Not that long ago, there was a series of posts on various blogs about writers who have made it. The criterion was you needed either an agent or a book contract. I will admit that my first reaction to this was, "I made it? Really? How did I miss that?" I do have an agent, but no book contract (yet). I feel like I'm in a pretty good spot, but I still wouldn't say that I've made it. Whatever it is.
That got me thinking. What is making it?
I used to think that as soon as I got a book contract life would be perfect. I would continue to spin out novels, work with the same editor at the same house, and walk into a bookstore and see every one of those novels sitting on a shelf under the letter B. After joining the SCBWI, going to multiple conferences, and befriending published authors, I learned that the publishing business isn't quite so simple as what I imagined it to be.
Editors, like any working person in today's corporate world, will often change houses to gain promotions (or sadly, be laid off when the economy takes a downturn). Even if you are lucky enough to work with the same editor for multiple books that isn't a guarantee that the editor will buy every one of your books. Also, even if you have ten novels published, it's possible some of them will go out of print.
I'm not trying to deter anyone from pursuing publishing. Nor, am I saying that the blogs that interviewed people who have gotten that first big break were wrong. Writing paths are usually a long one, and we need to celebrate every milestone, every bright moment along the way. Whether it's finishing the first draft of a novel, having an agent request a Full, or opening a box full of ARCs of a novel we spent years on, it all should be celebrated.
But I'm calling for an end to the term You've Made It.
All this does is give a false hope that there's this perfect situation waiting for us--if only we were them. If only this one thing happened. If only we were lucky enough.
Even if the extraordinary happens and you're living the dream with fans and a house that love your work, even if all of the normal problems are avoided, what then? Is it a time when you can just sit back, put your hands behind your head, and be content? I would argue that after a few months of bliss, this lucky writer would then start to think about what's next. Pursuing something new is inevitably risky.
It doesn't matter what stage we are in. There's always going to be problems. I think having goals is necessary. Dreaming is essential. And there's no better way to stay sane than to spend time with other writers and toast each other's successes. We need to feel great about where we are at the moment in our writing journey.
I have a lot of dreams. I still want to have a long working-relationship with an editor I respect. I still want to walk into a bookstore and see my novels under the letter B. When that dream is fulfilled, I imagine a new dream will take it's place. I'm not sure what that will be. Perhaps it will be an ambitious project that is outside of my usual genre. I don't know. I only know that there will always be something I want that's just out of reach, and I'll have to keep stretching if I want to get it.
4 hours ago