Saturday, 13 April 2013

How to reach the top, by never giving up.

Looking a lot like a diagram of story structure, this great inspirational chart by Anna Vital resonates nicely with the writer in me. Now I'm going to expand on this a little.

'Stay alive'
Yep, 240 shots at success sound good to me. If it takes you a year or maybe two to write a book, that's still at least 30 bites of the apple by this reckoning. All we have to do is "stay alive"! On that note: take care of the rest of you, while your mind and finger tips are working overtime. Exercise! As writers we need this more than ever to counteract keeping our backsides in the chair. If you're short on finance, walk or run, short on time, get some gym equipment at home, short on everything, improvise - you're a writer, use your imagination! Pump a tin of beans in one hand while you type with the other. Attach pedals to your desk and cycle as you write. Do glute crunches as you sit in the chair. Whatever works, right? Exercise is also a great writer's block buster. Clear your head, wash away those doubts with an endorphin rinse and give yourself time to just think rather than continuously create (I've done some of my best plot doctoring on the indoor rower).

'Lower your expectations'
Good point, well made. You'd like some literary equivalency? J K Rowling was rejected 12 times before she found a willing publisher. Brazilian author Paulo Coelho published 4 books before his career as a writer took off. His third book, The Alchemist, had an initial print run of only 900 books and didn't go for a reprint at the time. The Alchemist has now sold over 65 million copies worldwide. Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code was his fourth book, not his first, with the previous three only selling well once the fourth book took off. It takes time, but it is worth it.

Yes, you are. Much stronger than you would ever think. If this is what you really want, you will achieve it. Just Keep Going. Crush any doubts before they crush you and be a bulldozer on your path to success. Take pride in every hurdle you leap and every hill you climb. Strength comes not just from knowing your weaknesses, but recognising and remembering that you have overcome them before. Build on your strength and celebrate it.

The weeds could equally be the middle of your beginning, middle and end, or a rough edit, or the 100th rejection letter. Try something new, merge or switch out characters, start your next book, market yourself via a different medium or differently in your current media. Build your momentum and keep on fuelling it. Think of it this way, if you continue doing what you have always done, how can you expect different results? If you feel yourself or your work starting to plateau or stagnate, add something new. And I'll say it again. Just Keep Going.

'Fake it'
Wise words indeed, in fact I'd go one step further. Simply be an author in the present, rather than aspire to be one in the future. I have a whole lot to say about this in my upcoming writer's guide, but for now, suffice to say that if you set your goal in the future, it may always stay in the future. Act in the present exactly as you will act once you're successful. Schedule, work and think as a successful writer and you will be. Put another way, if you continue to act like an amateur, how are you learning to be a professional? Pretending is not pretending, it's practice until one day it isn't practice anymore.

'Don't compare'
This. Yes, yes and yes. Think of anything you have achieved in life. Can you describe exactly how you did it? Or where you got all the knowledge from that it took to achieve that goal? Probably not! You are unique and this is a great thing! No one but you can write the book you are writing. Equally no one but you will take the path to writing success that you are taking, so carve your own path with hope, pride and everything that makes you YOU.

'The dip'
Rejection letters come to mind, or the first novel not taking off as you'd hoped, you may even be flagging at the end of your first draft. Go back to our big name examples above, keep at it because you just don't know which of your books will strike that chord and rocket to the top. Each book you write will take you on this journey many times over on a smaller scale, so it's a ride you'll be getting used to. Learn with each trough and pick up speed for the next peak. Recognise the signs and cut off the troughs before you go too low. Replace a doubt in your mind with a positive wish or celebrate your progress so far. It doesn't matter whether you've written 2000 words, 200,000 words or sold 2000 copies, they are all points along the line to success, as long as you keep on moving along that line. I know you can succeed, as long as you Never Give Up!


  1. I am a writer/blogger myself.....I like this post of yours...both chart and its description. Interesting and highly motivational.

  2. Thank you Zubair, very kind words. I'm glad it struck a chord with you. Best wishes for your writing and blogging too. I wish you much creativity and productivity!

  3. Another good thing I learnt from this blog is to add the "share with FB" gadget to my blog..simplest things are the hardest haha...

  4. :D They certainly are! I'm still learning myself!

  5. What fantastic advice, really nice post Heather. I agree entirely, especially the bit about being stronger. We all have our down days but IMO too many writers fail to recognise how strong they actually are :-)

    1. Thanks, Jill. That's exactly it, it isn't going to be plain sailing all the way, but we can make it through if we keep some belief in ourselves - and also thanks to the wonderful writing community! :)