Tag Archives: Success

Gauging Progress

We’ve looked at what constitutes success in a few old threads, including these:



But, I was recently reading an article by writing guru Jane Friedman, where she said that “The only true measure of a book’s success is sales”.

Strictly speaking, she’s correct, for any artist creating a piece of work to be sold to the public is entering commerce. Films are judged by their box office receipts, paintings become treasures by reaching stratospheric auction prices, a musician’s sales are proof of their talent (or their publicist’s marketing skills), so why shouldn’t a writer’s progress as a writer be measured by sales?

But, that ignores the writer’s relationship with their stories, the struggle they went through to get the ideas onto the page. It’s an achievement to write a book. Many say that they want to, but do nothing about it. We work alone, though the support of friends, family and writing group members is a comfort. But, we’re still alone, unsure of where we’re going, so how do we gauge our progress?

Looking at my efforts since I returned to creative writing in 2013, I’ve typed about 2,000,000 words, some of which worked as story-telling. I’ve self-published 48 titles of short stories, novellas, poetry and song lyrics, arousing little interest in readers. I’ve completed five novels in my Cornish Detective series, querying agents 750 times, which has increased the depth of my hide. I may finally have piqued the interest of a publisher, who asked for a full manuscript this summer. I’m waiting on them. I’m ready to self-publish on Amazon’s KDP Select should they say ‘No’.

I’ve also started this writing blog and a website devoted to my Cornish Detective. Somehow, that didn’t feel like progress, more like putting scaffolding into place for a house of stories that few may visit.

I’m not sure if I’m sanguine or cynical about the business of publishing. I do know that it’s best not to take myself too seriously when receiving rejections.

I love writing stories. It’s joyful for me. In the last six years, I’ve learned a lot about technique and punctuation, which is progress, but for me, it’s the reactions of readers that show how I’ve improved.

Three of my friends offered to be beta readers of a novella about assisted suicide, and all cried at the same point (Yes!), which made me tear-up too and I knew what was going to happen!

I wrote humorous poetry for infants, which made the daughters of a friend laugh and start writing their own poems. Blimey, I’m influential! A short story I wrote was satisfying to one reader, as it ended exactly as she hoped, which was my intention. It’s great to surprise readers, but there are times when they crave the predictable.

Not to forget, that writing stories creates a fresh identity for you, which is real progress keeping you interested in who you are and arousing curiosity in others. Anyone who produces a book is infinitely more intelligent and sexier than they were before!

Huge sales of your books would be fantastic, but it’s the human reactions that really matter. Isn’t it?

How do you gauge your progress as a writer?

By blogging or communicating on social media?

By contributing to a writing group?

By typing 5,000 words daily?

By getting a response from readers?

Envy & the Writer

Booklife.com has an interesting article on how writers become envious of the success of other authors:

What Writers Need to Know About Envy

With some writers, I experience not envy, more a feeling of admiration for the strength of their writing. Authors such as James Lee Burke, Dennis Lehane and Barbara Kingsolver compose sentences and paragraphs that have me immediately re-reading them.

If any envy does creep in, it’s for the fact that they’re not constrained in the way that I feel limited by the hoops I have to jump through as an unknown author—irksome things, such as the 80,000 word limit for crime novels, and starting my story with a sensationalistic event that grabs the attention of some dozy editorial assistant trawling through the slush pile.

I tend to suffer more from bewilderment than envy, mystified at how a weak and flawed novel got published. I recently finished a highly-praised crime novel, which came with fifteen endorsements on its cover and opening pages, from other authors and critics. They said things like ‘I had to sleep with the lights on after reading it’, ‘truly terrifying’ and ‘an eerie, spine-tingling read’. Maybe I’m desensitized by writing my own crime stories, but I felt mildly scared just four times in reading it.

To add to my confusion, the novel had several editing mistakes, including ‘baited breath’ when they meant ‘bated breath’. Considering the amount of time that I spend repeatedly going over my manuscript, weeding out punctuation and spelling errors, I’m amazed that so-called professionals let such things slip.

Who would want to be as successful as J. K Rowling? The first author to become a billionaire from her work, she’s given away so much money that her wealth dropped to half-a-billion—but gosh darn it, has recently risen to roughly one billion!

All well and good, you might think, but she has to employ bodyguards to prevent kidnapping and terrorist attacks. Imagine what an attractive target she is for a demented ISIS suicide bomber, as an author who writes about witchcraft.

There’s such a thing as being too successful!

Do any of you suffer from writer envy, or are you like me, merely baffled at how some books get published, when you can’t get any attention for your brilliant manuscript?

Author Interviews Website

I subscribed to crime novelist James Oswald’s newsletter two months ago. His career as an author is inspirational, going from rejections to self-publishing success to signing with Penguin.

Anyway, in this month’s newsletter he mentions a relatively new website called Author Interviews.

Only seven authors have been interviewed so far, including James Oswald, but you can sign up for an alert to tell you when fresh interviews are posted.