Finding Your Way from Failure to Success as a Writer scott biddulph two drops of ink

Finding Your Way from Failure to Success as a Writer

It was a good thing to have a couple of thousand people all rigid and frozen together, in the palm of one’s hand.

~Charles Dickens~

By Scott Biddulph


Speaking with so many writers and authors gives me a unique perspective that I’m grateful for and humbled by. I want to share with you some lessons I learned through trial, error, and pain as an aspiring writer.

I will tell you a secret, my fellow wielders of the pen and keyboard that show up each day—week after week—and read this blog: if you search this blog, you will find some of my older writings. The ones from the beginning, when I was talking to myself because no one else was reading this blog.

I leave these old posts up (mostly intact) so that readers can go back and see how horrible some of my writing and poetry was 7-8 years ago. My poetry was like reading about a bad teenage break-up. My writing was like riding a jeep through a rock pile.

See, we all want to be read, to find an audience, to touch someone with our words. Many of us see writers who are horrible, have terrible grammar and syntax and seem boring, and yet, they have dozens of likes and comments on their blogs. Why? Why? Why?

Because they have found their voice, their peeps, the folks who “get” them. Readers will often overlook a few grammar errors or a clunky sentence or two if you’re hitting their vibe. Still don’t believe me? Go read some Pop-culture blogs and e-zines. You will see some terrible writing, but you will also see many successful sites because it’s a hot topic, a niche, and readers just want the information. They don’t mind stumbling through a few bad paragraphs or sentences to get to the red meat they desire. This is finding your audience. Jeff Goins calls it your “Tribe.”

Find Your Zone and You will Find your voice

The only way I know to find your audience is to first find your voice. Your voice is this: what you’re good at saying, at writing about, at expressing in a logical or comical or satirical or concise or educational manner. What topics or genres flow off your tongue like silk? What is it that you can think about and sit down and type, ever-flowing, like a waterfall of words? This is your area, your zone, and it’s here that your voice will emerge.

I wrote a piece once in which I reference “Little Women.” I was sitting there with my usual red face, bitching to my wife about all the talentless writers kicking my ass, achieving their goals, and how I was a brilliant, undiscovered mind. Well, okay, it didn’t go down quite like that, but in my mind, I was dreaming that it should. As a side note, this jealousy and frustration can become a catalyst for good, if you channel it correctly.

Seeing my constant pain, my wife started talking to me about the story of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. She told the story of Jo and about her professor saying to her, “Jo, write what you know.” This was the point at which Jo began to find her zone, and ultimately, her voice. This was a huge key for me which began to open the doors of success.

My sweet wife, a librarian and an English Honor Society member, tolerated my abysmal self-pity and horrid writing. It may have been my good looks (eye-roll). Anyway. I began to find my voice.

Not all of us can write fiction. I’m sorry, it’s true. Not all of us can write a history essay. Every writer has their strengths and weaknesses. This is a crucial and quite necessary fact with which we must come to terms. We must be intellectually honest with ourselves and realize our true strengths and weaknesses, as writers, or we will never find our voice. No voice, no audience.

This leads to the final part of the equation: “If you build it, they will come.” Social Media.

Build Your Platform with Social Media and/or Blogging

One of the most powerful tools we have today is social media. I know, we all hate Facebook and the “unasked-for details” of the daily lives of thousands of people. I know that some think that Facebook and Twitter are designed to be a journal about the corns on their feet. Ugh!

No, social media has its flaws, and some of them are huge. However, I’m asking you, especially those who are social introverts (I know this is painful), to see that without a platform to reach your audience, you’re still treading water. If you have found your zone, this led to finding your voice, but now, you have to have a means to the end: your goals — a vehicle to reach your peeps, your audience, your folks.

Before ‘Print on Demand’ and Social Media Platforms

I sometimes think of Thomas Paine who wrote Common Sense, and how it was distributed, for the most part, by handing it out on the street. Or, in today’s world, the traditional publishing route which used to have enormous budgets for advertising in the New York Times, or The Wall Street Journal. They still do if you’re J.K. Rowling, but the average author is lucky if they receive a decent advance, much less a huge advertising budget.

The point is that if you really want to get a jump on things when that book comes out, you need to build a social media platform, a place to reach your audience. Today’s social media outlets provide fantastic opportunities for writers and authors to reach their audience. Blogs are another way to reach readers if you’re not a novelist.

I’ve had writers argue with me about this. Some of us artisans are social introverts, but building a platform is non-negotiable if you want to be read. Many of the literary agents that you hope to reach will want to know what your social media reach is, or what kind of email list you have. These equate to hits and possible book sales.

