3 Keys to Writing Success and Overcoming Procrastination

3 Keys to Writing Success

What does it take to be a successful writer?  As I have reflected on my own journey, I am going to share with you 3 keys to writing success.   I would love to hear your keys to success as well in the comments.

Writing and Publishing Books

Many people are amazed that I have published 30+ books in various formats (print, large print, eBook, audiobook, etc.).  To be honest, I am amazed as well!  If you would have asked me when I published my first book in 2008 what I would be doing today, 5 years later, my answer would NOT have been “working from home writing and publishing books and helping others do the same.”  However, here I am doing just that.

And I am loving it.

But, it has not been easy.  There have been many days that I did not feel like writing, formatting, publishing or marketing my books.  There have also been many obstacles that I have had to overcome.

This quote keeps coming to mind lately…

“Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.”   

– John C. Maxwell

And it is so true!  There is a statistic that 80% of people want to write a book…someday.  But, so many never reach their goal because they got sidetracked, stuck or quit.  And that is why I want to share these three keys to writing success with you.  I want to help you succeed in your writing and publishing efforts!


Key #1:  Consistency

Being consistent is the key to success in so many areas of life.  For example…

  • Writing
  • Spiritual growth
  • Business
  • Physical Fitness
  • Etc.

I experienced this to be true in my life recently in regards to my physical fitness.  I enjoy running for exercise but have not been consistent enough over the past few years to see much improvement.  Within the last month, I finally listened to my husband and started running more consistently.

And something amazing happened…

I improved!   

Plus, I started enjoying running again and have seen my race times get better.

In fact, as I was running this week, I realized that my “easy run” pace was my fast race pace just a few weeks ago.

I looked up my times and I set my current personal record (PR) for the 5k in 2006.  I am getting close to it again and expect to set a new PR soon (even at elevation in Colorado) as long as I stay consistent.  I did not ponder on it too long, but I was wondering this week where I would be today if I had stayed consistent with running back in 2006, over 7 years ago!

And the same is true for writing.

When you consistently write, you tend to get better and more efficient.  Plus, you continue to make forward progress on your book (s).

One way to stay consistent is to set goals.  Write out your goals in your notebook or use a free online tool like Wunderlist.com.  Make your goals specific and time oriented.  You can see how I organize Wunderlist in the screenshot below.

Wunderlist To Do List for Goals


Key #2  Productivity

There are so many programs and books on productivity.  We all want to get more done in the 24 hours we have been given in each day, right?  It is so easy to get sidetracked online reading blogs, spending time on social media and watching videos.  I admit that one of my biggest time suckers is Facebook.  I love connecting with my friends and family and yet it is so easy to spend hours scrolling through the feed and catching up with people when I should be writing.  You might know the feeling. 😉

One of the best tools for productivity is a simple kitchen timer.

You can also use our software, “Productivity Coach” or a free online timer like Timer-Tab.com to increase your productivity dramatically by using a technique called time chunking.

Here’s how time chunking works:

  1. Decide what you need to accomplish
  2. Close down your social media accounts, e-mail, Skype, IM, etc.
  3. Set the timer for 30 minutes
  4. Stay focused on that one task until it is completely done.
  5. If you need to extend it for another 30 minutes to finish the task, set the timer again.

I have used this often to get things done, especially those tasks that I keep putting off for another day.

Try it!  I think you’ll be amazed at what you can get done when you really focus all your attention on that one task.

And give yourself rewards!  When you meet a goal, find a way to reward yourself.  It may be as simple as going for a walk with your dog, a cup of coffee or a shopping trip.  Your reward can also be a 20 minute break to do whatever you want online.


Key #3  Accountability

Last year was a year full of writing and publishing for me where I got a lot accomplished.  One of the things I credit to my writing success last year was having a writing accountability partner.  I decided to ask another writer friend of mine if she would be interested in helping keep me accountable to with my writing goals and I could do the same for her.  And she said yes!

We decided to form a private Facebook group to post our weekly goals and encourage one another.  And it helped so much!

You can do this in so many ways:  in person, via e-mail, through a private Facebook group, Skype, etc.


Overcome Procrastination!

