Tag Archives: success

A writers tale, perspective on success, failure and living the dream

Guest Post by J. Nathanial Corres

In retrospect, there have been hints all my life that I was destined to be a storyteller or writer of tales. My favourite class in secondary school and university was creative writing. My only obstacle was, and still is, myself. Specifically, not putting up barriers such as measuring myself versus others in terms of success. All the truly great storytellers of our time simply wrote from the heart and let all else fall into place.

To elaborate, they told their stories in their own words. This is crucial in an age where the proverbial norm has been to cookie-cutter authors and stories—follow fads instead of the readers’ hearts and desires. This leads to one of my big pet peeves with the industry. The two terms that, over the last two hundred years, have changed very little if it all and only aesthetically.

Those would be “unproven writer” and “there’s no market for this.” The big guys seem to forget the history of the industry and all the times those terms have come back to haunt them. Starting with Mary Shelley and even up to Joann Rowling. The short memory of the big publishers has cost them dearly.

Additionally, there is an article I read a while back that said publishers relied on editors for a final vote of approval despite the fact that many, it seems, have rejected perfectly good work as rubbish just to spite their employers in a vain effort to bolster themselves. Politics as usual in the corporate sector.

As for myself, I’ve not paid any heed to the criticism or rejections from such places. I never listen to criticism anyway. I write as I envision the story with minor clean-ups here and there for grammar, unless it’s for dialogue, and then everything remains unless I forget to finish my characters’ thoughts. The optimum for any writer is to excite the senses and imagination of the reader so they can see each scene as it plays out, to depict the world or setting of the tale as it takes place and bring the characters to life.

When a reader can tell me they could see the protagonists and antagonists as clearly as they can see themselves, I feel as if I’ve done my job: basically, give the reader their own personal cinematic experience without leaving the comfort of their own home.

To summarise, my idea of success is painting an effective picture with words. To me there’s no such animal as an unproven writer, especially when they have pages and pages of manuscripts either physically before them or on a computer. The difference between a good and great publisher is that a great publisher never seeks a market, they let the work create its own. Don’t believe me? Ask J.K. Rowling or Rick Riordan. Tolkien isn’t available.

Don’t Throw The Game For One Goal

A Guest Post by Jessica Brawner

In football, the kicker takes the field. He kicks the tiny oblong ball through the gigantic goalposts, and the crowd goes wild! Cheering, clapping, praise and acclaim! That’s what we all want; to hear that wild clapping when we achieve a goal, someone to praise us when we did well, to pat us on the back, or in the case of sports fans, dump a cooler full of Gatorade over our head. Right?

What if we missed? What if we didn’t make the goal? Do we get the dreaded mass groan and boo? Do we lose the whole game?

The answer in football is—sometimes. Thankfully the writing process is not a spectator sport, nor does it hinge on one decision. Our misses are seen only by ourselves and the editor who sent us the rejection letter. We all miss sometimes, and even the best kickers in history don’t have a perfect record. Do we beat ourselves up until we’re black and blue for every goal we didn’t make? (I hope not! That’s not much motivation to continue is it?)

So you missed your goal. WHY did you miss your goal? Take a few moments to re-evaluate and see where things went sideways.

Did you miss the deadline? What happened?

Was there a life event that got in the way? Or were you just not motivated enough to sit down and get the words out? Are you using the one as an excuse for the other? (Hint: life always gets in the way. Learn to work around it.) Try setting a reasonable daily word count. For some people this may be 200 words, for others it may be 2000. Look at your life circumstances and what you want to achieve with your writing and set a plan or a playbook that works for you.

Does your writing or storytelling need improvement?

Find a mentor, or take one of the many, many online (or in person!) classes available. Find one that focuses on what you need to improve. Go to a writing boot-camp!

Were your eyes too big for your stomach? (Or did you set a goal that you’re not ready to reach yet?) It’s great to aim for the really big prize; it’s how we ended up with airplanes and rockets and a host of other scientific and artistic inventions. Remember though, each large advancement required intermediate goals to reach the big prize. Make sure you are setting the mid-size goals as well as larger goals.

