Some Tactics I’m Using to Grow as a Writer in 2020
Some no-brainers and others hopefully a little less obvious
As a writer on Medium I’m not an expert by any stretch of the word. I’ve been here for a couple of years with a view to making progress on the platform and as a writer — slowly but surely I feel I’m getting there. 2019 was a pivotal year in which I achieved a lot, and I’m keen to carry this momentum forwards into the new year.
With that in mind, here are some things that I’ll be doing during the next year. It’s a mix of suggestions that I’ve gleaned from articles written by those who are a lot more accomplished than I am here on Medium. I’ve also included a couple of things that I’ve decided to pursue based on analysis of my successes (and failures) in the last year.
Perhaps you’ll find something useful in here that you hadn’t considered?
I thought I’d start with the no-brainer. My first resolution is to write more, to publish more consistently and frequently as a means of building momentum and growing my following.
It seems that most of the luminaries here on Medium advocate publishing regularly, and the likes of Tim Denning strive for up to eight new long form articles per week. Over the last year I was aiming for five stories per week (up from one per week the previous year) and never actually achieved that level. As such, five will be my aim again.
Rather than trying to micro-manage their publication on successive days (which is pretty impossible if you want to submit to publications) I’ll simply write, submit and forget as each piece is completed.
Writing at weekends
I’m not guaranteeing this one will be easy, but as part of the move to writing more, I’m committed to writing at the weekends as well as during the week (around my day job). This isn’t purely about doing more hustling and grinding — I’ve noticed that I experience a damaging loss of momentum even by just allowing myself Saturday and Sunday off.
It’s often enough to feel like I’m starting from scratch again on a Monday and can take a day or two to recapture a feeling of any kind of flow. For this reason, while I may not publish more as a result, I’ll be trying to do some writing during the weekends so that momentum is hopefully maintained.
Making more effort to interact with my audience
I often lose sight of the fact that Medium isn’t just a media outlet, but also a social network where people collect and connect to exchange ideas. This excellent article by Tom Kuegler reminded me of the enormous potential for growing as a writer and connecting better with those who have interacted with my writing. Right now, I have the time and opportunity to respond to all comments that I get, but Tom identified a number of ways in which connections could and should be forged with those who show an interest with my work by reaching out and forming bonds with them.
It seems like a good way of broadening reach, as well as potentially of meeting some interesting new people and stimulating ideas for future stories — thanks Tom!
Contributing to more publications
I’m now publishing regularly to five different publications here on Medium. I’ve got a pretty good spread based on the subjects that I most commonly write about, but there’s always room for more. I don’t manage to get all articles published within a publication but the effects are significant in terms of the extra reads when published with the bigger ones.
I’m also learning that each publication has different processes and timescales for publishing (or rejecting) submissions. Some respond within a day and actually let you know if they’re not intending on publishing, and why. This seems both fair and polite. Others don’t inform you and silence after a few days is the best indicator that they’re not interested. That too is okay I guess, given the number of us here trying to get our work featured.
My tactic this year is to select an appropriate publication for a given piece and then submit in the hope it’ll be published ‘in due course’. I can’t control how quickly they’ll handle a piece, but I don’t have to wait for them to publish before I write or submit more articles.
I’ll also keep submitting articles in the hope of being picked up by one of Medium’s own publications such as The Forge. My instincts for which of my articles are better than others doesn’t seem to align with those that are best received, so perhaps the ones I’ve submitted to-date have been poorly selected? Either way, I’ll keep trying.
Writing shorter stories
Invariably my articles are over 1000 words and many exceed 2000. Yet the reader stats for most stories, even those that have done the best for me in terms of engagement and earnings typically have a reader time of less than two minutes.
As a reader I usually finish an article I’ve started, unless I’m really not enjoying it. I realise that this might make me somewhat unusual based on the above statistics (assuming they are representative). However, if my average reader is done with an article within 2 minutes then it seems logical that I try and write stories that are concise and focused and can be read in that time, rather than those that are long and rambling.
Drafting stories direct into Medium
This may seem trivial, but I’m trying it nonetheless.
My writing process seems to have evolved to include a couple of app-based lists of possible titles or ideas for stories that I think of during daily life. These are then drafted in Word on my laptop and a final draft copied into Medium for editing and publication. It seems that many folks round here prefer to draft direct into Medium. They also have all their ideas drafted as new stories — works in progress waiting to be finished off and published, or even just titles waiting to be turned into stories.
I’m drawn to this approach as I often find it daunting and demoralising to log onto Medium and see a blank page when I’ve no stories drafted or awaiting publication. I’ll start drafting titles into my phone direct into the Medium app, and go from there.
Batching-up searching for images
Finding pictures for my stories takes me a disproportionate amount of time compared to the writing and editing of pieces. It’s certainly not because I’ve got an especially discerning eye and I’m often disappointed in the images I choose.
That said, writing as I do upon a reasonably limited range of topics, it shouldn’t be too difficult to allocate a couple of hours each week or fortnight to source a few images ready to add to articles, rather than doing this each time I publish.
Leveraging articles across different platforms
In the last six months of 2019 I started to do more to leverage articles that I’d written on Medium, making sure they were published on other platforms, shared via social media and broadcast to my email list.
My efforts towards these tasks have been quite piecemeal to-date and I need to get better at it. My following isn’t vast so far, but it’s growing and I need to ensure that I’m maximising my chances of gaining readers and building following. This activity will be core to my efforts next year, and not merely a supplemental task that I do when I have time or when I’m procrastinating about actually writing.
I realise there are lots of other things I could and should be doing to grow as a writer, such as working on better titles.
Writing more is a no-brainer of course, and that remains my priority to build consistency, quality and volume of output. That said, I’m also keen to explore all other advantages that I can gain, and many of the above activities will take little time to implement and see if they affect results.
I’m excited to see what 2020 brings, and I wish you well in your continuing creative adventure!
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