Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Secret to Writing Success

Last month, along with thousands and thousands of other writers of all levels, I competed in the National Novel Writing Month challenge. And let me tell you, it was a challenge. Despite having three published books, two more written and ready to go, and four other as-yet-unpublished manuscripts under my belt, getting through that 50,000 word first draft was a serious feat of willpower.

Writing hurtz my brains.

As I was busy pounding out words (most of them in the last four days of the month) I was reminded of just how much persistence it takes to make it in the writing world. There are so many ways and reasons to give up along the way. It takes too much time. It's such a longshot. It's changing to ebooks so I might as well self-publish. It's too hard.

Writing Be Hard

You know what, it doesn't get better once you're published. Instead of worrying about getting an agent and a contract, you're worried about keeping them. You're worried about your sales numbers and whether your editor will want another book in the series, another book from you period. You're worried that, even if your editor buys more books, that the sales numbers aren't high enough. You're not getting enough promotion/high enough print run/good distribution. And these are just the ones I've reached at my level. There will be more, different ones as I (hopefully) move up the publishing food chain.

The list of worries goes on and on. And the sad thing is that there is virtually nothing you can do about most of them. That's a hard pill to swallow, especially for someone with the drive, determination and persistence to actually become a published author. You want to believe that if you push the right buttons, buy the right advertising, give away the right goodies, that things will get better or easier. News flash: they won't.

There are doubts and worries and fears at every single level of publishing. From the unpublished (will I ever get a contract?) to the debut (will anybody like my book?) to the veteran (will my next book do better than my last?) to the bestseller (will I make the list again?). Those authors who make it to the top level, who stick it out for long-term careers in publishing, have two major traits in common that help them achieve that success.


One, persistence. The drive to keep going and going despite whatever obstacles (rejections, life crises, bad reviews, lost contracts) fly into the way. Success in any field, whether it's acting or engineering or writing, is probably 90% persistence. So just keep going.

Protect the Work

Two, in the immortal words of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, protect the work. When it comes down to it, the one and only aspect of this crazy career that the author can ever hope to control (unless, I suppose, you're Nora Roberts or Stephen King) is the writing. All of the press and promotion in the world won't do squat if the book is a piece of garbage. Hone your craft, put your soul on the pages, and, as Ally Carter says, leave nothing for the swim back.

That's the formula for writing success. To survive this career you have to put your head down, push through every obstacle in your path, and write the best book you can. Everything else is distraction.




TinaFerraro said...

NICE, Tera. And how wonderful that you truly have something to show for November 2010, right? I am impressed with your perseverance and follow-through, and look forward to reading your NaNo book in print!

Amanda Ashby said...

TLC - not only are you a great writer but you're a guru as well! Awesome words of wisdom!

Jessica said...

Great post, Tera. I couldn't finish NaNoWriMo, but now it's gonna become NaNoWri3Mo instead...I'm not giving up!:)

Tera Lynn Childs said...

@Tina Well, you might be waiting a long time for that book, but thanks!

@Amanda Aw, thanks sweetie!

@Jessica Exactly! Don't give up! You'll get there as long as you keep going. And just email me whenever you need a kick in the pants!

Jessica said...

Thanks Tera!! I might need that kick in the pants right before the holidays when I'm too busy wassailing and snacking! :P