TAP001, Defining Success: The First Step to Writing A Novel
Congratulations, you’ve decided you want to become an author and publish your first book. And you’re probably thinking “what’s the first step to writing a novel?”
Before you start writing your first book or next book, you need to consider what you desire. There’s nothing worse to waking up one morning and realising what you’ve created isn’t what you wanted, it’s the opposite, your worst nightmare. To avoid this not so pleasant event, you need, to begin with, the end in mind. But first, you must define what success or failure means to you.
What is your definition of success?
TAP001, Defining Success: The First Step To Writing A Novel
A Formal Definition
The Oxford Dictionary defines failure as a “lack of success.” And, it defines success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” These two definitions are collectively agreed upon and impose a standard of usage.
However, when you use certain words in everyday life, you tend to attach a personal definition that determines what failure and success mean to you. These personal definitions shape your mindset and decide whether or not you will go on to be successful long-term. All successful people have one thing in common, a mindset for long-term success. This mindset encourages a determination to keep going and try again when their actions don’t result in the outcome they desired.
How do you define failure and success?
Can you change your definitions to ensure your long-term success as an author?
A Success Story
Richard Branson is known worldwide for the success of his business empire. He started at the age of 16 after dropping out of school to create a free youth magazine. Branson covered the cost of production with paid advertising, which eventually leads to having an idea for a mail-order record company called Virgin. He went on to expand his business empire to include the travel company the Voyager Group, the airline Virgin Atlantic, and a series of Virgin Megastores. However, Richard Branson’s success was not always smooth sailing and predictable.
In 1992 his company, Virgin, was struggling to stay afloat financially. Later that year he chose to sell to THORN EMI for one billion dollars. Naturally, he was crushed by the loss, but despite this, he was determined to stay in the music business. The very next year he started the Virgin Radio station, and a few years later he started a second record company, V2. Despite a massive setback of losing his first record company. He didn’t bow out and pour the one billion dollars into other parts of his company.
Branson tried again.
While you and I may not end up selling your dream for one billion dollars to a rival company. There is a principle here, you can apply to your life to ensure your long-term success. The reason Richard Branson didn’t give up was because of his mindset or how he defined failure and success.
What Does Failure Mean to You?
A Mindset Shift Around Failure
What does failure mean to you? What if you define failure as not taking action?
This definition would imply if you set a goal to sell 10,000 copies of your books by September 2017 and took no action, then you have failed. In the first example, you took action and didn’t get the desired result; your strategy did not work, whereas, in the second example, you took no action toward your goal.
There is a massive difference between a strategy not yielding a favourable result and not taking action.
When you choose to define failure as not taking action, you immediately open yourself up to recognising the small successes you have already achieved. This mindset is crucial if you want to continue to succeed long-term.
What Does Success Mean to You?
How do you define success? And, how do you measure it?
The answer to these questions shapes your definition of success. It’s important to understand that how you define success will affect how you define failure. For some people success is, having a six-figure income, finding the man of your dreams, writing a best-selling novel, or becoming a successful blogger.
Did you notice how each of these goals are a destination?
While, it’s important to set goals that are clearly defined and are in line with the SMARTER Formula that I share in my book, SMARTER Goal Setting. It’s important not to make the end result, your sole focus while you’re taking action. When you define success as a destination, you start to feel unhappy and as if you’re making no progress because your goal seems far off in the distance. Many aspiring authors become discouraged during the publishing process because they define success as being an author. As a result, their goal seems out of reach, especially during the writing of the first draft.
If you keep your focus on the end destination, after the initial excitement of setting goals and taking action dies off, you will start to notice the massive gap between where you are and your goal.
This comparison can lead to discouragement and long-term failure due to giving up too quickly.
A Mindset Shift for Success
If you move your focus off the grand scale goal and onto the actionable steps that are required to achieve your goal, you will begin to notice the small successes or wins you’re achieving daily. This shift of focus is the key to changing your mindset. The next time you’re in a situation where you’re feeling like you are getting nowhere with the publishing process, take a moment to look back at what you’ve done to get to where you are right now.
Ask yourself, what things have I successfully achieved to get here? What have I learnt about myself by taking the opportunity to look back? Write the answers to these questions in a journal or on Evernote. While the list of things you’ve achieved is short, it’s essential to recognise them for what they are, small successes.
Make sure you remind yourself of these successes regularly, especially when you feel stuck and are making no progress.
This shift in mindset would mean, success is asking for a raise at work, getting back into the dating game after getting hurt, finally finishing a 100,000-word novel, or consistently producing quality content on your blog. Recognising, these small wins, is a huge motivator and will inspire you to go on to achieve your goals.
As a result, these actions will help you to realise the difference between being on the way to achieving your goals and failure.
Create a Vision
Now that you’ve gotten clear on your definitions of failure and success, it’s time to create a vision for your author journey. To create a vision for your life, you need to get clear on what it is you truly desire. It’s important you complete this exercise in a place where you cannot be interrupted. Turn off your phone or e-devices and shut down your email program, or any other distraction and give yourself permission to dream without limitations.
How many times have you dreamt of doing something, only to shoot yourself down with the words ‘you can’t do that?’
Remember, you can figure out every problem or issue if you have the drive and determination.
It’s important to start thinking of your author ambitions as a profitable business. Close your eyes and visualise your life in 10 years and ask yourself the following questions:
- What types of books do you desire to publish? (Paperback, hardback, ebook, audiobooks, etc.)
- Do you write genre fiction, literary fiction, non-fiction, or a combination of genres under different pen names?
- Are you traditionally published, independently published, or a combination of the two?
- Do your books line the shelves of major bookstores?
- Are you content with your books in online stores like Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, Nook, Google Play instead of physical bookstores?
- Do you desire to be a best-selling author on the New York Times Best Seller List or the USA Today’s Best Seller List?
- Are you seen as an authority in your industry?
- Are you featured on podcasts?
- Do you desire to speak at book fairs and conferences?
- Have you won any literary prizes?
- Are you making a full-time living with your writing? If so, how much do you earn in a month or year?
These questions are a guide to help you think about what it is you desire to achieve in your author journey. Remember, be honest with yourself. Don’t say ‘I just want to write books’ if you want to become a full-time author who earns $100,000 or more each year. I know there is a bit of stigma around making a living from writing, but you don’t have to be a starving artist. Write a paragraph or two based on your answers to the question above.
A Mindset Shift on Strategy
Understanding the difference between a strategy not working and failing to achieve a goal, taking your sole focus off the desired outcome of your goal and onto the mini successes you have achieved along the way will contribute to a shift in your mindset. This mindset shift will spur you on to try again when things don’t work as expected.
Taking action and a mindset shift will help you to become more successful long-term if you put this into practice.
As always, I have an important question for you. How do you define failure and success? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know by sharing your definitions in the comments box below.
Thank you for listening, reading, commenting and sharing with such enthusiasm.
I’m Amelia. I write Mystery Novels under the pen name A. D. Hay. And, I’m the author of Missing, the first book in the James Lalonde series. On this blog, I help new writers to finish their first draft, prepare their manuscripts for professional editing, and when they get stuck in the first draft phase or are confused about the revision process. Right now, I’m editing and preparing my soon to be published mystery novels, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity for publication.