Dear New Writer,
You are working yourself to nubs. I know you are. You are reading new fiction and studying the industry. You are networking at conferences and online. You are drafting new work, joinging critique groups, revising. You are learning your craft and the ins and outs of the world of publishing.
All so you can someday hear the most glorious word: “Yes.” From an agent or (better yet) a publishing house.
It will, you assume, be the ultimate sign of success.
But I guarantee you, as soon as you start to spread the word, it won’t be.
Awful as it is, cruel as it sounds, you will encounter people who will downplay it, dismiss it. And there are ALWAYS reasons to dismiss it. Maybe you aren’t publishing with one of the Big 5. Maybe you didn’t get a huge advance. No, you’ll have to say, I didn’t sell the movie rights. No, Jodi Picoult isn’t going to blurb it.
Then they’ll get this look on their face like you’ve just proved this isn’t such a big deal at all—certainly not a success.
To be fair, this isn’t the only reaction you’ll have. As you make your announcements, you’ll get plenty of really lovely responses—heartfelt congratulations. But for some reason, the negativity can have more of a lasting impact than anything positive.
Don’t let it. Dear writers, do not let the naysayers move the needle, rewrite your OWN definition of success.
And here’s the other thing: Before that yes comes, don’t let the naysayers define you. Don’t let them convince you that successes aren’t to be found all along the way: finishing your first novel. (Success!) Getting up the guts to query your first agent. (Success!) Getting the first request to read your manuscript. (Success!) Self-publishing one of your works—a book or a short story or a poem. (Success!)
Yes, dear writer, if I could give you one little bit of advice, it’s this: You are a success. Right now. We love end results. We love to point to bestseller lists. Rows of published books on a shelf. Big houses purchased with giant advances. But the pursuit of a dream is a success. In a world where it is so hard just to get started. To say, “This is what I want.” To have the wherewithal to put pen to paper.