On an ordinary summer day in 2018, a relatively new online writer submitted this article to a writing publication on Medium.com, and then promptly forgot all about it:
Nearly two years later, to my surprise, this article has earned me hundreds of thousands of views, some four-thousand-plus fans, and over $2,144 in cold, hard cash (and counting!)
It’s also made it consistently to the first page of Google search results:
I know what you’re thinking.
How did this happen? How did she do it?
And most importantly: Can I replicate her incredible success?
Maybe. Maybe you can.
Either way, my goal is to give you a leg up in the race, so to speak, if you decide to give it a try:
In this guide, I will be revealing to you my secrets on creating this particular $2K article. Feel free to learn, borrow, steal, and apply whatever you wish —
And let me know how it works out for you!
I would love to cheer you on.
This article will be separated into 2 main sections:
- The Story of how I wrote the article, and
- The Factors that I believe contributed to its success
Let’s dig in ~
It was a typical morning:
After waking up and finishing my morning grooming and journaling, I puttered to the kitchen to get myself some breakfast.
I was listening to a podcast and not really paying attention to the thoughts in my head swirling around as they usually do at that time of day.
Part of my brain was lazily considering what topics I ought to write about that day for Medium, as part of my Medium Writing Challenge.
And then this thought blazed into my mind:
How I write.
Write an article about how I write.
I speed-walked back to my room and went straight to my makeshift standing desk.
Now that I was typing, the ideas came fast and furious:
I typed like a madman. Stopped to grab a screenshot. Wrote some more. Paused to find a picture. Did some more typing. Clicked away to look for links to examples. Then more writing.
In less than three hours, the thing was done.
At this point, I may have let it sit for a while before submitting it, or I may have submitted it immediately to The Writing Cooperative. The memories are a bit fuzzy.
Either way, I submitted it, and then went on to article #2 of the day.
A day or so later, I received a notification that TWC had accepted and published the article. A few hours later, an email rolled in saying I had reached 10 readers:
That’s nice, I thought. Maybe this one is going to do pretty well.
I had no idea.
A couple weeks later, the fan-count went to 500:
And it kept on rolling.
A year passed. And I started noticing something interesting:
Unlike the majority of the articles I wrote, the “Great Writer” article continued to get attention.
It was the most re-tweeted, most read, most clapped-for, most shared, most lucrative article in my portfolio.
To this day, “Great Writer” is still the top article in The Writing Cooperative archives, as well as top-ranking on the first page of Google search results when you type in “great writer” and sometimes, just “writer” alone.
How did this happen?
Any creative project always involves a dash of luck. I would be a moron if I didn’t admit that. But as they say:“The reason most people do not recognize an opportunity when they meet it is because it usually goes around wearing overalls and looking like hard work.” Click To Tweet
So here are the factors that, as far as I know, contributed greatly to the ultimate success of the article 😉
1. The Medium Writing Challenge
When I wrote the “Great Writer” article, I was in the middle of a personal Medium Writing Challenge.
The goal was to not just write, but submit 2–3 finished articles per day on Medium.
I’d heard that some writers practiced this habit, at least for a while, so I set myself a time length of about a month or two (I wasn’t too exact on the goal setting), and just dug in.
I knew that my main focus would be on the craft and niche of writing, so I challenged myself to write one article related to that niche every day. Then, for the next 1–2 articles, I could explore other topics I was interested in.
It was definitely a challenge, to say the least — coming up with 2–3 viable article ideas a day and writing, editing, and polishing them to relatively acceptable standards isn’t exactly a hot-air balloon ride.
But after a couple weeks, I started to notice that the ideas were coming faster and clearer, my writing speed was increasing, and the external results I was getting (comments, fans, etc.) were also inching up.
Thus was the backdrop for the writing of the “Great Writer” article set.
That day as I was standing in the kitchen, mulling over the various works-in-progress I had saved on my computer, I realized that an article about the system I use to accomplish the Medium Challenge would be:
- Fun to write
- Helpful for honing my system even more
- Potentially interesting to my readers
I had no idea how right I would be.
But perhaps that idea would never have occurred to me had I not been in the middle of the Medium Challenge.
Getting into the habit of producing 2–3 finished works a day not only helped me come up with the idea of the “Great Writer” article, it gave me a lot of personally tested evidence to use in it, and also honed my brain and fingers to be able to write the actual article quickly and well.
In other words, the Medium Challenge was the perfect way to set the mental stage for “Great Writer.”
And no article can truly succeed at being great unless your mental stage is set.
But setting the stage is just the first factor.
Next, we come to the actual writing aspect of the whole shebang:
2. Content Writing Strategies
In late 2017, I signed up for my first writing class with an experienced teacher who showed me the ropes on how to write well for the internet.
The lessons he taught me were many and invaluable, and I won’t be able to go over all of them here (Check out my other articles for a deeper dive on these topics), but here are a few of the most important lessons I applied:
- Write a good headline: The headline is the first thing a reader sees. If it (and your chosen image) isn’t interesting, you won’t get a second chance.
- Use “sweater-knit copy” in your introduction: Write in a way that keeps people reading, and coaxes them not to jump away.
