.
If you have only occasional publishing credits to show, then your goal may be to get more works published. If you have published short stories and articles, then your target may be to publish a book or novel.
You want your efforts at writing to pay off and leave you with satisfaction.
You must, however, be careful when it comes to setting your goal. If you do it wrongly, it may sabotage and hinder your writing progress.
Here are a few guidelines to observe when setting your writing goals for future success.
Don’t Compete With Others
You should not set your goal in such a way to compete with others. If someone you know has achieved more writing success than you, don’t try to outdo the person just to prove a point.
Don’t be jealous of the other person’s success. Instead be inspired by the person and try to learn how the other person got where she is. What’s the system? More often than not, you’ll find that the person got whee she is through hard work and perseverance.
Are you also willing to go the same route, more often than not starting from scratch?
There are no shortcuts to writing success. Everyone has to pay his dues, usually in the form of time and effort. So, don’t treat yourself as someone special and expect success overnight.
Even if you try to you’re bound to meet with failure and give up writing altogether. So, direct competition is not an ingredient you want to include in your recipe for writing success.
Shortcuts to Writing Success
Good, old hard work seems to have gone out of fashion these days. A good number of people want success as quickly as possible. With such a huge market of such people out there, there is a proliferation of books and other learning materials catering to their desires.
Some books make unrealistic claims of being able to make you a successful writer in the shortest time possible. These claims help sell books. At best they are ear candy designed to give the uninitiated a feel good boost.
Most of these books avoid mentioning hard work and persistence. Simply because they can’t teach these two things. They have to be acquired by the writer on his own.
A good book will remind you of the qualities needed to succeed as a writer and share the author’s writing system.
Choose This Goal That Never Fails You
If you’re to avoid competing with others and shortcuts to writing success, then what goal should you aim for?
Here’s the one that always works. Write according to your capability and keep on with it. Allow yourself time to grow as a writer.
Unrealistic goals will only drive you to give up writing faster.
If your goal is not to give up on writing no matter what, then you’re on the right track.
Aim to show up at the page every day, even if you have only a few minutes to spare.
Aim to try your best to improve every writing day.
Keep this goal close to your heart and you’ll see light at the end of the tunnel in the near future.
“Today I must write a paragraph or a page better than I did yesterday.” Earnest Gaines
“The only thing harder than writing is starting to write.” Susan Shaughnessy in Walking on Alligators
No matter how long you’ve been writing, you’ll find that the toughest part is always getting started.
Getting started means putting yourself in the mood to write, which is not an easy if you’re tempted by other interesting or less painful things.
Then when you get into the mood, you have to show up at the page. Whether you’re starting a new piece of continuing an existing piece, it takes a great amount of mental strength and courage to just show up at the page.
Would you like to increase your writing speed to the speed of your talking? It’s easy. Write about what you’re passionate about. Write about what you’re knowledgeable about.
You talk faster on topics that you know or passionate about, whether they make you laugh, cringe, angry or surprised.
Similarly, when it comes to writing, you’ve to choose topics or subjects you’re passionate about so that your excitement will drive you to write faster.
Then go all out to find the answers.
So, focus on what you’re curious about. You’ll be on the road to writing faster.
“I’m pretty disciplined to keep the momentum of a story going by writing everyday, even if it’s only a couple of paragraphs or a page or two.” James Rollins
Recently I had to call a rescue service to move my unused car to another spot. The car had not been driven for many months and the battery had gone weak.
The mechanic who came to jump start the car said, “Don’t stop anywhere and turn off your engine. If you do, you won’t be able to start the car again.”
So, I drove the car, keeping the foot firmly on the gas pedal, taking extra care not to let the engine die especially when I was going up a slope.
Even after I reached my destination, I was not hasty to turn the engine off. I made sure I got a suitable parking spot. Then I turned off the ignition.
As I was walking back home, I thought,”Maybe I should approach writing in the same manner. I shouldn’t turn off the engine until there’s nothing more to do.”
Not that I don’t already have momentum. The first thing I do daily after jumping out from bed is sit down and write. I do this 7 days a week just to keep my writing machine well-oiled.
