Infographic: Three Kinds of Writing Success

kinds of writing success

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Writing Success, Defined

Every author struggles for writing success on three levels: career success, project success, and process success.

I’ve seen writers spend YEARS trying to create writing career success before realizing that it is mostly out of their control. If you don’t find an editor, agent, and publisher who firmly understand your goals and vision, you might be setting yourself up for failure (both real and perceived). In any case, it’s a common mistake to focus too much on career success instead of the other kinds of success that ARE in your control.

Project success is where the navigation happens. Your novel needs to be coherent, have a vision, flow well, and deliver on its promises. Great beta readers or a freelance editor can help keep you on track. Most of the time, though, you will be charting these waters on your own.

Process success is where the magic happens. I’m only being a little bit figurative here. When I think about the books I’ve loved, they do seem a little bit magical. Writing a book means holding on to whatever sparkle of inspiration got you started. Over the course of years, you find a way to transform it into a story that allows the reader to experience that same glimmer, whatever it is. It is vital, and when you stay in touch with it, it is your “zone.” It also needs nurturing: free time, freewriting, artist dates, and the constant light and fresh air of new ideas. By taking good care of yourself, you can do this roll-up-your-sleeves, make-time-every-day, have-a-plan sort of work. 

Allocate Your Time

Writing success requires work and focus. Here’s a practical way to make sure you keep your focus where it belongs and support your own success. Work in a 10-day cycle:

1. Write for seven days.

2. Take two days to step back and check your compass.

3. Spend one day doing things to set yourself up for career step. Repeat.

Or if sticking to a day-by-day schedule cramps your style, you can simply think of this as the 70/20/10 rule. Spend 70% of your time doing things to finish a draft, 20% of your time making sure the project works as a whole, and 10% of your time getting yourself out in the world, going to readings, submitting your work, and taking classes. 


This method will ensure that you spend most of your time working on the factors of writing success that YOU can control. I hope you’ll share the infographic on Twitter or Facebook, or with your writing group! 

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