Hey reader! Welcome to the article with the secret to success for writing!
All of the best practices and articles on writing successfully state that the title and the first paragraphs are the most important parts of the story. They need to be eye catching and grab your attention. How about this: I will tell you the big secret to my success at the end of this article!
If you are still reading this without skipping to the end for the big reveal then you are probably one of the people very much like myself who is either looking for the quick and easy formula for writing that is going to catapult you to the top and get you some of that easy writing money.
Either that or you have already started the grind and are looking for that edge to get more of your articles noticed by the curators.
It is easy to know that both of these items are popular topics due to the fact that I also spend my fair share of time reading these articles in an attempt to increase my writing abilities and draw more eyeballs to these words. That isn’t a bad thing, but it does feel like many of the tips and tricks are formulaic means for structure and format than they are an honest attempt to improve the quality and flow of someone else’s work.
Don’t get me wrong — the irony is not lost in the potential hypocritical nature of these very words as I am writing an article expounding upon the very same philosophy.
Hopefully you are still hanging around waiting for some pithy wisdom to drop. I also promised a secret at the end of the post. We had better get to it!
You Cannot Predict What Goes Viral
Knowing how many view it takes for something to be considered viral is akin to knowing how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll. There really isn’t a consistent answer.
After trying over and over to achieve that sweet spot where an article just takes off, it is easy to lose confidence that it could ever happen. When starting this article three days ago, my view count had just cracked a total of 1,000 views over three months. Not bad. I was very happy with those numbers and was ready to write about it.
However, in the three days it has taken me to write, rewrite, and cleanup this article, the view count has gone from 1,000 views to 2,975 views and counting. It is most likely on track to crack 3k before I finish posting tonight.
3 months for 1,000 views and then 3 days for almost 2,000 more.
I am sorry to disappoint, but there is no magical formula to knowing what will or won’t go viral. It could be argued that the post being referred to isn’t even popular enough to truly be considered “viral” but in my own humble opinion and based on months of previous experience, it feels viral and exciting.
The thing is, you never know what people will glom onto while reading. Some of what I would consider as my best work wasn’t even picked up to be curated. Other pieces were curated but didn’t go very far. Then one article landed in multiple curation topics, started slow then took off like a rocket after being published for a week. Go figure.
There is no secret formula here. The best advice I can give is to consider yourself a grinder form the get-go. Grind. It. Out. Write as much as you possibly can. Shoot for an average as close to an article a day as possible. Use quantity to improve your writing. Others may differ in their opinion, but what do they know? I am now up to 2,976 views.
The Biggest Fulfillment comes from making yourself happy
The worst trap that I fell into while writing is in my efforts to write what I thought would be good articles and would interest others. All this served to do was to betray myself and the goals I wanted to accomplish.
Sure — keep reading the articles on how to improve views and get more claps. There are nuggets of gold embedded in the fluff of those articles. But no matter what, don’t forget to write for yourself. Everyone else gets to review and comment after the Publish button is pressed. The creative writing process is for you and you alone. Try not to forget that!
When you try and write for what you think people will want versus writing for what interests you, while you may not realize it at the time, the power of your words and ideas is diluted down into a mush that people seem to be able to spot a mile away. This is not a good practice.
Focus on what interests you and stick to that. Then go grind some more. The views and claps will come.
Use the $*@&# Thesaurus
There is absolutely no excuse not to elevate your writing to the next level. By default, things in most browsers are spell-checked. Just look for the squiggly red lines under words, right click, and select an appropriate spelling. It is not rocket science!
If you find yourself using common words over and over, take the time to rewrite sentences to remove those words. I did this. I thought that. I, I, I. That is bad grammar and you should do everything you can to avoid it.
If you find a word being used more than twice in a piece, stop, go back and look for a quick and easy thesaurus. Don’t know of one? Simply go to dictionary.com, then up at the top change the dropdown from dictionary to “thesaurus” and type the word in. It cannot get any easier. This is one of the best and easiest ways to improve your writing and it takes almost no time and very little effort.
Another quick tip? Simply read and re-read your article a few times before posting. Read it out loud if you have to. Many grammar issues can be smoothed over by reading and hearing the work and it will allow you to edit your own work in to a much more comprehensive piece before you publish.
Now we are at the end of the article and I promised everyone a big secret. I almost hate doing this but here we go, the final and biggest secret I have learned:
The Secret: Have Patience
Yeah, grab your tomatoes and start throwing them at the screen. I get it, what a lame secret. The truth is, your opinion doesn’t matter. What you see as mediocre may get curated and what you consider to be your best work ever may be marginalized and ignored. Then as you keep grinding away a bolt of lightning hits and you jump from 6 views to 600 overnight.
It can happen. It happened to me.
The key to all of it is: have some patience.
You aren’t writing for the New Yorker. What you are doing is building your own following and that can take time. Instead of following in my footsteps and refreshing the stats page on Medium every 5 minutes, step back, focus on your writing, and try and have some fun with it. Even if that doesn’t lead to page views, you will have a better time and feel more fulfilled at the end of the day.
Achieving your own personal fulfillment is a secret that you can use to write your own success article on Medium and join the rest of us in attempting to enlighten the next group coming in looking for that easy button answer. I can’t wait to read what you write!
Thanks for reading.
Originally published at kevinwanke.com on January 18, 2020. Kevin’s blog focuses on advice for new Engineers and for Engineering Managers.