how small steps can make you a published writer and social media ninja




In her talk about how digital media empowers writers, thought leader Jane Friedman namechecks this site – and me. Which is awesome, and so thank you very much Jane!

(That, however, is beside the point. I just wanted to brag.)

She also stresses the importance of a long-range view when it comes to the use of social media to promote yourself and your work, because most writers, she says, give up too soon. They throw up their hands and say, This isn’t working!

But social media and fiction writing have this in common: you have to stick with it.

You have to persevere.

Jane points out that it took her own blog about 16 months to gain any traction – and this is with the support of the Writer’s Digest brand to back her up. (Do you read Jane’s blog,? Because you totally should.)

This, by the way, is what successful people do, according to Brian Tracy and other success gurus: they have the ability to think far into the future, and act accordingly.

Every big goal breaks down into small chunks, into simple next-action tasks. The challenge with both writing and platform is to weave those next-action tasks into the fabric of your daily routine.

To make them a daily practice.

To commit yourself to the process.

You can set aside a time and place for your practice – or you can imagine it more like a river that runs through your day.

You can write around the edges and the gaps of your routine.

It’s common knowledge that a page a day turns into a book a year. But even a page can seem overwhelming when you sit down to it all at once. It can trigger the freeze-or-flight response of anxiety that leads to the great hairy dream-killer known as procrastination.

Try thinking smaller.

Carry a notebook or invest in one of those cute little netbooks and keep it with you throughout the day. Treat it like your pet. Feed it when you have the chance. Give it love. A paragraph here, a paragraph there, dashed off in those fifteen- or twenty-minute gaps of time staggered throughout anybody’s day, can easily assemble into a page. Or two.

This approach to writing invokes the Rule of Forced Efficiency: when you have such a compressed period of time, you don’t think about it. You just do it. You bypass the censor in your head and get stuff down on paper. You execute. You deliver a deliverable.

Another advantage is that you train yourself to think of your story as a thread that you can pick up at will. Part of your mind is always mulling it over. You’re in frequent contact with the story, your attention returning to it here and there throughout the day; and whatever we put our attention on, grows. And grows. This keeps the process moving along. Each step throws off enough light in order to see the next step. We move forward almost without thinking about it (we don’t have time to think about it).

Your online platform also breaks down into small daily steps. An interaction here and an interaction there. Bite-sized tweets and status updates. Bits of ideas, information, insight that collect into blog posts (which should generally be less than 1000 words, although certain bloggers – ahem – break this rule with wanton and reckless abandon. A pox on them).

Small daily steps. Every day.

Over time.

When you’re consistent like this, you become a constant and familiar presence in those spaces where you live online. People like consistency. It builds trust. And the trust gap is what you need to close in order to persuade them to one day take a chance on your work. Even free stuff isn’t free, because it requires the investment of somebody’s time – and time, as they say, is money.

So don’t think in terms of an overnight success. That will only kill you dead.

Think in terms of a drip-drip-drip kind of growth. Micro-actions. And micro-interactions.

Just make sure, as Jane points out, that you have a hub, an online home: a place on the web where people can go when they’re curious about you and want to stay in touch with whatever it is that you’re doing.

Think in terms of putting out. I’m talking, of course, about value. Give the people some amusement, some information, some entertainment, some community. Give them a reason to give a damn.

Small steps.

Next-action tasks.



Just add time.

And you’ll score some big victories.

Sep 16, 2010

17 comments · Add Yours

Really great post.


Yes to this blog post! With the instant gratification and immediate responses we are used to in the ultra-connected age we forget the real value of time, perseverence and consistency. This also reminds me of one of the principals in a class I took on cultivating the feminine form of personal empowerment, we need to develop the skills in ourselves over time to be the person, writer or woman we vision ourselves to be. Natalie
Twitter: @URintuitive


Are you saying you have to write to be a writer?

Maybe you’ll start a movement of more creating and less talking.


Nice. I’ve seen so many photos of Jack Kerouac “drip-drip-dripping” into notebooks. It helped him produce a shelf full of books. Please offer insight into assembling all those drippings into a larger, coherent whole.


Hi Justine,
Congrats for the mention on Ms. Friedman’s site. (Thumb’s up!)

