Tuesday, April 11, 2017

5 Ways to Win at Writing

by Cindy Sproles 

Our lives are filled with firsts. First birthdays, first dates, first time driving. In the writing world, it’s first publication. It’s an innate desire for us as humans . . . to be competitive. To strive to win. But where does first come in our writing lives, and how do we achieve it?

It’s important to know that being first is not always a sign of success. For example, that first draft is neither a sign of success nor a first-place winner. It requires tweaking, editing, and massaging before it’s ready for the winner’s circle.

Here are five ways to help you achieve a winning work in writing.

1. Develop the attitude of a teachable spirit: Making your way to that first completed work requires your ability to be taught. We’re very attached to our writing, and when criticism or rejection comes, we’re almost insulted. Developing an attitude of a teachable spirit means you are open to learning, taking suggestions and criticism as a useful tool, not an attack. Some of your best writing errors can be ironed out in a critique group, but you must be willing to accept the help of others. Be teachable.

2. Study the craft: Even the best writers had to learn the craft of writing. One of the most effective ways to learn is by attending a writers’ conference. Conferences offer you up-to-date techniques that will help you master writing, and those tips come from those who have earned their credentials through bloody knees. They’ve made all the mistakes, achieving publication. Who better to learn from than those who have already succeeded?

3. Edit, edit, edit: I learned early on, and I teach this in my classes at conferences. Don’t marry your words. There are always better words and better phrases. There are always mistakes, rewrites, and tweaks that need to be done. No piece is ready at first draft. We may have our ideas down on the page, but that doesn’t mean the project is complete. Secure a good self-editing book, join a critique group, or find a writing peer. Then edit, edit, edit. Your good work will soon become a great work.

4. Enter contests: Once your work is edited, enter contests. Contests offer you several things. Learning to submit work and follow the guidelines helps you on the road to publication. Entering contests also helps you learn to accept rejection. Rejection in any form is hard, but when we don’t make the winning bid in a writing contest, it helps us accept that we need to work a little harder. The more you practice, the better you get, and what follows are those first places you hope for.

5. Believe in yourself and never give up: The average author reaching publication by a traditional publisher, is 6-10 years. Those who reach publication on their first try are few and far between. The rest of us have to sweat through years of rejections to make our first win. If you give up after the first, second, or fifteenth failure, how will you ever win? With each loss, you gain experience and a thick skin. You learn and your writing grows tighter and more precise. If you stop believing in yourself or if you give up prematurely, then you will never experience success.
Writing is not about the wins. It’s about the message. All those 2nd or 3rd place certificates are proof you are on your way to success. And when it comes – oh how sweet!

What I have found in my years of writing is the more I learn, the more I want to teach. The more I teach, the more others are encouraged. What surprised me is, when I did finally win, it suddenly wasn’t so important. The important thing was the road, the learning, and the others I’ve been able to help as I made my own way.

Regardless of the work you do, the win is always sweeter when you share yourself with others. Helping a new writer along will bring you more pleasure and joy than you can imagine.

Writing is so much more than the award. Awards are nice, but they are only trophies. At my very first writers’ conference, Alton Gansky taught me that I may never have a published book on the shelves of a bookstore, but what I write may only be meant for the person sitting next to me. What words of wisdom. Words that changed my entire outlook on writing.

Strive for the win. Work hard. But never forget the difference you can make in the lives of newer writers along the way. The real win may never be publication. It may be the lives you change.


Cindy Sproles is an award-winning author and popular speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions ministries and managing editor of Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy is the executive editor of
www.christiandevotions.us and 
www.inspireafire.comShe teaches at writers 
conferences nationwide and directs The Asheville Christian Writers Conference - Writers Boot Camp. 

She is the author of two devotionals, He Said, She Said - Learning to Live a Life of Passion and New Sheets - Thirty Days to Refine You into the Woman You Can Be. Cindy's debut novel, Mercy's Rain, is available at major retailers. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com and book her for your next conference or ladies retreat. Also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. A good word, Cindy! Thank you!

  2. "The real win may never be publication. It may be the lives you change." I love this Cindy. Even though I have never published a book, I enjoy the mentor role of helping new writers find their way. Because I have read books and blogs and absorbed information for more seasoned writers, I have resources to share and point others, like me, toward that final destination. I am enjoying the journey. Thank you for the reminder.

    1. That's great...you are right. H telling others brings us a self fulfillment.

  3. Love your suggestions, Cindy. I've enjoyed learning to edit more and more.

  4. Thank you Cindy; what great tips to remember. I look forward to benefiting from implementing that which I'm not already doing.