[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”B001AFF25W” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/514P2jQGJAL._SL160_.jpg” width=”103″]I recently went through an eight week coaching program.  Within the group, one of the other students recommended a book on time management that I decided to get it for my Kindle.  It was an easy read and I finished reading it within a few days.

The concepts are relatively simple, yet profound.  If you are looking for a resource for overcoming procrastination, I recommend this book called, “[easyazon-link asin=”B001AFF25W” locale=”us”]Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time[/easyazon-link].”

Note:  currently if you [easyazon-link asin=”B001AFF25W” locale=”us”]buy the Kindle version[/easyazon-link], you can get the audiobook version (with Whispersync) for only $3.99.  You can listen to it in your car on a commute or as you travel.


What Has Worked for You?

I would love to hear your tips and advice on what has worked for you in regards to your writing.  What hasn’t worked?  Share it in the comments below.

And don’t forget to sign up for our free author training here:  http://trainingauthors.com/newsletter/


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  1. A very low-tech spiral notebook works best for me. Somehow the tactile process of writing goals, crossing of completed items and seeing a book full of dated pages of notes is satisfying and tangible proof that I accomplished things I set out to do.

    • Susan – yes…definitely agree! I still have my notebook (several, in fact) that I use for lists, capturing ideas, outlining books or blog posts, etc. In fact, this blog post was first outlined in my notebook. The ideas came to me on a run and I made sure to jot down my outline before I forgot it. Thanks for sharing!

      • Howard Weston says:

        Hi Shelley and Heather thanks for your excellent back up, and constant emails of encouragement, as an artist and sculptor I am quite busy, on pictures and designs for others, soon I am definitely giving the author in me 100% of my time, Shelley the cartooned photos of you and Heather, are these hand sketched without PC help, are created through a photo to cartoon software, if so please let us know the name, is it free or what is the cost involved?, they are great and very professional well done.
        I am about to make a self hosting website, thanks for the “bookbaby” intro’ on free web building.
        Take you both.
        Howard Weston

  2. I’ve written a book for die-hard procrastinators (like me): “Five Minutes a Day: Time Management for People Who Love to Put Things Off.”

  3. My mantra is that I can stand just about anything for five minutes. So here’s my best advice (it has worked for me over and over): Set a timer for five minutes, sit down, and WRITE. Don’t be afraid to write badly. My first drafts (and sometimes my later drafts) are often so awful that I darken my computer screen if my husband walks into the room when I’m typing. You can always make it better later! The trick is to spend five minutes getting started.
    Jean Reynolds recently posted…Getting ThereMy Profile

  4. Shelley, Enjoyed your post! …speaks right to the heart of what we’ve found is essential to success in any aspect of life: focus and consistency. Yet, we’ve found that fewer than 1 in 30 are focused and consistent by nature…even with huge doses of inspiration. That’s where accountability kicks in. If you or your readers would like a new tool for this challenge, we welcome you to try irunurun. Would love your feedback! -Travis

    • Travis,
      Your tool http://www.irunurun.com sounds great, especially for accountability! Looks like it is free for personal use which is what most authors would use it for…correct?

      • Indeed. Our mission is o help people achieve their potential thru focus, consistency, & accountability. Anything that can help an individual, we provide for free…including training and classes on creating discipline, which we’ll be adding to the site.

        We have private label version used by coaches and it’s in testing now for use by non-fiction / self-help authors and speakers to use to engage their tribes to help them apply the advice the author writes about and to help authors develop recurring revenue from their books/speeches, but that’s a different story altogether.

        Thanks for your interest. I welcome the opportunity to connect if you want to talk further!

    • Wow – Travis! I loved your video. Very motivational and encouraging!

  5. Obviously you have to have time during which you clear your mind and think of things that have nothing to do with writing, work, or anything “you have to do”, but equally there are some periods where you are doing something, such as exercise, and your mind is idling. Use that time to think about your plot, your scenes, what might happen, etc., so when you come to actually write, you have ideas and can get started straight away. If you have no ideas at all, don’t just sit there; get up and do something else while you think, so if nothing else, something gets done.