“Drip-drip growth” resonates with me, our fine wines take time, after all. I love this post. You’ve nailed it — it takes a long-range view to continue walking the path. This is a great reminder to bust out my binoculars to take in my long-range view every now and then. It might take time to reach where I’m heading, but the path is worth the walk. I also need to remember to tend the daisies (my audience) along the way.


yes. yes. yes.


Yeah, I think it’s important to take it one step at a time.

However, keep the end in mind. Or even more extreme START at the end.

What I mean is, position yourself from the beginning of your efforts as BEING what you aspire to be. If aspire to be great you have “fake it till you make it”. Chances are the moment you start really believing you are great your writing (or whatever other pursuit your trying to accomplish) starts to actually reflect that belief.

Anotherwords if you want to be a thought leader, a great novelist etc. you don’t start out thinking “hey i’ve never written a novel before, perhaps if I write 5 or 6 mediocre novels first I will get enough practice to start writing great novels”. You put the pen to the pad (or fingers to the keyboard) as if you are already great.

Keep in mind that J.K. Rowling was a woman over 30 on welfare before she got the idea to write harry potter, her first novel that she actually finished writing.

I think this kind of ties into the phenomenon of beginners luck (or beginners mind). Your in a better position being inexperienced but “naively” believing you can win than being experienced/savvy and falling into a state of discouragement or malaise because your last work was harsly reviewed by critics or your personal life is in shambles etc. and you’ve lost your confidence.

That’s probably why so many people “fall off” and so many bands struggle with making a great second album.


Justine – It works. This is how I wrote the first book – and now continue to write.

Thank you for reminding me.



This is how I’ve started developing all my long term projects. My blog is once a week on whatever game design topic I’m pondering that week, which is usually the part of my game I’m designing. My novels are done via Randy Ingermason’s Snowflake Method ( ) and so broken down step by step and I only need focus on one step at a time. These projects let me focus on my college classes and family life primarily, and work on them where the time opens up. It makes the day seem full, and makes me feel better that I’m getting so much done!

As a side note: I think I found your blog through Jane Friedman’s a month or so ago. You must be doing something right, since I know I passed on more than one blog during the time period.


*Big Sigh* This is something I see A LOT of with my authors. I help them understand and really take advantage of social media (ultimately to sell books), but I only stick with them for 3 months or so. Then they go off into the big bad social media world on their own, falter, and dissapear. Because so many of them think it’s some sort of magic pill you can take. Build your profile and then poof! Instant success!

Except it doesn’t work that way. Thousands of followers in a week only come from auto-follow programs and spam bots. Well, that and serious amounts of fame ala Beyonce. Basically, social media isn’t an instant gratification kind of thing. It is – like you so wonderfully say – a process. One that if you put enough effort into, it WILL pay dividends. You just need to keep at it!


“a writer writes”

Top piece… Regular and real engagement is key in any social platform and engagement is a 2-way street. Perseverance pays…

I used to think I was just a business writer – social media is, somehow, inspiring me to find my inner fiction, odd but true.



Great post. Very inspiring. Taking small steps is something we must keep in mind every day.


Excellent advice. Breaking things down into small steps is something I have to do if I want to get anything done.


I haven’t read the article yet but I just wanted to say…

mmmm Rain….

Nice to see some Korean yumminess first thing in the morning



Thank you for this. Like many, I’m an aspiring writing (although have one book publication under my belt) and have a book in the works, but find myself blogging daily instead. My last article on procrastination was published by a small local mag (ironically enough). I am finding your articles very inspiring and helpful. Thanks. K


Great advice, similar to what I advise my clients all the time. Let’s face it, in our busy lives, we’re never going to have as much time to write (or do social media) as we’d like. So the trick is to think like a river, as you so wonderfully say. The funny thing is, on days when I feel like I have tons to do, I get way more writing done. Those days when I have hours set aside for writing I feel so luxurious, time-wise, that I end up frittering it away. Many are the novels that have been written in short bursts!


Very cool post and great title. I especially enjoyed the part about giving people community. Involvement equals commitment.

Side note (Not sure if it’s just not working for me, or everyone, but the box at the top where it says subscribe has a place for my name and email, but no button to click to submit the information) I did find the other box and subscribed there, but at first I thought I wasn’t going to be able to.


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