To Achieve Success, First You Need to Define It

Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Image by Natalia Lavrinenko from Pixabay

10 Steps to Becoming a Successful Writer 

What You Must Do to Succeed as a Writer 

5 Things All Successful Authors Do 

I can’t imagine trying to write an article that would bear one of the above titles. After all, how can you tell every writer how to achieve success when each of us defines success in a different way? How you define success as a writer depends on many different factors and can change over time. 


Some of us simply want to write. We have a story to tell, and we want to get it down. For these types of writers, reaching the end of the story that has been pushing its way through them is a huge success. 

For other writers, finding the time and energy to lay words down is a huge accomplishment. The reality is that many days end without them finding the time, space, or energy to write. So when they do write, they know they have accomplished something amazing. The process itself is the success they crave. 


For other writers, creating a manuscript isn’t enough. They want to publish it. They want it out in the world for other people to read. Some of these writers choose self-publishing because it offers a level of control that is important to them. Others query, pitch, and submit their work to a variety of traditional publishers. They know that having multiple manuscripts out at any one time increases the chances of a sale. 

Whichever path they choose, success means getting their words out into the world. They want their writing out there where it can be found by readers. Online or as an e-book. In a journal or as a print book. Publication marks success. 


Still others want to do more than publish. They measure success by receiving payment for their work. These writers avoid literary journals that offer compensation in the form of publication but no money. It isn’t enough to earn a byline. Instead, they seek paying markets. 

Some of these writers also look for writing related income. They take editing jobs. They teach classes and offer workshops. Some of them speak at conferences. All of these things add to their income.


Still other writers measure their success through recognition for what they can do. While some hope for a New York Times bestselling title or a medal from the American library association, these aren’t goals the writer can directly impact beyond writing the best book they can possibly write. 

To find recognition, they enter contests. They apply for mentorships and to attend retreats. Every achievement means success for these writers. 


There are also writers who need to know that they have had an impact on the world. These writers often choose their topics carefully, spinning up articles about social justice or ecology. Some of them work as grant writers, seeking funding for nonprofits of various kinds. 

Success for writers who seek to influence their world can also come when they hear directly from their readers. When they get fan mail, they know they have written something that meant something to at least this particular reader. 

You don’t have to find success in only one area. Here at WOW we often discuss what success looks like but we also recognize that it is varied. A writer can find personal success in all of these areas or in only one. What is important is that they define success on their terms and then look for the tools that they need to get there. 


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 35 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on June 5, 2023).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins June 5, 2023) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins June 5, 2023).


Angela Mackintosh said...

Very true, Sue! I nodded to each one on your list (love how you broke them all down), and all of those successes sound great to me right now. :) I want different things for each piece. For creative writing, I strive for publication, accolades, and if there's a payment offered, I donate it back to the journal and ask my name be listed as a donor. Showing my support equals success for me. Impact is something I never expect, but it's awesome when it happens! Finishing a manuscript is its own reward, and currently enough success for my short fiction. But I feel most successful when I'm helping others. :)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Hi Ang,
I love how it is different for each piece of writing. That's definitely something vital to remember. And you are wonderful at helping others - thank you for that!

Renee Roberson said...

Author success really is subjective! I was recently introduced to a new member of the choir of my church, and she heard I had a book being published. "What publishing house is it with?" she asked. When I told her it was with an indie publisher, she got this dismissive look on her face and said, "Oh," and walked away. I admit it hurt my feelings, but then I told myself she is older than me and maybe only thinks in terms of publishing being black and white. I also dismiss my accomplishments a lot because I don't make a lot of money writing right now, but I'm trying to change that perspective.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

When I was a Regional Advisor for SCBWI, I really had to learn that each person had to define success for themselves. Some people were happy writing for magazines. Other people simply had to have a series. Too bad your acquaintance is defining things only on her terms, because we know what a success you are!

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