    • Ian,
      GREAT point! I get book ideas (and marketing ideas) all the time when I’m out for a run or hike. My husband says it is because there is more blood flow to my brain – ha! But, I think it is like you say…my mind is idle and so there is space for new ideas to come into it.

      Thanks for sharing!

  6. Nelson Edward Montz says:

    The task appears so huge taking consistent bites keep me encouraged. My present goal is to write 832 words daily.

    If I do not feel like writing, I do not press it; making sure that I am doing the many other activities associated with my book and building a personal website. A day without progress is unacceptable.

    Used to have a block with writing on a computer. Overcame that and it gets me away from paper and retyping.

    I always keep a notepad with me, while I am doing my day job or other activities. Phrases come to me that i do not wish to lose.

    I appreciate the goal planner online. I am never good at going to specific sections of a notebook, so it is a time killer later.

    Uh…oh….232 words to go. Got to get cracking. LETTING MYSELF GO and without trying to write perfectly freed me up in production.

  7. Daryl Bracken says:

    I have used much of the information that I have read on this site. I finished my first book ” Dark Ones” by reading here and using the info. Now writing second. Though I think I am weird, I write in my head and my fingers type it when it is done. I then have others read it for input. I continue to read and learn. Now if marketing subject comes up I will read it to death.

  8. Publishing your book is not the end but rather the beginning. Other than your family and friends most of your potential audience are not or never will know about your book.

    It is up to you to dedicate the same time, effort, and energy you used writing your book to market your book to the world.

    Develop your “voice” using the same talent and imagination you used to create you book.

  9. Great insight to being consistent and accountable. My experience is sometimes I do not feel like doing anything and if I push myself up in that time I end up creating crap. I let go the moment and restart. Usually it works and then I write something heavenly I wonder from where it occurred. During the moment of doing nothing I am observer of my own thoughts. I have published blog on my website http://www.sagarbane.com for those who also feel the same.

  10. Shelley, Enjoyed your post and encouragement! Thank you so much…I am very lucky to follow up and managed to completed 4 books in 2013, three have been published so far.

    I must admit that the 5 Ps, which I shared in my book, Better Than The Best employers me to achieve such a breakthrough results and your inspiring articles. To read more about this book, click the link below:-


    Trust it will help you too.

    Cheers and wishing you guys a fruitful day everyday
    James Oh recently posted…REAL BIONIC HANDMy Profile

  11. Consistency is so important. I was doing so well with my goals before I went away on vacation for a week but a week off has really thrown me. That week has turned into two already and I really must get back into everything today. Thanks for the push.
    Ana recently posted…Are You Destroying Your Chances Of Lasting Love?My Profile

  12. With exercising it’s true that if it become a habit through repetition it’s easy to keep on going. I enjoy going to the gym and go after work directly so I don’t think about it. As I go to classes I also have the structure and other people to keep me going. I also go on weekends, again to classes.
    Although I’ve always written I’ve started publishing recently. I’ve been spending too much time trying to promote and I’ve decided to go back to basics and focus on next book…
    Thanks for your post.

    • It is important to keep writing even while promoting. It is hard to keep the balance sometimes but it is good to periodically evaluate where our time is going and adjust. I’m doing that right now with Facebook as that tends to be a time suck for me. Look for a post on that soon.

      And you’re welcome!

  13. Whilst I can appreciate your “driven” approach the very thought of taking the spontaneity out of my life appals me. I live every day as if its my last and revel in each new ( and different) day. The thought of coldly apportioning my time is an invitation to hear my Angel and my Devil – Angelo and Damien; sitting on my shoulder and arguing about my every decision and its outcome; – to agree for once and shout in chorus “Advertising your plans is certain to make God laugh.” Success for me is not about making money or influencing what others think- but rather how often I can do what I want to do when and how I want to do it. Nevertheless, I shall take some of your valid advice to heart and see if I can convince Angelo and Damien to go along with some of it!

  14. I signed up a Suite101 many years ago. I did it to be committed. In other words I locked myself in and just had to write on a weekly basis. I had to open my self up to weekly feedback. I wrote about Visual Art and they shoved me across to Multi Media because I wouldn’t stop talking about digital Art. No matter what happened I kept my writing commitments up. I have now written a book and just released the first of a series on TPT.

