Don’t Read “How To Succeed On Medium” Articles

You’ve seen them.

I’ve seen them.

Everyone has seen them.

One of the most popular things to write on Medium is some version of “How To Make It On Medium” followed closely by “How I made 3.57 In My First 7 1/2 Weeks On Medium.”

I’m not begrudging those who write them. I get it.

Write what people want to read it.

Heck, back in the day I wrote one. It’s still one of my most read articles. I mean I’d probably write more if I thought I could add something to the discussion, but for the most part I stay silent.

However, this is a piece of advice for those new to the platform.

Don’t put all your faith in these articles.

I get reading a few of them. I did that too when I first started. I mean it’s a little scary when you first strike out as a write. You see this giant platform and all these writers and you have no idea what you’re doing.

When I first started, I was writing everything and anything trying to get a foothold somewhere.

But, as you keep writing and making your way on the platform. You are going to see a lot of these posts.

Every month, shoot every week, someone thinks they’ve broken the code and that they’ve discovered the secret to success. 9 times out of 10 it’s the same advice over and over again, “Write every day!” Shocker.

And then there are articles with more complicated advice. Either they’re trying reverse engineer the algorithm or they’ve discovered the key stat to watch in order to achieve literary mastery.

I think this is best explained by example.

When I first started writing on Medium, it was a very different place. Not all posts were subject to curation, rather a random assortment were placed before distributors. Publications ,other than the big ones, were hardly a thing, most people just wrote self published pieces on their profile. I was writing fiction and there wasn’t even a fiction tag.

At the time the uproar was about this new fangled “Partner Program” people were deciding whether or not to lock posts. There were a few members of the old guard that down right looked down at people that “gasp” were writing for money. Instead they wanted the views that came with unlocked posts.

Still, the advice pieces started rolling in. They said to only write a few locked posts so as to let the traffic created from you unlocked posts drive readers to these paying articles. Was this true? I don’t know. Did they provide compelling evidence? Also no. But it was funny to read the same people saying you shouldn’t lock posts complain about not making any money.

Eventually, nearly all post became locked, at least that I can tell.

Also, there was advice on what to write. On when to post. How often to post. What phase of the lunar cycle to post.

For instance, I kept seeing that you shouldn’t write fiction on here. This was surprising to me, a fiction writer, who was doing reasonably well and growing.

I saw it so often it made me write this post.

Then a new wave of advice was starting. It was about how to maximize your earning potential.

Most people noticed that you needed to maximize the number of claps you got in a month. You see, it didn’t matter if your story had 2,000 words or 15. It was the number of claps that determined your payment.

So it was far better to write three shorter stories as opposed to one longer one. As someone mainly writing flash fiction, I was already doing this and generally ignored the advice. Although I did go through a lucrative haiku phase, and for that I have to apologize.

Thousands of articles poured out. Write one, two, thirty articles, a day. Make sure that you just get as many posts out as possible. You had to reap as many fans and claps as you could.

And such was the advice for a year.

Until things changed.

Last year, they changed the payment system. Now payments were done by reading time. So, one long story would out earn three small ones.

Make the stories longer they said.

This is fine if you’re a seasoned writer. Going from 300–400 word stories to 700–1000 word stories isn’t that hard.

But what if you just started? What if you’d only ever written tiny articles? You saw all the advice and never learned or tried writing longer stuff. So now you’re in a pickle.

And that’s what can happen.

Recently, they changed how they distributed articles. For the last year or so, (Eidtor’s Note: Curation has always been important but there seems to have been an increase on its emphasis in the last year) all the advice has been about curation.

Curation, Curation, Curation. That’s all you saw.

“How To Get Your Posts Curated”

“How I Write Posts To Get A 92% Curation Rate”

Also, this is just me but keeping track of curation rate always seemed silly, but whatever floats your boat.

That was the dominant advice. You had to write to get curated. Nothing mattered as long as you got that sweet, sweet email saying your post has been picked to be distributed.

I get this reasoning. It was a way to let Medium do that work for you. I’m all for making the platform work for you, but you have to be smart about it.

And yet again, there was another announcement. Now, Medium wants to much more “relational.” There is still curation but I don’t believe it will be as widespread.

Now, your following matters as that who’s going to see a lot of your work.

But, for the longest time, they was a not so quite contingent that voiced that followers didn’t matter, that it was just a vanity stat.

And now it looks like it will matter a lot.

So you see. The platform is always changing. Reading a lot of this advice isn’t going to be helpful. You’ll master it just in time for everything to change.

But that’s what happens when you’re trying to game the system instead of focusing on writing great stories.

Because I’ll tell you what works. Write. Write a lot. That’s the only thing I’ve seen work and on multiple platforms.

You can’t control how your work does, but you can control how much of it there is and if you produce a lot then there’s a chance someone will see it.

Also, focus on building your skills. If you’re a good write you can roll with the punches. Succeeding on this platform is less about planting your feet firmly on the ground, and more like trying to stand on a boat, you got to move with the waves.

When short stuff worked I wrote that.

When I had to write longer pieces I did that too.

Build your skills. And build your readers. They better work you put out the more fans you’ll get.

Trust me, I’ve been here a while.

Now stop reading this and get working on your own writing.

Written by

Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories.

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