Writer in Training


Writer in Training

Defining Success


Apologies for the later-than-usual posting. It's been a long and frustrating day with a few computer issues so I wasn't able to sit down and write this until the kids were in bed. On the plus side, today we signed the mortgage papers and paid the deposit for our new house so that was a really good part of the day. Last night as I tossed and turned in bed, I was pondering what success means to me. It started because I was hoping that Ashael Rising will be a success but then I had to wonder - how will I know? How am I defining success in relation to the book?

I mean, if I'm looking for Brandon Sanderson's kind of success then I'm going to be disappointed. To be fair, even Brandon Sanderson didn't have that kind of success with his first book. Elantris was no Way of Kings. You can see his growth over the span of his career into his well-deserved place in the best seller lists.

So, I'm neither expecting nor looking for that kind of success.

Am I looking for glowing reviews? Well, it would be nice but it's not that important to me. I'm a member of Scribophile, an online writing and critiquing group. I highly recommend it to any writers that may be reading this. One of the most valuable lessons I've taken from there is don't take any one person's opinion too seriously.

The very first piece of writing I posted there was for a short story competition. The very first critique I received began "Let's be honest, this was really boring." It proceeded to pretty much tear apart my story. There may have been tears. The next critique was kinder, as was the one after that. With no editing at all after that first critique, my story won first place in the competition. Which just demonstrates how different people can experience the same story in vastly different ways.

So, while I hope the book gets good reviews, I'm certainly not going to define it's worth by them.

I'm a member of The British Fantasy Society. The other day, in their Facebook group, they shared photos of this year's awards and I have to admit, I coveted them. They are beautiful and I indulged in a very brief daydream of being awarded one for best newcomer.

While it was a pleasant daydream, I don't expect awards or particularly care about them. I don't tend to keep track of what awards there are for SFF, never mind who wins them. So while I would consider it a sign of success, it's not what I'm looking for.

So far, I've managed to rule out a few things but I'm not much closer to working out what I would define as a success.

I thought about sales. Surely lots of sales would suggest the book was a success. The thing is, I don't know what that looks like. What are the average number of sales for debut fantasy novels? I suspect this is an area where opinions will vary. I might think 1000 sales counts as successful while a big publisher might be looking some more zeroes on the end!

That's not going to work then.

I guess you could define success as making a lot of money. Except, money doesn't matter much to me. Sure, I want to have enough to pay my bills and to take the kids on fun day trips etc but my desires are modest. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't say no to a nice big royalties cheque, but I don't particularly crave it either. Financially, my fondest day dream is that I could earn enough to replace my husband's income so that he could find a career that calls to him the way that writing calls to me. Or so that he could look after the kids and I could write full time. But either way, he wouldn't have to go to a job he doesn't much care for every day. That could be achieved with a lot less money than one might think, but it's at least a couple of years away.

So, how will I know if Ashael Rising is a success?

I think what matters to me is that the majority of people who read it enjoy it enough to want to read the next one. I hope some readers get a bit emotional at the end, like I did in writing it. I want people to fall in love with Ashael and envy Bhearra and feel Iwan's pain. I want readers to care. I want them to feel the story and need to know how it all works out. If I can achieve that, then I'll consider the book a success.

How about you? How would you define the success of a book?