An example, I would like to put out a book of short stories at the end of next year and have my business, Story of the Month Club (www.storyofthemonthclub.com) to a level where we can pay authors professional rates. These are both large goals. To achieve the first I have joined a group to write 52 stories in 52 weeks. A story a week. Taken as a whole it’s intimidating, but broken down I have set a small goal for every week of next year. If I fail one week, I can succeed the next, and if I succeed enough times I will have enough stories for a book. Success or failure does not hinge on one goal.

For Story of the Month Club, it will probably take longer than a year, but I have laid out a plan and several strategies for progress. The point is to keep going, keep striving, and keep trying. (And try new things!)

If the kicker misses a field goal, the coach doesn’t beat him up about it (much); the coach makes him practice more. Good kickers practice and persevere until they can do their job with their eyes closed and one hand tied behind their back while facing down five defensive ogres. All skillsets require practice. Have patience with yourself. Set reasonable AND stretch goals. Have a playbook to guide you.

 


 

Jessica Brawner writes both fiction and non-fiction. Her first book, Charisma +1: The Guide to Convention Etiquette for Gamers, Geeks and the Socially Awkward was released through WordFire Press in 2014. You can find out more about Jessica on her website at www.jessicabrawner.com

Goal Setting and the Metrics of Success and Failure

This month on the Fictorians, many of us are following up on posts we made back in January and July. We’ve given a great deal of thought over the past twelve months to setting goals, meeting them, and coping with the inevitable shortcomings and failures that are common with people managing their own destinies.

Like most careers, becoming a self-sustaining writer is not unlike climbing a mountain—but one that has no summit. It’s more a matter of reaching one plateau after another in a line of them that extends to the end of our days.

I use that analogy deliberately because of something I noticed recently on Amazon.com. Amazon—that mega, web-enabled shopping cart of doom—has become a mainstay for traditional, hybrid, and indie-pub authors alike. We ply our wares there, and many of us track the status of our success or lack thereof in a little place called Author Central. If you have books or stories of any kind, regardless of publisher, that are available on Amazon, then I would recommend you go through the exercise of setting up your Author Central Account and tying in all your available works back to that account.

Once you have this mechanism in place, you can track where you sit in the Amazon author rankings. I must add here that it may be a bit daunting at first. To give you an example, my data goes all the way back to September 28th, 2012. My rank started at 386,929. Between then and November 2nd of this year, I saw a low of 629,888 and a high of 35,451. It’s a jagged graph that seems to plot, at least partially, when the novel came out or was revamped in a new edition. It also seems to reflect when the anthologies I was in came out.

Then something happened. On the 2nd of November there was a sharp spike in my ranking. It jumped to 4,500 and then slid back down slightly to hover for the past month around 20k. That is the plateau I was talking about. The beauty of it is that I can track that spike to three separate releases that all occurred at roughly the same time. Essentially, One Horn to Rule Them All, Fantastic Holidays: The Gift of Stories, and The Best of Penny Dread Tales all hit the streets or had media spikes almost simultaneously, and this gave me a bit more “street cred” in Amazon’s ranking algorithms.

I mention this all because while goals are an important aspect of being a writer, tracking metrics on your successes and failures is the first step in truly managing your writing career. We all need to have an understanding of what a success is—beyond just finishing a story or getting it accepted somewhere. There is a bigger end-game that many of us work towards: namely, making our writing career a viable means of self-employment. You can’t steer your course unless you know where you are succeeding and failing. Author Central is just one mechanism to do this. Maybe what you are looking for are positive book reviews, or sales data, or invitations to conventions. The metric you use isn’t nearly as important as having the knowledge of where you are in your career path.

Be aware of these things. Set your goals, implement the tools to track your success, and consider each “failure” as a stepping-stone to the next success. I quote Thomas A. Edison who said, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” While it wouldn’t surprise me that Edison stole that quote from Tesla, the import of what he said is paramount to us. Failures are inevitable. We need to know each one intimately, so continue to have them, and use them as a foothold to the next success. And have a means of knowing when you’ve reached your goals. It’s always more than just finishing a story. In fact, finishing the story is just where the work begins.

