What Success Looks Like (Maryanne Fantalis)

At the end of December, I finished Loving Beatrice, my second book in the Shakespeare's Women Speak series, and sent it off to my publisher.

That's success.

For some reason -- for many reasons -- I struggled to write this second book. Writers often talk about the sophomore slump: how writing the next novel, after you've gotten one published, is really, really hard. I thought the notion was ridiculous... until it happened to me.

I had always assumed that once I was published, the sheer joy of that notion would infuse my writing life with passion. Instead, the idea that people were waiting on this book -- real people, publishing people, readers -- nearly paralyzed me. For a long time, I could not write. I tinkered, I researched, I fidgeted, I pretended, but I didn't produce anything of substance. I, who had long prided myself on never getting "blocked" -- I could not write.

And so, finishing this book is what success looks like to me right now.

Overcoming the almost stultifying fear that I could not write another novel at a level I think is good enough for publication: that's success.

Reminding myself that, in fact, I did have processes in place to accomplish this task: that's success.

Rediscovering my main character's voice: that's success.

Remembering that, no, I do not have to write linearly and that when I sat for nearly SIX MONTHS in one scene, that was a really stupid thing to do and wasted a lot of time that could have been better spent writing other scenes and THAT'S a mistake I'll never make again: SUCCESS!

Figuring out that setting unrealistic deadlines and then beating yourself up when you don't reach them and then wallowing in guilt is a bad idea: that's success

Deciding to cheer yourself on when you make progress, even if it's only a hundred words or a bit of planning: also success

Jumping with glee right into the next novel within a couple of weeks after sending off the last one, feeling energized and ready to go, with a mountain of emotional baggage lifted from your shoulders...

Well, yeah. All of that is how I define success right about now. 


  1. Oh, I know this paralysis well! In 2015, SOME BOYS was an RWA Rita Finalist. I became obsessed with the thought that this book was the best I'll ever be and it still wasn't good enough to win.

    Wrong mindset! It took me a long time to reprogram my thoughts and get back to basics.

    1. Isn't it strange how success can be our biggest obstacle? I never believed it until it happened to me. I'm sorry you had to deal with that, but congrats on the Rita honor!

  2. CONGRATS on finishing, Maryanne. My second book was actually acquired by my publisher before the first book was published. I didn't know it at the time, but that may have been a real blessing. And I am completely with you on not writing linearly!

  3. Thanks, Holly! For all my metaphors to my students about patchwork quilts and "Franken-drafts", I sure forgot that lesson myself for a while. It's so hard to lift yourself out of that place once you're in it, though.


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