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Go Viral: The Art of Writing Substack Posts That Spread

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What we cover:

  • What “going viral” means

  • What counts as “viral”

  • The 4 reasons a post goes viral

  • What prevents a post from going viral

  • The 5 things that make long-form posts go viral

  • Viral posting strategies

  • A deep dive into one Substack writer's viral post

  • The one thing we know a post definitely needs to go viral

  • A writing exercise to help you write your next (viral) post

As Substack’s Head of Writer Relations Farrah Storr puts it, we do these workshops in good faith that people won’t sign up for the link and then unsubscribe. We’re here to build a community of writers who will come together to grow. If you prefer to purchase the workshop, you can do so here:

Purchase this course separately

This is part of the Craft of Writing on Substack series, where we take the best creative writing techniques and make them work for us on Substack.

Time to write your viral essay…

NOTE: Revision of what makes long-form go viral #4: Speak to a specific group/belief & oppose another

++A couple more examples of posts that went “viral” on Substack. In the workshop I mentioned that viral long-form posts often take a stand, agree with one group, and oppose another.

But the emotions that also cause people to share are joy, awe/surprise—positive. Check out this from @Jeannine Ouellette

Writing in the Dark with Jeannine Ouellette
How I Grew My Substack from Zero to 40K Annual Income in Just 12 Months
As promised, today’s post—which would normally be a Monday Lit Salon post, so that’s how we’ll tag it!—is about how, with little platform and no significant email list, I built this Substack to more than 4000 subscribers, 700 paid, and 40K annualized gross revenue in just 12 months…
Read more

Also, taking a stand doesn’t have to be political. I wrote this in favor of writing fewer words:

https://www.writersatwork.net/p/write-less-please

(I think it’s best to think in terms of viral for each of us, i.e., particularly widely shared and restacked, rather than putting a number on it.)

Please read Kirsten Powers’s essay “The way we live in the United States is not normal”—such a good example. No surprise it went viral.

Changing The Channel
The way we live in the United States is not normal.
I don't remember exactly when it happened for me, but the thought arose with surprising clarity: something is deeply wrong with the United States, and I don't want to live here anymore. When I tell people this, they nod knowingly and say something about the 2016 election. While that critical turning point sped up my timetable, the realization that something fundamental was off in the country of my birth actually began years before that…
Read more

Here’s the annotated version with my notes: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1tsqAP7s42KJt9mhkpzY0u8Aw3U50zIOKY7jENr41h3I/edit?usp=sharing

✨ Become a paid subscriber to become a better writer on Substack with How to Write Online workshops like this one. Paid subscribers also get access to the Headline Hub chat (so you can write headlines that go viral) and more to help you achieve your goals on Substack.

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Substack Writers at Work
The Substack Success Podcast
Your Expert Guide to Substack—get subscribers, earn an income, build the career you want, and produce your best work. ✦ A bestselling, Featured Substack community of 15,000+ members ✦ ✨ One of the top 10 Substack podcasts globally