Keep writing.

 

Q.

Fighting the Huns

It’s always been easy for me to write, especially with the advent of the computer and keyboard. It’s safe to say that writing was what got me through college and even added to the reasons why my IT employers kept me around over the years. I can’t think of a job I had over the past twenty-five years that didn’t involve writing of some kind, whether it was technical specifications, user guides, or policies and procedures for the departments I was involved with.

However, there’s a difference between writing as a facet of your job and turning your writing into a career. That’s an entirely different kettle of fish. I’ve mentioned it before, but part of what kept me from pursuing writing as a career when I was twenty had to do with being convinced by someone else that I didn’t want to be a starving artist the rest of my life. There’s more to it, though. There is, in fact, a litany of reasons why part time and hobbyist writers don’t undertake the challenge of becoming a full-time writer. If that litany of reasons has a name, then that name is fear.

There is certainly the fear of not earning enough to pay the bills. The bigger fear, however, is the fear of actually making it: of putting your words out there for all the word to read. Writing is not unlike streaking, albeit in an intellectual rather than physical way. Writers pour themselves into their words. All their fears and hopes, all of their creativity becomes manifest upon the page for anyone and everyone to see. And in that process, there’s a sense of something akin to violation, or perhaps desperation is a better word for it. We have these words inside us, and we want to put them out there as a method of being accepted and even enjoyed. We hope that our words will prompt emotional responses or take readers to places they’d never even dreamed of. And if we do this, if we make the countless hurdles that must be crossed in order to achieve even a modicum of success, then there becomes an expectation on the part of readers that we’ll keep doing it.

I’m reminded of the Pink Floyd’s song What Do You Want From Me. It encapsulates this emotion of how hungry an audience can become. And as an artist, having achieved the successes that we all hope lay ahead, there is a feeling of obligation that can consume a creative mind… an obligation to continue feeding the need. For some that obligation has led to self-destruction.

And on the flip-side of achieving success is the haunting question “Will the words be good enough?” Will people hate what I do or, worse yet, relegate me to the abyssal ignominy of never-having-been-heard-of. Will all of my endeavors, pouring heart and soul into my writing year after year, go utterly unrecognized or somehow misconstrued and reviled?

Add to that the sacrifices that I now know are necessary to make it as a writer, and you get a volatile mixture of pain and sacrifice and responsibility that make the whole gig, if broken down into those disparate parts, something that doesn’t sound at all appealing. However, looking back on the past five years—five years where I’ve never been happier stumbling and bumbling and failing here and there—I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

You see, all of the trials and travails, the doubts and fears, they are all nothing more than Huns at the gate of a writer’s sanity. They can stop us from trying, instill us with a fear that freezes us and prevents us from chasing the dream. I was forty-two years old when I finally overcame the Huns and decided to chase the dream no matter what the cost.

That’s what I would tell my younger self: ignore the fears, take the sacrifices in stride, and face down the fears like so much ash on the wind. If I had started doing then what I’m doing now, I’d be well ahead of the game. I’d already have made the transition into full-time writer and created at least a couple of noteworthy compositions. As a result of letting the Huns get to me, I’m twenty years behind schedule and have a long, uphill battle to get where I’m going. And now that battle is made more difficult because I’m fighting time as well. In your forties, when your back hurts and your knees ache, when the silver and gray creeps into your hairline, and that hairline starts to fly south for the inevitable and utterly final winter, you realize that the clock is ticking, has always been ticking, and of late seems to be ticking faster.

There is no time like the present, and I should have realized that when I was twenty, not twice that age. They say youth is wasted on the young. I’m here to tell you that if you’re young and you have even a glimmer of hope that you can become a full-time writer, get started now. Suck it up. Give the finger to your fears and invest in your future now. It only gets harder the longer you wait.

 

Q