Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Writing Success – You Might Want To Start Telling a Different Story

What is your definition of writing success?  Is it rave reviews, worldwide fame, number of books sold, cash in the bank or the fact that your nearest and dearest think that your book is the best thing ever written since Shakespeare laid down his quill? Since I self published my first book in the Aten Sequence, Pharaoh’s Gold, like most newbie authors I have been reading all the blogs and forum posts about how to be a great author and promote my books.

Whitsunday Islands, Australia
Is this what success looks like? Yes please!

It seems like everyone has an opinion, which is great, but also that they believe that the way they have carved out their success is the only way to go. Some of these posts have led to panic and a sinking pit in my stomach that my books will never be a success and guess what – that it is all my fault! Yep, it’s totally my fault.  I didn’t read the post about beginning to promote my book at least a year before I released it on to the unsuspecting public, I haven’t sent it out to thousands of reviewers, I haven’t sent out press releases, done signings in coffee shops, tweeted my little heart out, amassed 10 million Facebook fans or any of the other myriad things that I have read that I MUST do or my books don’t stand a chance.

Now I’m not knocking any of the above marketing tools, they are all valid and have worked for many people.  What I think that I’m trying to say is that if you get too caught up in reading all the writing and publishing advice out there, it can literally paralyse you.  The task is too big, the amount of work formidable and only someone with the iron determination to work twenty four hours a day with no distractions will be successful and deserves to be successful.  Yes, you heard the word correctly – deserves.  There is a real evangelical, whip yourself until the blood runs feeling out there in author blogland.  You must at least half-kill yourself to succeed or you do not deserve it! I have learned that pure luck or success springing from nowhere seems only to inflame the mob, leading to howls of outrage and hisses of disbelief.  To earn your success, you have to suffer.  You have to be able to sit in that interview chair at the end of it all, dripping wounds on show, telling it like it was - a true tale of torture and suffering.

Now in my naivety I thought that stringing together around 70,000 words in a vaguely coherent story was the real hard work, so I was a bit shocked when I read that I still had the big mountain to climb.  For several months I panicked, I floundered around; I did a bit and then didn’t do most of it.  I felt totally overwhelmed by this huge, seemingly insurmountable obstacle that had been placed in front of me.  How was I even going to start building that shiny author website with lots of singing, moving gizmos and buttons?  What about all these book signing gigs, talks and radio shows?  How are all these other people doing it?

But after a lot of deep breathing, I decided that I needed to write another success story, one that was uniquely my own.  It took a lot of sifting through my beliefs, taking a hard look at all the things I have read and learned and examining my own priorities before I came to a startling conclusion. And this conclusion was that success for me was the pure joy and exhilaration I got from writing my book.  It was the process of crafting the story, creating the characters and bringing their very world into existence.  I have self published the first book in the Aten Sequence, am about to release the second and am currently writing the third. 

These characters I now know as well as my own family and friends.  Even if I don’t write every day, I will still be thinking about them, plotting a new part of the story or trying to change a bit I have already written to make it better.  Aten, Druitt, Neferhotep, Merytamen, Luke and all the others are now my mates; friends that I spend a lot of time with.  For the first time, I am killing off one of my characters and it is bringing a lump to my throat as I write the words that seal his fate.

Writing success for me is the joy I feel every day when I sit down at my laptop and continue my story or start writing a completely new one.  There are so many different characters out there, so many situations, events and emotions that I know that I will never run out of words.  Not even if somebody offered me £1 million to stop writing would I take it, because it is a part of who I am.  Writing for me is happiness, freedom, exhilaration and fulfilment.

 Every author is different and on their own path to success, so my advice would be to take on board any knowledge, tips and tools that resonate with you, that you know you are going to enjoy working with and just go for it. More importantly, know that trusting your own instincts and following your heart will lead you more surely towards your goal than any advice given by others, however well meant.

Do I want my Aten Sequence books to be read by lots of other people? Do I want to find fame and fortune with them? Yes of course I do and I know that I will probably have to use some of the marketing and promotional tools that luckily we now have available to do it.  But I’m open to experiencing pure luck and being an overnight success with no effort involved.  I’m going to stop beating myself up about what I don’t do and give myself a big pat on the back for what I do get done.  For me, the path to success is no longer through suffering and hardship. I’m going to spend my precious time doing more of what lights my life up, which is writing.  I’m going to start writing myself a different success story.