Musing on Monday: When Will I Make It?

I wasn’t going to post anything today, but then I read this fabulous post on Zoe Winters’ blog. (Don’t worry, I’ll be waiting for you when you get back from reading it.) A few minutes after that, I started chatting with one of my critique partners about how easy it is to fall into the trap of measuring your own success (or failure) by the yardstick of other writers’ successes.

Of course, we all know better than to do that, right? No one else is you, no one else writes your books (if someone else does, you’re either plagiarizing or have a ghostwriter, and either way, it means you’re not a writer), and no one’s path will be your path.

But the truth is, it’s hard not to feel a little bit of envy (or even a lot bit) when you see other writers achieving the type of success and recognition you so desperately crave. It’s doubly difficult to avoid when some of those writers are your friends, especially if they started writing and seeking publication at roughly the same time you did. It was easy to commiserate with each other over rejections. It’s much harder to congratulate those same friends when they’ve received great publishing contracts and are clearly well on their way to stardom while you’re still digging in the trenches, just praying you can land an agent, let alone a contract. (None of which is to say that said envy makes you not happy to see your friends’ successes. But I will say that I have seen more critique partner relationships break up when one gets a publishing contract and the other doesn’t. It just isn’t easy.)

So how does this tie into Zoe’s post? Well, she’s right. We all want validation. And we all probably have pretty much the same yardstick for validation–that is, that our writing is good enough for other people to want to read it. Or perhaps more accurately, good enough for other people to be willing to pay to read it. Whether you’re published by a big New York house, a small press, an epub, or even self-published, it comes down to having the sense that someone other than you values your writing. 

The problem is, for most of us, that goal of being valued by someone other than yourself is a moving goal post. At first, maybe all you want is for an agent to offer representation. It seems like that will be “making it.” But then, once you have an agent, the goal changes. Now you have to get an editor to like your book enough to publish it. But even when you get your contract, you haven’t “made” it, because now readers have to love it enough to buy it and recommend it to their friends and make you, if not an NYT bestselling author, at least a moderately successful one with good sales numbers so that your agent can sell your next book.

And man, it never ends. Wherever you’re at on the continuum, the goal post is always shifting and there’s always someone who’s “ahead” of you on the continuum. (Unless, of course, you’re Nora Roberts. But let’s face it, there’s only one of her.) Always someone who’s getting more love from editors, more love from reviewers, more love from readers.

So, how does one avoid this pitfall? Frankly, I don’t know if it’s entirely possible. And maybe a little envy is healthy. Maybe it makes us work harder, dream bigger, live larger.

But in the end, I think all writers (and artists of any stripe) have to come back to the place where “making it” isn’t defined by anyone or anything but our own satisfaction in having created a world we love in that place we call a book.

I Know It’s Been Quiet…

But that’s because I’ve been quietly plotting world domination…muahaha!

Well, that’s not entirely true. I did spend a few weeks under a rock after my option book proposal was…well, not exactly rejected, but postponed by my editor at Kensington. I knew there was a very good possibility of that happening, but when it actually did happen, I was a bit more discouraged than I thought I’d be. Even so, the door’s not locked, just temporarily closed. Prospects may be better in the fall.

In the meantime, my agent (the lovely Kevan Lyon of the newly-minted Marsal Lyon Literary Agency) and I decided the best course of action would be for me to dust off my Victorian-set single-title historical romance and finish it with the idea of shopping it during the summer. This is a book I started quite a while ago, and I really do love the characters and plot, so it’s no hardship to be working on it again after the hiatus. I’m about a third of the way into the manuscript now, and hope to finish the first draft by late May or early June.

I’m also trying to slip a few smaller projects in between the cracks. Those who read and enjoyed my first contemporary novella, The Gospel of Love: According to Luke, may be pleased to know that finished the sequel, According to Matthew, last month. It’s currently biding its time in the submission queue, but I hope to hear within a few more weeks whether it will be accepted for publication. I have a few other small irons on the fire, as well, including (are you ready?) a book I’m writing that’s aimed at the middle grade/YA market. (Hey, I have to write something my kids can read, right?)

And in addition to all that, I’m working on promotion for Behind the Red Door, which will be out in a mere two months! (I’m still sort of breathless over that). As part of that effort, I’ll be rolling out a new, improved website and blog on or about May 1. That probably means this blog will go away as I convert from Blogger to WordPress (hmmm, I wonder if Blogger considers that admission to be filterable content?).

With everything that’s going on, I’ll only be posting here sporadically for the next few weeks (but hopefully a bit more than the last few!). I do promise, however, to post soon and ask you if you have any questions you’d like me to ask some of the blog guests I’m lining up for the month of May. Among those who’ve already accepted my invitation to guest are my agent and her partner, Jill Marsal. So, be thinking about what you’d like to ask an agent, because I’ll be asking for questions soon!

Fun, Fun, Fun

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be getting up early and driving up to Orange County. Normally, I wouldn’t be thrilled to be getting up before eight a.m. on a Saturday morning, but in this case, I’m making an exception. You see, I’m going to attend the Orange County Chapter’s meeting, where I’ll be sitting on a panel to talk about the epublishing industry. My friend Tessa Dare invited me in December, and I have been looking forward to it ever since.

I love being around other writers, but I don’t get the opportunity very often. Getting away from my family on a Saturday, when my local chapter holds its meetings, is tough. Between our obligations to Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Girl Scouts and the general craziness of trying to keep up with general household chores, weekends always seem to be packed. The only reason I’m able to go up to do this panel tomorrow is that I planned WAY in advance and there was nothing on the Scouting schedule on Saturday.

Anyway, I’m expecting to meet some wonderful new people, including my fellow panelists. I’m particularly excited about meeting Jennifer Haymore, whose June 2009 release from Grand Central, looks extremely intriguing. And, of course, I’m thrilled that I get to see Tessa, whom I first met online during the Avon FanLit contest two years ago and then met in person at RWA National in Dallas the following summer. It’s going to be awesome!

YOUR TURN: Have any fun plans for the weekend? Spill!