But then I have to keep reminding remind myself to keep rekindling the fire. Why? In the past I had shot myself in the foot by letting momentum die on some writing projects when the going got tough. All the initial work and effort gone down the drain for want of courage to continue.
If you’ve been writing for a while especially on big projects – novel, play, screenplay – which needs to be worked on over a period of time, you’ll appreciate the need for maintaining momentum.
So, here are some pointers that can assist and inspire you to keep moving until you see your writing project to completion.
Remind yourself the amount of time you put in to prepare and get started on the project. Are you going to let your hard work go to waste?
Tell yourself that all you have to do now is keep the engine running by pouring as much fuel as possible into it the form of words. Never mind if you can’t write pages every day. Just a few paragraphs or a short scene would do on each day if the situation allows it.
It’s easier to maintain momentum if you’re charged up to write. How do you do it? Play the movie of your excitement when you first started the project. This was when you had no obstacles or blocks to contend with. Imagine you are back in such a state. Done right, it will give you the needed inspiration to maintain the momentum.
In my experience failing to maintain momentum comes as a result of giving the excuse of having something more important to do. A priority project. As you get sucked into it, you find your self sailing farther and farther away from the project and then completely losing sight of it.
Then one day when you feel like going to it, you have to make great effort to get started because you’ve completely lost touch with it. Since you have to start from scratch, you find it difficult to get into the flow again.
If you like most writers, you’ll come to the conclusion that it’s not worth spending all the energy on the piece and you decide to give up on it.
Even if you’ve to go away and work something else, keep the project top of mind. Even if you can’t continue, read through it to keep it fresh in your mind. While reading something may click in your mind and lead you to writing.
I wrote a 20-page children mystery story a long while ago. When I was on page 17 or so, I stopped writing to concentrate on other projects.
Now more than a year later, as I seek to complete the series, I find myself being a stranger to the story I’ve written.
Although I have an outline and could have written the remaining three pages in one sitting, I didn’t. It was a terrible mistake. I could have written a paragraph a day and finished it a long time ago.
The experience taught me a good lesson – never to let anything hanging even if there’s one page left to conclude the piece. For all of my other projects, I vow to keep the momentum going until a first draft is completed. Then if I lose the momentum, not much harm is done.
So, take a leaf from my experience. Whether your work is going well or not, promise yourself not to lose track of it. Keep at it until its done, no matter how dissatisfied you’re with it. Embrace this challenge and you’re a different breed of writer.
Don’t have enough time for writing?
If only you weren’t working full time and have family commitments, you would surely be writing more, wouldn’t you?
Well, not really. The grass is always greener on the other side.
If you meet a full-time writer working independently, don’t be surprised if he or she complains that she can’t get enough done although the hours are there.
Being a full-time writer for over two decades I say that time is not the only factor that decides whether you write productively or not.
Many a day, I’d started out to write as much as I could but ended up with a meager word count or worse, a blank page. Time just flies past miraculously. Before you know it, you’re tired and frustrated. Yes, tired although you’ve not done anything much.
If you often find yourself in the same boat, here’s a simple trick to help you get the most out of your writing day.
How do start your writing day? Do you start telling yourself you’ll write something or continue writing what you’ve started.
If you do, then don’t be surprised if you don’t anything much at all at the end of the writing day. It’s because you have a vague writing goal.
Your goal must be specific – write and finish Chapter 2 in two hours. How about that?
Setting specific goals is a scary thing to do. It calls for what you think is beyond you, what’s outside your comfort zone. It’s not beyond you. You think it’s beyond you because you haven’t done it before. So what? What’s the harm in trying. Are you trying to become a better writer without trying something that challenges you?
Setting specific goals will focus your mind on the task and get you to accomplish what you set out to do. But specific goals alone aren’t enough.
If you decide to accomplish writing Chapter 2 in two hours, you must give yourself a very good reason for doing so. What reason could you give yourself?
What if you tell yourself, “If I don’t finish Chapter 2 in two hours I’ll not meet my goal of finishing the whole book by this weekend.”
Have the larger goal on the radar to give you the momentum to achieve the immediate goal before you. More often than not we lose sight of the larger goal once when we are wrapped up in a short-term goal before us.
So, the trick is always to keep sight of the larger goal and remind yourself of it as often as possible.
