Over the past 13 years, I've read a lot of books about writing and received a lot of advice from successful writers. But, there are 5 pieces of writing advice that have been especially helpful. These are the writing tips that led to my book deal.
1. Your Structure Has to be Linear. Your Process Doesn't
Of all the writing tips that led to my book deal, none has been as valuable as this because it enabled me to go from writing blog posts to writing books.
The structure is the achilles' heel of every writer who makes the transition from writing articles to writing books.
Most people have been conditioned to write 5-paragraph essays and use linear organizational systems for non-linear processes. When they try to write a book by following an outline, one of two things happens:
- They get stuck
- They abandon it altogether.
Once you realize that your structure has to be linear, but your process doesn't, you can easily capture ideas as they occur and develop ideas when you're ready.
Writing a book is like putting a puzzle together. You create the pieces and put them together in an order that makes sense.
Source: Jeniffer Louden
2. Placing Your Happiness in Other People's Hands is a Recipe for Profound Disappointment
If your happiness with your job and your career is dependent on how the movie does at the box office or how the critics respond to your role, you have placed your happiness in the hands of other people, and that’s a recipe for profound disappointment –Ryan Holiday, The Unmistakable Creative
No aspiring writer dreams of lingering in obscurity. But the moment fame, fortune, status, and validation determine your happiness, you put it in the hands of other people.
No artist can control how the audience responds to her work. In any creative endeavor, the artist has one primary role: doing the work. And the work itself, something you're proud to put your signature on, is the only sustainable source of happiness in a creator's life.
Fall in love with the process and forget about the prize you may or may not win. When you write a book, you choose to do something where nothing is guaranteed and anything is possible.
3. Professionals Create a Schedule
"Motivation is for amateurs; the rest of us show up and get to work."- Chuck Close.
Professional writers don't and can't wait until they're feeling inspired or in the mood. They understand that habit is more reliable than inspiration.
When you create a schedule, it doesn't matter if…
You have a good or bad writing day.
The work is good, or feels like it's coming out the wrong end
Creating a schedule liberates you from the pressure and expectation of creating something brilliant every time you sit down to write.
90 percent of what I write sucks. The only reason I've written anything worth reading is that I write a lot. Average and often is better than extraordinary and inconsistent. Showing up is the only thing that matters for peak performance, as Steven Kotler says.
4. Quit Social Media or Use It Sparingly
Cal Newport's book, Deep Work, was published the year I published my first book, Unmistakable: Why Only is Better Than Best. After reading his book and interviewing him on The Unmistakable Creative, I drastically reduced the time I spent on social media.
Social Media Can Cause You to Confuse Attention with Accomplishment
Social media is a shortcut to getting attention for your work. But in reality, likes, tweets, and comments cause you to confuse attention with accomplishment. As author Todd Henry said, attention to your work is not a birthright. It's something you earn by doing hard work.
Quitting Social Media Reveals the True Value of Your Content
Without social media, you are forced to master your craft and hone your skills. You have no choice but to produce something of enough value that you can no longer depend on a shortcut to get attention for your work.
5. Write 1000 Words a Day
It's hard to overstate how writing 1000 words a day changed my life. When Julien Smith gave me this advice in 2013, I'd been writing for 4 years but hadn't accomplished any of my goals.
So I gave up on the goal of a book deal and wrote 1000 words a day, rain or shine, drunk or sober.
- 6 months after I started writing 1000 words a day, I self-published two books, one of which became a Wall Street Best Journal Best-Seller
- 2 years after I started writing 1000 words a day, this habit led to a six-figure book contract.
Changing your behavior is more effective than setting goals. And when you change your behavior, outcomes will often exceed your expectations.
None of the writing tips that led to my book deal produced results overnight.
My journey from blog to book deal took 7 years. And there were plenty of times when I was tempted to quit.
You have to be a writer before you can become an author. Becoming a published author takes years of hard work, and nothing is guaranteed. Anything is possible, though.
And when you get a book deal, the work doesn't end. That's when it begins. If were to summarize these tips in one sentence, it would be this:
You have to be a writer before you can become an author.
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