A Recap:

  • Don’t feel alone if you’re frustrated, jealous, or feel like your writing goals and dreams will never come true. Hang in there and realize you’re not alone. Every successful writer or blogger has been at the starting line. Some longer than others.
  • Find your zone. Write about what you know “Jo.” Every writer has something they are an expert on. This is where you will find your voice.
  • Once you find your voice, begin to build that network of people that enjoy the topic,—your zone—and who will await your next post or book with true enthusiasm.
  • Even if you’re a social introvert, you must use today’s powerful tools in social media to build a platform for your peeps to find you.

If you follow these principles, and you can choose the order in which you follow this plan, I believe with all of my heart that you will find the success you seek.

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  1. Thank you Scott for writing this post and sharing your expertise. Like Terry, I do find social media overwhelming. I have bouts when I get involved with enthusiasm then I drop back from engaging when I feel like I can’t cope. I feel terrible about this and your post has reminded me I need to get back into the game and try to sustain.

    I enjoy reading your posts. I expect you’re mega-busy which prevents you from sharing more often.

    • Hello Carol,
      so good to hear from you. I keep looking for another submission from you, hint, hint. Thank you for the kind words. I learned a long time ago, from a favorite professor of mine, to dream the writer’s dream. I love to help writers shine. So, I’m a better editor than I am a writer; However, I do love to write, and I love to write about topics that help writers.

      I’m glad you found something in this post that helped you. Social media can be tough for writers on many levels. For example, my wife is a social introvert, so she doesn’t like social media; however, it’s a necessary evil in today’s marketing arena.
      Thank you, Scott

      • Hi Scott,
        That’s very kind of you to say so. I have submitted something recently, which I believe is in the pipeline? At least I thought it was! 😃
        Thank you for all you do to help writers shine.

        • Yes, I think you’re right. I’ll check, but I think I do remember seeing a submission from you. We’re running about 4 to 8 weeks behind with submissions depending on the genre. Thank you

  2. […] “Speaking with so many writers and authors gives me a unique perspective that I’m grateful for and humbled by. I want to share with you some lessons I learned through trial, error, and pain as an aspiring writer.” I like that he leaves the older posts up that show his growth, goodness knows we all go through such. […]

  3. Thank you for this Scott! And for you post referencing “Little Women.” I often find the readily accessible informafion on the web which freely touts the “best” way to get noticed as a writer, find your tribe, and build your platform more overwhelming than helpful. You post(s) provide much needed information, broken down in an easy to understand format, and has no vested iinteresting in sharing this knowledge other than helping writers succeed. I am grateful for all you do for us, and continue to grow and learn from the spirit of giving that is front and center here from everyone at Two Drops.

    • That was my hope when I wrote this. Thank you for the kind words, and I truly do love to help writers reach their dreams. The universal principle of sowing and reaping comes into effect when we share our experience, strengths, and hopes with others. This blog proves that daily. Thank you, Terry

  4. Scott,
    Finding an audience is crucial to getting material out there to be read. Your suggestions about social media are good ones. I am not a social media expert, and it seems about the time I learn something, everything changes. However, I continue to try to learn the ins and outs in order to use them to the best of my limited ability! Thanks for chiming in and coming out from behind the editor’s desk to offer advice. Nice to hear from you. 🙂

  5. Thanks Scott! You’ve summarized some good points on writing. Whether it’s a job or a side hobby, the frustration is real. Honestly, I feel very bi-polar with social media…sometimes I love it and other times I hate it. Trying to find balance with it is challenging. I’ve learned so much about myself since blogging/writing and your “Recap” says it all very well. Keep sharing your writing knowledge here!

    • Good to hear from you Laurie. Thank you for the kind words, and we appreciate your readership and participation here at Two Drops of Ink. People loved your fiction story, Charley’s Shoes.

  6. Hi, Scott. I know from conversations that this has been percolating in your brain for some time. Glad you got it on the site.

    Your perspectives, on writing, social media, and finding an audience comes from experiences that you willingly share. I know that you’ve made me a better writer. I now forego the semicolon unless absolutely necessary, interact with people on social media, and know there’s an audience for both Two Drops of Ink and my addiction blog, From Addict 2 Advocate.

    Your encouraging manner, willingness to find the heart of a post, even with bad grammar, and your editing skills make the published posts shine.

    Thank you for all you do.

  7. Always great to hear from you Scott.
    I agree, building relationships along the journey of writing, is an essential ingredient for exposure. The platforms we have at our fingertips today exponentially catapult our efforts to reach a broader audience. I have found, reading, encouraging others work, has helped me grow and connect with people I identify with. All I can say its been fun. Most of what I have learned is directly related to this website. Two drops of inks universal attraction of great people has taught me so much. Thanks for your take on this topic, word man! 😊

    • Every now and then, I have to come out of my editing cage and actually write something. Glad you enjoyed this post.

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