True Grit. Writer Style.

There is a word that applies to successful writers: GRIT. Science has too long focused on intelligence & talent as determiners of success. And it’s not.

The key to success is to set a specific long-term goal and to do whatever it takes until the goal has been achieved.

That’s called GRIT (defined as courage and resolve; strength of character). Duckworth did a study in 2008 at West Point. GRIT was the determining factor of Beast Barracks success. My plebe squad, back in the old days when men were men and the sheep ran scared, had five members. Three of them didn’t make it to Christmas the first year. They weren’t bad people; they just didn’t really WANT it. It’s the same in Special Forces training. There are those who go into it because they want to wear a green beret (you know, like Girl Scouts do). They don’t make it. The ones who make it want to BE a green beret. There are those who want the lifestyle of ‘author’. They never get published. The ones who want to BE an author make it. Way back in 1869, Stephen Jay Galton wrote a book titled: Hereditary Genius. He found that ability combined with zeal & capacity for hard work trumps talent.

Successful people have a growth mindset. The problem with many talented people is that they know they are talented; they think that they already know everything they need to know. So they never adapt and change and grow. A growth mindset person believes they can always learn more. Successful authors are always expanding their craft and their business savvy, especially in today’s rapidly changing publishing environment. If the key is to set a long term goal and doing whatever it takes, the first question is: Do you have a long term goal as a writer? I call it the Strategic Writing Goal and discuss it in more detail in Write It Forward.

The Hierarchy Of Goals

  • Overall Writing Goal. (Strategic)
  • Book goal. (Supporting)
  • Business goal (Supporting)
  • Shorter range/daily goals (Supporting)

Let’s talk about your strategic writing goal. It can be anything, but it’s important that you lock it down. Some broad examples: I will be a NY Times best-selling thriller author in five years.

  • I will write my memoir for my grandchildren in the next three months.
  • I write part-time simply because it is a hobby and spend an hour a day on it.
  • I want to be published within 2 years by a major, traditional press.
  • I will have my book in print within 2 months via self-publishing.
  • I will earn X amount of dollars per month indie publishing in six months.
  • I will write a book that will help people with — — and spend the next three years using it to bolster and complement my speaking career.

The Importance Of Your Strategic Goal

It starts your creative and practical process. Everything you do is going to be slanted to support this goal. Your strategic goal determines your supporting goals. Writing it down and posting it where you can see it every single day helps keep you focused. It determines how you approach the publishing business. It is also the core of your work regime. It is the core of your marketing campaign. All supporting goals must align with it in the hierarchy.

One of the things I did this year was sit down and look at my supporting goals. The last several years I’d been all over the place with my focus. Writing stand alone books. Writing a short series because I loved the idea: Burners. Writing another Horace Chase book as part of the Green Beret series. I’m proud of all those books, but the reality is that this supporting goal wasn’t supporting my strategic goal. I re-evaluated, balanced what I was passionate about (emotion); interested in (intellect) and what made business sense (reality). I decided to focus on pushing the Time Patrol series forward. It combines everything I want to do as a writer. Writing about science fiction and history allows me to delve into those things I am most interested in and feel the most about. And realistically, putting books out in the same series made sense. I’m seeing that now as D-Day just came out and I’m seeing sales go up in the series overall.

Rooster Cogburn: I mean to kill you in one minute, Ned. Or see you hanged in Fort Smith at Judge Parker’s convenience. Which’ll it be?

Ned Pepper: I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man.

Rooster Cogburn: Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!

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Originally published at on May 26, 2016.

West Point grad; Special Ops Vet; NY Times bestseller of over 80 books; for free books and over 200 free downloadable slideshows go to

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