On Finding Success As A Writer, by Jenn J Mcleod
John Farnham once sang, One Is the Loneliest Number. A writer will disagree. For an author the number ‘one’ is not lonely at all. Being #1 is the ultimate: #1 bestselling author, #1 ranking on Amazon, etc.
Some authors will find world domination and many #1’s during their careers. For the rest of us this business is less Lucky, Lucky, Lucky and more Workin’ 9 to 5. Despite the rapidly changing publishing game there’s probably only room for one J.K. Rowling and one E.L. James in a lifetime (I hope I’m wrong) which means turning your passion into a career will not make you famous or rich, so don’t let either be your motivation. (As my character Maggie says to her son in Simmering Season, “you can find fame by doing all the wrong things”.) Rather than fame and fortune, chase your dream because the very thought of no longer dreaming it drags the wind from your sails and renders you a lifeless wreck.
Success should be your own measure. I believe, as writers, we should be obsessed with words, not numbers. Yes, the numbers are important, but statistics like number of books published, advances offered, Amazon rankings, books sold and Facebook Likes should not be your focus. Let your passion for storytelling and words be your motivation (and be reflected in the quality of your product) and those all-important numbers follow.
J.K. Rowling says of getting published that it’s hard work and luck, and that the first often leads to the second.
My final thoughts are these:
Believe. Be brave. Be businesslike.
Think big. Dream. Work hard. Toughen up.
Be committed. Be kind to yourself. Be generous to others. I once heard someone say: “No author ever hurt their career by being generous to another author”. Live by that and karma will take care of you.
Keep trying. I know many writers have heard the following things before, but there is a message in them:
- 12 publishing houses rejected The Philosopher’s Stone. A year later J.K. Rowling was finally given the green light (and a £1500 advance)
- Gertrude Stein submitted poems for 22 years before having one accepted.
- Anne Frank’s diary had 15 rejections.
- Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind faced rejection 38 times.
- I gave up counting after 45 rejections from publishers and agents before deciding I needed to change tack and try something different.
I never gave up, even though the publishing dream is an emotional rollercoaster. Although there are lots of troughs, the peaks sure are sweet – none sweeter than when you get to write two words: THE END, a writer’s silent victory squeal.
In fact, that’s THE END from me now. Having come to the end of my 12 months of contributions to Writing Novels in Australia, I’m going to get busy writing more books. As of October, I have a four book deal with Simon & Schuster!
Thanks for the memories – especially everyone who commented and shared posts. I hope it was all a little more interesting than watching paint dry.