What if you say to yourself you have to complete the book by this weekend to stay on track to meet the goal of publishing ten books by the end of the year? Would there be more immediacy to your actions?
Most probably yes. You’re reminded of something that you truly believe in, something you won’t easily give up. Suddenly, you’re raring to go, if the ultimate goal really matters to you.
Alright, you’re game to set a specific writing goal. When do you set it? You can set it anytime as long as it is not a few minutes before you sit down to write.
If you work with a writing schedule planned in advance and which you constantly review to make it top of mind, then you’re on the right track. If you don’t feel like planning way in advance, then you can do it a day before you sit down to write.
The best time to do this is the night before. Before you go to bed, take a few minutes to plan the writing task you’ll be handling the next day.
I write it down on an index card – 5.00am to 5.30am – finish writing scene 3 of the Mystery of the Missing Rotten Apple
5.30am to 6.30am – Write Chapter 1 of the Writing Skills Ebook
Once you’ve put your writing target down, spend a few more minutes actually seeing yourself doing it. Most importantly see yourself finishing task one and then moving on to task 2.
I find this to be the best way of gearing up for the next writing day. In a way, you’re telling your subconscious mind to help you do what you have programmed into it.
At most this exercise will not take you more than ten minutes. Do it when you’ve nothing else to do for the day before you go to bed.
If you’re implementing this practice for the first time, you’ll find the going tough for the first few days. Visualising a future action doesn’t come easily to everyone. But keep on with it and you’ll be mentally prepared to work towards your goal.
Forcing yourself to have a specific writing goal can be a painful thing if you’re used to enjoying freedom in your writing – writing what and when you want.
Unless you’re writing for fun, adopting this approach will see you enjoying improved writing productivity.
So, bite the bullet and set a concrete writing goal for the next day.
You’ve just completed a short story or an article. You have worked hard on it and are glad that you’ve seen it to completion. The thing is you don’t know how good it is. You are eager to find out. So, you pass your work around to people you think can give you feedback.
When the feedback arrives, it’s not what you expect. You shortcomings are pointed out. You never thought you had them.
You’re disappointed. You thought you’ve done well. You put the piece away and still hurt from the response you’ve received.
It takes you days to put the unpleasant experience behind you. Days later, you get another idea for a piece of writing.
You’re excited about the idea. Just then an uneasy thought intrudes. Will it be good enough if you pursue it? Will it suffer a similar fate as the previous piece?
You hesitate and put off writing it.
You don’t want to go through the pain of another negative feedback.
Whether you realize it or not, you have started cultivating the procrastination habit.
Remember this. There was a time you didn’t procrastinate when it came to writing. Driven by passion, you had full confidence in your ability to write.
You set out to showcase your best work. But then your euphoria was shortlived. Along came a rejection letter. Or negative feedback. Your journey to procrastination started. You reached the destination quite fast.
If you’ve experienced this situation or in the midst of undergoing one, take note of the following points.
It doesn’t mean that you’ve received negative feedback on one piece, you’ll receive it on your next one. Of course, if you’re a beginner, you are prone to judge yourself based on one piece of work. Avoid this.
Secondly, don’t make the a big mistake of accepting negative feedback as gospel truth(s).
If writers are going to shattered by each negative feedback they receive, then there will be very little published. Every writer at one point or another has received less than favourable feedback on her work.
JK Rowling had her first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, rejected by 12 publishers. If that had discouraged her and she had sat brooding and procrastinated on writing the next one, the world would not have enjoyed the adventures of the boy wizard.
is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so
cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case,
you fail by default,” said J.K. Rowling
So, bear in mind that you’re not the only one receiving negative feedback for your work. Even successful writers who have been in the game for decades receive their fair share of brickbats.
Just head to the Amazon Bestselling books. Among the five star reviews there will be a few one star reviews which tears the book apart and lay bare its ‘flaws’.
Does this mean that the writer will start wondering whether he should be writing his next book?
No, the writer is wise enough to know that he can’t please everyone with his book, no matter how good he think it is.
So, the best thing to do is avoid thinking about the ‘bad ‘ reviews and continue with his next work.
