March 7, 2016

Guest Post: The Secret Behind Successful Writing

The exact meaning of secret is itself a secret, lost even to most dictionaries found on the web (which is why you should stick with older, clunkier dictionaries, even if they don’t define words such as “LOL” and “TTYL”).

But I finally managed to find the one I was looking for in the Cambridge online Dictionary:
    Secret: noun The ​particular ​knowledge and ​skills ​needed to do something very well. (Source)

Most people don’t think of (or even know) that definition, and they tend to look for the other, more widely accepted definition: A ​piece of ​information that is only ​known by one ​person or a few ​people and should not be told to ​others (same source as above).

We live in a world where people believe there are lots of secrets. They feel there is some hidden influence affecting why they can’t succeed or reach their goals. Maybe there is, but that is not the point of this article.

When asked about the ‘secret’ of writing, most people tend to look for definition #2 above. They think there is something ‘special’ or ‘magical’ that has some underdog writer burst onto the scene tomorrow without any work.

I also believed in such secrets. I followed them. I did (and paid for) most of the tricks and services out there, and the only secret I started becoming aware of was the mystery of why my back pocket was suddenly so empty and not getting re-filled.

The secret (definition #1) of successful writing is simple. It’s too simple to be accepted by most. In fact, when I tell you what it is, you’re going to laugh at me. You’re not going to believe me. You’re going to tell me I wrote this post because I had nothing else to do.


Go ahead.

Sometimes you can give a man in a desert a glass of water and he spits at you thinking you’ve given him gasoline. The sun has made him delirious, he’s gone mad, he trusts no one ‘because life is tough and I’ve been hunting for water, hunting for water, hunting for all this goddamn water and everything I see is a mirage, a mirage!’

The man then kicks my shins, thinking I’m wanting to kill him, he tells me I’m a liar, a murderer, damn it! He runs off screaming, not even bothering to chase the mirage he chased yesterday.

He doesn’t even see the lake twenty feet away from us.

Another mirage.

But after all that suffering, all that toil, it couldn’t be true, could it?

So what do I do? I take a sip of water, and I go to the lake, and I get myself some more.

And the man? Well, he’s out of the story now. He’s gone, a sideline character, a ‘walk-on’, as they say.

The secret to writing (definition #1) is no secret at all (definition #2). But it is a mirage to most people. They don’t believe it could be this easy. Well, let me tell you something, it’s not easy. It’s the toughest damn thing in the world to do, which is another reason people run from it. It’s too much hard work. We live in a world where things happen at a snap--emails, Twitter, Facebook. We want things now now now now!

Go ask Stephen King, go ask Nora Roberts, go ask any of them, they will tell you the same thing.

Because this is a secret, doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it is indeed simple.

The secret is this:
  1. Find a market
  2. Write a story for that market
  3. Publish that story
  4. Market that story to that market
  5. Repeat

Oh, yes, “I knew that,” you say. “Yeah, right, I’ve done that!”

Have you?


Do it again.

There is no better lesson than doing the above, and if you do it enough times, you’ll learn all the ‘secrets’ there are to know in this business. Life is the best teacher, and bashing our heads against the wall is a great way to learn which walls are softer, and which are downright impenetrable.

But never deviate from the above, never. Don’t get stuck on one book, write another one. Market that one. Then another, and another, and another. If you screw up terribly, hell, start again. Do it again, and again, and again.

What makes the more successful writer ‘better’ than the less successful one is not how talented she is, but how persistent she is.

Never give up.

Keep the dream going.

Keep pushing.

Most of all, above everything else, keep writing, keep repeating.

Oh, and one last point, never publish something you are not proud of. I’ve done that, too. And it’s a quick route to killing your writing career in minutes.

If you stay true to yourself, if you keep writing what you love but also writing to a market, you will make it.

And when you do, let me know.

The world would be a better place with more artists in it.

Rachel Dunning hit the scene in August 2013 and is the author of the highly praised Naive Mistakes Series, Truthful Lies Trilogy, Johnny Series and the paranormal romance series, Mind Games.

A prolific writer, she sticks to stories where Alpha Males aren’t pricks and where women have guts.

She’s lived on two different continents, speaks three different languages, and met the love of her life on the internet. In other words, romance is in her blood.

Rachel's next novel, Debt, is due out March 30, 2016!

Connect with Rachel via her: 


  1. I have never heard of that definition. Great post and it's nice to meet you, Rachel. :-)
    sherry @ fundinmental

  2. I would add Tasting Temptation to my box.