You may well have heard the statistics: less than 2% of submitted fiction manuscripts will ever be published. How can you possibly be a success with odds like that?
Well, I have good news about that for you in the page on the odds of being published. Having said that, the fact remains that the odds are against you - and I have a whole section, Getting Published to help you make a success of your fiction writing career.
However, here I want to share with you something quite revolutionary; something you might not have thought of before.
It’s this: to guarantee your success as a fiction writer, just define success differently.
This might sound flippant, but I’m fully serious.
Writing a novel, or play, or screenplay, or whatever, is a huge undertaking. It may well take you a year or more of your life. It’s going to require persistence, and commitment, and sacrifice.
It seems too much to put yourself through all that when it could all be for nothing. So let’s make sure it’s not for nothing.
Mark Victor Hansen, the co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books, tells us that becoming a millionaire is a very worthwhile endeavour; not so much for the million dollars, but because of the person you have to become in order to earn a million dollars.
This is so profound. To earn a million dollars (or euros or pounds even) you have to go so much out of your comfort zone, and grow as a person.
And the same thing applies to any difficult and challenging endeavour, from running the marathon to - yes, writing a novel.
So I suggest that you celebrate each stage of being a fiction writer as you achieve it. This way you cannot fail.
- Don't forget that you can put the odds of success on your side by learning your craft well, and using the best tools.
- Celebrate the success of making the commitment to yourself that you’ll write regularly - and of keeping that commitment. That’s you growing as a person, becoming disciplined.
- Celebrate the success of your fact that you kept going even when it was difficult and seems impossible. That’s a massive achievement, and I think we often don't give ourselves enough credit for that.
- Celebrate the success of finishing your novel! True, it’s a success you can’t really share, because it won’t mean anything to anybody else. Who cares? You know that it’s a success. Enjoy it, celebrate it. An agent once told me that very many people begin novels but only a small proportion finish them. If you fall into that select category, that’s an achievement by any standards. I do remember the sense of pride I got when I finished my first novel, because I had now become a person who can finish novels despite all the fears and doubts and laziness and so on. I was a person strong enough to overcome all those things and keep going, and that was definitely a huge success for me.
- Celebrate the success of sending your manuscript off to agents/publishers. That’s scary, but you still did it. Congratulate yourself.
- When you get rejections - and learn from them, move on (possibly using EFT to quickly get over the upset and the fear of trying again). Many people don’t keep going. They give up after the first rejection even, or after a few. So if you have the courage to keep going, that's huge personal growth right there. And it may well lead to your publishing success too.
When the day finally comes that you receive a publishing contract - then for sure celebrate that!
And then you’ll worry about sales figures, overseas sales, having your contract renewed, getting a film deal … it never ends, so make sure to celebrate each step as it happens.
This advice might sound a bit flippant, but I am 100% serious about it. The only way to guarantee your success is to define that success differently. And that's not a trick or a cop-out; on the contrary, it's perfectly reasonable. The odds of being published are probably against you, so if you insist on that being your measure of success it's putting huge pressure on yourself, and is a quick way to writer's block.
And paradoxically, the less pressure you put on yourself to achieve a narrow definition of success, the more likely you are to achieve that narrow definition of success, i.e. to be published. This is because you'll relax into the book and are more likely to write it well, and you're definitely more likely to finish it. And that can only lead to you being more likely to be published.