You must have heard of some writers who don’t read reviews of their work. They have this arrogance – I create what I think is best for my readers. If you don’t like what I’m offering then it’s your problem.
You should try to adopt this attitude as early as possible in your writing career.
Spending time thinking about what others think of your work is a complete waste of time. The time would be better spent writing which would certainly improve your skills.
Yes, your job as a writer is to keep on writing.
Think about others who receive negative feedback, even those big, capable companies who supposedly can’t make mistakes with all their resources at hand.
Someone steps into a restaurant, tastes the food and says that it’s unpalatable . He says it’s the worst food he has eaten. Does this mean the restaurant owner will close shop because of the negative feedback?
No, he won’t. Because he has invested enough time and money on the business. He’s not going to let a few less than favorable feedback make him hesitate and wonder if he should continue with what he’s doing.
He’ll serve the same food, most of the time, without bothering to improve the recipe. He knows his food is good enough. He knows for the hundred people who doesn’t like his food, there will be hundreds more who will.
Maybe you have not received positive feedback on your work. That’s alright. It could be because feedback comes from the wrong type of people. So, instead of taking this feedback seriously, just tell yourself that you’ve yet to meet the people who will like your work. You will meet them soon if you keep writing.
Now, let’s talk about the people who offer feedback on your work. I would like to make a sweeping statement here, based on my experience.
I think moist of them aren’t qualified to comment on your work, even the so-called professional ones.
As a children book writer, I write books in a series of eight books. After more than a decade of writing them full-time, and having got them accepted each time, I had an unpleasant experience with a new editor.
The editor got back to me saying that he’s rejecting all the books in the series. When asked, he replied, “I like to read books that make me cry. Your books doesn’t make me cry.”
At once I knew I was confronting an incompetent editor who let his personal taste creep into the judgment of the suitability of a manuscript for publication.
I ignored his feedback and contacted the publishing manager who suggested some changes but she never made it a requirement that the stories should make the reader cry. She understood that the stories taught children to be bold and proactive.
There are so many incompetent so-called editors out there who judge work based on their personal tastes. If you feel your work doesn’t deserve the negative feedback, just ignore it start writing your next one.
Don’t let a few negative responses stall you and waste all the time and effort you have put in to succeed at writing.
Better still, don’t ask for feedback on your work. Just finish your work and send it out for publication or publish it in your blog. This is not to say, you shouldn’t get feedback and learn from it. If feedback is halting your writing progress, then go ahead and dispense with it.
The truth is whatever feedback you receive isn’t going to and shouldn’t affect your writing competence. If you get glowing feedback, that doesn’t mean you’ve writing ability is at a high level. Your ability is what it is at a particular moment and will only improve over time.
So, why let negative feedback give you the false impression that you’re not as good as what you think you’re?
These days I can’t be bothered with criticism about my work. I know I’ve paid my dues by writing consistently for over a quarter of a century. I know I’m not a perfect writer, but I’m improving. Yes, everyone is an improving writer if he keeps on with the daily grind.
These people who are giving all the negative feedback and non-constructive criticism can’t do much to improve me as a writer. It’s all down to me.
Yes, it’s down to you. They critics will offer their two cents and leave. But you’re the one who must be the ultimate judge of your ability. So, judge yourself fairly.
When criticism comes uninvited, tell yourself that it’s normal. Does a politician quit just because someone criticizes his decision or statement he made? No. These politicians are know to have hides thicker than that of crocodiles.
So, develop a crocodile’s hide when it comes to writing to protect yourself from the bullet of criticism or negative feedback that can injure you.
So, instead of procrastinating on your next project following a criticism or negative response, go ahead and start working on it now.
You can’t stop the negative feedback just like you can’t get rid your home of ants, roaches or lizards. They’ll be around. Let them be.
You concentrate on producing more work.
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Book Summary: Writing That Works : How to Communicate Effectively In Business
October 12, 2017
Don’t Make This Mistake If You Want to Write Faster : Learn from DJs
March 16, 2016
Avoiding Distractions: No More Detours in Your Writing Journey
February 7, 2016
5 Myths That Will Guarantee Your Failure As a Writer
February 2, 2016
Turn Up at Your Page With This Daily Goal for Writing Success
January 30, 2016