Success – are you a tortoise or a hare?

Control your expectations to avoid excessive frustrations on your writer's journey.  Sketch courtesy of Sarah Mensinga.

Control your expectations to avoid excessive frustrations on your writer's journey. Sketch courtesy of Sarah Mensinga.

Hold onto the joy
by Janet Lane

I’m always delighted to learn of a good friend who lands their first book contract. If you’re one of them, I’m thrilled for you.  If you’re from the other group, hovering on the brink of selling,  I wish you steady faith and continued diligence.  Keep writing, keep trying.

Focus on your writer’s journey, and try to avoid comparing your work to others.  Frustration can produce jealousies and bitter thoughts that serve only to weigh you down and strip the joy from your writing.
Yeah, easy for her to say, you might think.  But I do know.  Let me demonstrate …

Dumb luck, that’s what it is.

She networked her way into it, and she just got lucky.  She knows all those published authors and made the right connections at the right time.

Or … She sold herself out.  She changed genres and wrote a historical (or erotica, or vampire, or horror or whatever) novel because they’re so hot.  She’s not following her heart with her writing like I am.  Oh, well, at least I have my dignity.

Or … He stole that idea from me.  I was writing that exact same novel.  I shouldn’t have shared my stuff.  Someone told him, and he took it.

Or … What drivel!  There isn’t a multisyllabic word in her whole book.  She’s writing down to fifth graders.  If that’s what it takes I’ll pass.

Or … he’s tall and good looking/she’s beautiful, that’s why it was so easy for him/her.  Once they see how young/old/short/fat/skinny I am, they won’t want to buy my novel.

Or simply …  Why her and not me?  It’s just not fair.

Nothing’s more frustrating than watching months turn into years, than reading dozens and dozens of rejection letters that say nothing, then seeing all the people around you (or so it seems) get published.  Keep in mind that because it takes several months to write a novel, that writer might have started his novel when that genre was not hot.  Timing of the completed novel is critical.

Regarding luck, networking increases your odds for success, i.e., luck, and from what I’ve heard from editors and agents, it’s the book.  Yes, they get excited about young, incredibly talented writers who write good books, but they also get excited about incredibly talented writers who write good books, period.  It really is all about the book.  No one ever asked my age or appearance before they rejected or bought my work.

Rather than dismiss another writer’s success, try looking closer to see what they did right.
A negative view: he sold out and wrote a (whatever genre) book.
A positive view: he learned what the market wanted, and he provided it.

And, was it an overnight success?  Romance Writers of America includes useful information with their “Just Published” announcements.  They list the new author’s name and book title, then they list how many years they’ve been writing and how many manuscripts they’ve completed.  You’ll see the occasional “rabbit” writer who’s connected early in his or her journey and this is their first novel after writing only months, but most often, you’ll see “tortoise” writers who have been working at their craft for years and have several novels completed.

If you approach your writer’s journey with the expectation of a tortoise’s pace, your frustration level will be lower, you’ll keep more joy in your writing and, should you turn out to be a rabbit-in-disguise, it will be a pleasant surprise if you get published quickly.

The joy of writing is what enchanted us from the beginning.  However you approach and execute your journey, however long it takes and however much success you realize, I wish you much joy.

My debut novel, Tabor’s Trinket, and the second in the series, Emerald Silk, both made the Denver best seller’s list.  I had been writing for eight years and had seven completed novels when I received my first contract.  Both books are available through



Filed under get published, The Writing Life

5 responses to “Success – are you a tortoise or a hare?

  1. Good points.

    I think that networking simply provides you with the opportunity to get noticed once your work gets good enough to print.

    There’s no use in crying about it, if you’re not getting published, then work on your craft, and make some kind of effort to meet new folks in the business.

    • redplume

      Thanks for your comment, Bryce. You’re so right-networking may open the door, but once it’s open, the book must stand on its own merit. I recommend writer’s conferences like the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, coming this year on September 11, 12, 13, 2009. I’m wishing you much success with your writing, Bryce. -J

  2. love this post and the sketch. Congratulations on the bestseller list — and thanks for visiting my blog 🙂

  3. I CRACKED UP at your comment on my blog, where you quoted me back to myself. You were so kind to say that the words sounded good, and I was reading them and thinking, “YEAH, they DO…” but kind of not even remembering/realizing that I wrote them. I guess that’s what “being in the zone” means — when you write something good without even realizing it….

    • redplume

      LOL, Jennie. You must have been in the zone. Okay, if you can write so effortlessly, I don’t know if I can talk to you. 😉

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