- Write to the reader: Write in a personable, friendly way, imagine that you are writing to someone you know and like
- Make the article look readable: Use bullets, white space, and images generously.
- Give examples: Lots and lots of examples. Not only did I cite famous and successful writers in the article, I also included a highly detailed case study of my exact writing process as evidence that my theory works.
- Organize well: In the article, I told readers what points I was going to cover, then I covered ’em, then I illustrated each point using bulleted examples and illustrations from my own real life.
- Consider length: This was a long article, I make no bones about it. But the topic leant itself to this length. If you have a lot of (interesting, useful) things to say, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by trying to conform to some arbitrary word count. (On the flip side, don’t pad your writing when it’s unnecessary just to REACH some arbitrary word count, either)
- Conclude on a high note: Use the conclusion to encourage readers and “light a fire under their butt,” so to speak. Readers who feel inspired are readers who will do something with what you taught them, like comment on or share your article. And you definitely want that.
All of these tips (and more) are helpful for writers who want to create a readable, popular article. But one thing I have found:
Just reading about them doesn’t do you any good.
Trying to implement them all at once won’t help much, either.
At least, not at first.
Remember, I started learning these strategies officially in 2017. And for decades before that, I’d been honing my thinking and writing skills as a voracious reader, writing coach, and hobbyist writer.
Several of the above tips I already knew, just not necessarily from the professional online perspective.
It’s a bit like growing up speaking English and then learning how the grammar rules of your language actually work in middle school English class so that you can be an even stronger communicator.
You have to internalize these tips. You need to be able to use them as effortlessly as you understand the meaning of these words you’re reading right now.
If you’re a native speaker:
When you were a little kid, English was hard. It took you about 2 years to master speaking it. But after that, you didn’t have to think about it anymore, you could communicate easily with other English speakers about anything.
Same deal with writing techniques.
You need to practice them until they become second nature.
When I was writing “Great Writer,” I was in what you might call a “flow state.”
I wasn’t thinking about “sweater knit copy” or “the 131 rules of writing great headlines,” I was just writing.
And all of the skills and techniques I had drummed into my head from years of practicing and writing flowed out from my brain to my fingers, to the (virtual) page, almost without conscious thought.
Of course, once the initial burst of inspiration was over, I had to edit the darn thing. But the majority of the work was already done, and I found that I didn’t have to cut too deeply before the article felt ready.
(Besides, you know, I had a second article to finish, so there was no time for dawdling.)
3. Submitting to a Publication
As a teacher once told me: No one listens to you when you’re shouting in an empty room.
In other words, publishing articles on your own platform — on your website, in your publication, etc — is all fine and dandy, but when you’re a beginner with less than a thousand fans (as I was at the time), it’s not very helpful.
Instead, you need to find out where your ideal readers are hanging out, and bring the message to them, instead of waiting for them to come find you.
That’s why, from the beginning, I learned to submit my articles to various publications on Medium:
The Mission, P.S. I Love You, Better Marketing, The Post-Grad Survival Guide, The Ascent, and, of course, The Writing Cooperative, all have large established audiences that are interested in the content that those publication owners curate.
So why reinvent the wheel when you can piggy-back off someone else’s ready-made audience, and create a win-win-win situation for writer, publication, and reader alike?
That’s why, as soon as I got the idea for the “Great Writer” article, I knew instantly it had to go to The Writing Cooperative.
Because my chosen niche is “writing,” I had already been submitting a lot of work to The Writing Cooperative. And I knew this article would be right up their alley.
So there was no need to consider. Into the Writing Cooperative submission queue it went!
The above are the factors within my control that contributed to the success of the “Great Writer” article.
Of course, there were other elements NOT in my control that no doubt helped a lot:
The Writing Cooperative’s popularity and Domain Ranking, for one thing (that’s an SEO term, if you’re curious, you can look it up).
Timing, for another (maybe because it was summer, there were more bored readers hanging out on the internet, thinking about starting their writing projects)
Those are things that I could not really control, and neither can you. But I did, and what you can do is:
- Practice writing out the best ideas you have on a regular basis,
- Give your ideas the best chance of succeeding by incorporating everything you know about,
- Then kiss your articles goodbye and wish them luck in the great, wild, online world.
I know I’m not the only person to achieve this level of success on Medium.
There are others who are smarter, faster, better, in much more lucrative niches, and they probably write $2,000 articles all the time.
But for those of you out there who are just beginning your writing journey, and wondering if you can do it, and who will give you a hand, here’s my hand. And a word of encouragement:
Stop wondering. Just try it.
After all, you never know until you give yourself a chance.
Prior to writing the “Great Writer” article, I had no idea what I was capable of. And honestly, I still don’t. Neither do you. We are all a bundle of untapped potential.
As Thomas Edison once said:'If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.'Click To Tweet
He’s right. I’m living proof. Writing this article and seeing how well it did was one of the stepping stones toward me gaining enough confidence to keep on the writing path and create a career for myself.
Only a year ago, that would have been unthinkable.
But today, it’s my life.
So. My question for you is this:
How will you astound yourself?
Ready to be a Brilliant Writer?
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