    Magically, I left teaching to stay home and write not knowing if I would make a living. On Elance people have begun to contract me to write about Art. I don’t make much but I make enough to stay home and keep writing.
    I think t is true that if you do what you love the money will follow. I have written about Art for so long that I can take on enough contracts to get by. Consistency, commitment and dogged mindedness is what seems to work. Thanks for all your help, Jo
    Jo Murphy recently posted…Using Website Stats as InfographicsMy Profile

  15. Hi – I think consistency has been the most important of these points for me – I find it makes a huge difference if you simply ensure the most important tasks (writing, running…. whatever) are firmly etched into your daily routine, so they become ‘habits’. Otherwise, it’s too easy to make excuses and let other things take precedence.

    When it comes to writing, I’ve found Stephen King’s advice hard to beat – decide on a designated time and place, shut the door and get on with it.

    Sue Neal recently posted…Are Your Blog Posts Missing This Vital Ingredient?My Profile

  16. Bibi Shane says:

    I should like to join the dicussion on consistency, which I find very interesting, by introducting another aspect of self-publishing and timing.. It is not a question of my being unable to sit down and write. I find that process relatively comfortable, although I do not give myelf scheduled times – there are too many other daily matters one havs deal with. The problem is the amount of time and months i have wasted, yes wasted, on checking my outsourced formatting. The standard is so low that I wonder how one can avoid such problems, thereby keeping hold of writing time. Could this be why critics sometimes mention the poor written standards of self-publishers? Perhaps other self-publishers are also experiencing this drain on their time? I shall be interested to know – whether there is an official course and diploma recognition before formatters can advertise themselves? If there is no such, perhaps I should learn to format my own ‘future work, therefore saving time and irritation. A rather long and not altogether appropriate reply to timing, but possibly worth the observation.

    • Hey Bibi – We’re actually learning about working with outsourcers in our membership community this month. There are always people who drop the ball, it’s a matter of finding people that are qualified and doing your research before deciding who to hire. Of course, if you have the time, learning to do it yourself will always save you money.

      • Shelley and \Heather,
        This is one of the greatest tools I’ve met in writing.
        I am taking these nuggets as school modules for my writing lessons.
        Thankfulness for all your efforts in parenting us in this discipline can never be overemphasized.
        Write on, ladies!!!

  17. Dave Kaster says:

    Shelley, as always, great ideas, thoughts and advice. I have just a few comments:
    1) If you work at something enough for it to become a habit, it doesn’t have to be ‘discipline’. Think of how many things you do every day without even thinking about it. The actual act of writing you can think about — but that can be done at any time as the posts have alluded to. It is the sitting down and being ready to write that is the key for me. The ‘habit’ of doing that has to be scheduled and routine for me.

    2) A study I read recently said that high producers don’t check their emails until after they are at work for at least an hour. I like that advice and usually get more done when I’m able to avoid the social media for just a little while. I view it as ’emptying my task bucket’ and then checking the media to refill it.

    3) There is always something to be said for ‘do it now’. I am amazed how much I can get done when adopting that mantra. By putting it on a list to ‘do it later’ I feel like I sometimes am encouraging procrastination. If I have time to do something that will give me more time to write later, then I ‘do it now’.

    4) Focus on your ‘renewal time’. In my world there is ‘production time’, ‘renewal time’, ‘learning-growing time’ and ‘everything else’. If I schedule in the renewal time (fun with family, friends, vacations, etc…), then that is what becomes my focus and I HAVE to get everythnig done so I can enjoy that time. Rather than an energy drain, then my tasks become a motivator as I accomplish them.

    5) When I was a management trainee at a restaurant decades ago they taught one simple rule: Work both ways. That means just simply do things that need doing along your path every day. If you are walking to your desk to write and along the way pick up things and throw them in the washing machine, how long does that usually take? (For me I just throw them in and go — for my girlfriend, she may take a little longer), but the concept is simple. Find small things that need doing along your path and just do it — sometimes you’ll get a lot done without even slowing down.

  18. Shared this great article with my readers, Shelley. Thank you!
    Melanie Wilson recently posted…3 Steps to Writing SuccessMy Profile

  19. I love lists, all kinds of lists, shopping lists, to do lists, to read lists. They keep me on track, help me organize and manage my time, and give me a sense of satisfaction when I cross completed items off of the lists. Thanks for writing Shelley; your words are always helpful.
    Marianne Sciucco recently posted…50 Reasons Why My Debut Novel Sold 10,000 CopiesMy Profile

  20. Love your tip about wunderlist, will check that out!

    I have my annual goals list broken out by month and I use that to create my daily tasks and check it every two weeks to make sure I’m on track.

    I use a timer for my social media time, but I like the idea of doing the same for tasks/projects, so I don’t run into my writing time trying to finish up a project.

    Recently I tried something new. Do my writing first for one hour and then do everything else. It’s working great for my writing, not so much for everything else, so need to tweak it.
    Elke Feuer recently posted…In the Hammock — Nonnie JulesMy Profile

  21. These are good tips for sure! I know for myself consistency is the biggest thing. The more consistent I am the more I hold myself accountable, like you said it’s a lot like working out. If you work out often then when you don’t it will eat away at you and you’ll be sure to make it a big priority to get back at it. Versus if you haven’t worked out in a while it’s going to take a big kick in the you know what to get back going. If I keep myself writing often, every day really, then I stay in touch with my stories/poems as well and I’m thinking about them all the time, otherwise they become a sort of after thought.

    Staying connected to my writing and writing goals is one of the best things to keep my writing. Part of staying connected for me is always brainstorming about my story or poem. In the latter case I really can’t force writing a poem but I have to still be thinking about my second collection, even as I’m marketing my first. Part of this means that if I’m in the mood to write poetry I have to help myself really get in the mood. This means listening to my thoughts, paying close attention to the details of life around me. Really writing poetry helps me be in tune with myself and my life because it requires that I dig deeper into the things I love as well as the things that bother me. I think part of writing anything is letting life absorb you; take that second to stop and focus on what it is that just caught your attention. Right now with all the snow around us taking a moment to feel the serenity of snow fall or be enlightened by the sparkle of sunlight hitting snow crystals that are blanketing the world all around us is plenty to spur the creative side.

    When it comes to my newer ventures in writing – working on fictional stories – staying engaged with my story is on par with making sure I write every day or every other day. I do this by taking every opportunity to think about what needs to happen next or how I want my characters to act. I’m a big fan of carrying a voice recorder because whether I’m driving or walking if I have the recorder running I can work through my ideas and undoubtedly spawn new thoughts or have a breakthrough and not forget any of it (okay I may forget but at least I have a backup outside my brain!). If I can’t talk to myself then I try to always have pen & something to write on, or even better in this day and age I have the “writer” app on my phone. Better yet, I use Microsoft OneNote for all my writing now. This software allows me to create folders for different stories, different ideas, topics, poems, submission lists, you name it. Then I can link the notebooks to the internet and sync them with the OneNote app on my phone. This means that every where I go, as long as I have my phone I have access to my latest writing and when I’m on the go what I write on my phone will sync to my computer.

    I’m also in agreeance that you have to just write sometimes, not worrying about how good or bad it is. Sometimes this results in a breakthrough because maybe you were stuck and all you needed was to write passed this blockage and on to the next part, you can come back to the part you got stuck at later. In addition to this, I work on multiple projects to make sure that “just write” is more than likely. If I’m not in the mood for poetry than I’ll open my story notebook and vice versa. And if I’m working on one story but drawing complete blanks then I can pull up another and see if maybe I have a feel for it.

    These are some of the things I do to help me. Thanks for writing this article.

    Take care,
    author of “That Which Lives Within”
    eLPy recently posted…How I keep myself writing Part 3…My Profile

  22. I use Wunderlist too! It’s fantastic. But when it comes to mapping out a book, a system or an e-course, I find I need to map out my ideas on something physical — usually a whiteboard or a series of sticky notes on the wall.
    Matt Cumming recently posted…Selling Doesn’t Happen Once (Um… So Why Am I Dating You Again??)My Profile

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