Luck and the Writer

Four_Leaf_Clover_03[1]Back in February, I discussed the concept of success, after reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success. Today, I want to focus on the concept of luck.

I read an interesting blog about a month ago by thriller writer Joe Konrath. He writes an excellent blog about the writing biz, and as a hybrid author with a substantial backlist, he has a lot to say about publishing, promoting, and marketing. You can find his blog HERE. He also has an interesting take on why most authors’ marketing plans won’t work. What it comes to, in his view, is luck. But the question then becomes, how does one become luckier?

Some people call luck a matter of preparation meeting opportunity. I don’t disagree. I remember reading an article about a Canadian woman who’d been incredibly lucky at winning contests. She had a room filled with prizes. When asked what made her so lucky, she said it was because she probably entered more contests than most people. In fact, she had turned contest-entering into a full time job.

Yesterday, I came across a similar article about folks who constantly win sweepstake prizes. In fact, there’s a whole group of them who take this so seriously that they’re referred to as sweepers. You can read more about them HERE. I was struck by the comment from one of the frequent contest winners, who stated that luck had nothing to do with her large haul. It was about effort and persistence.

Sometimes luck truly does seem to come out of the blue. Maybe a horrific car crash you managed to avoid by just one minute has nothing to do with persistence and effort. Maybe carrying a four-leaf clover or talisman does help some people, who knows?

Personally, I believe that luck often emerges from a series of decisions, opportunities, and right-time, right-place circumstances. But even that’s not the whole picture. Maybe there’s no rhyme nor reason why someone’s thriller gains fabulous attention and mega sales while an equally well-crafted thriller with a gorgeous cover and an amazing back cover blurb doesn’t. We could speculate that if the “unlucky” author had targeted his market differently or tried a different promotion strategy, then maybe it would have made a difference. On the other hand, maybe it wouldn’t have. We can drive ourselves crazy wondering over stuff like that.

Joe’s answer to making one’s luck is to keep writing books. He doesn’t discount using ads, blogs, social media, etc, for promotion, but he makes it clear that those efforts won’t guarantee any sales. Writing is the only thing you can really control, he says, and if you keep doing it and getting better at it, you just might get lucky enough to have a bestseller on your hands. For many of us, isn’t that the dream which lets our imaginations run wild, that gets us out of the bed every morning and open to all possibilities?

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An Inspiring Family Conversation

Cartoon of Girl WritingI don’t often discuss my writing projects with my family. In fact, many writers I know don’t discuss their work in general, some because they feel it might jinx it or diminish their enthusiasm. Others believe that non-writing friends and family wouldn’t be interested. Let’s face it, there’s a reason no one’s made a TV show or reality contest about novel writing. It’d be pretty boring to watch.

My husband, daughter, and future son-law are all accountants, and my son is a science major working in the tech field. You can well imagine that my job doesn’t really fit into conversations easily, which is fine. It doesn’t bother me that no one’s ever asked “how’d your writing go today?” Most days, the answer would be pretty vague and monosyllabic.

This weekend, my daughter was helping me add hyperlinks to my ebooks and later, while we were having dinner she asked when my next book would be published. She also asked me about my creative process. She wanted to know if I create a situation, incident, or plot and then weave my series characters to fit that, or do I look at my characters first and create a situation to fit them? It was a great question, which launched a discussion about the creative process.

You see, my husband also paints water colors as a hobby. My daughter is a terrific writer and articulate communicator in her own right. She exceled at novel analyses in English classes and wrote songs and played guitar in her late teens. Both my husband and daughter have friends who are professional artists, so creativity isn’t completely foreign to their world.

It was a fascinating discussion because I learned things about my husband’s hobby that I never knew (he often gets up at the crack of down and experiments with drawings before he leaves for work), and I learned how my daughter’s friend arrives at the themes and decisions that appear in her paintings.

Through the half hour or so we spent sharing experiences and ideas, I became more excited at the prospect of finishing my current WIPS, of exploring topics in ways that I hadn’t considered in a long time. It was enlightening, inspiring, and a great boost. Isn’t it amazing where inspiration comes from?

Book Launch Memories

Speaking at Golden Ears, Oct 21, 2014This week, I had the pleasure of attending a book launch for a colleague who’s about to have her first children’s book published. It’s been a long haul for her, and I wanted to get my hot-off-the-press copy. Her name, by the way, is Eileen Holland and her book is Sophie Trophy (I hope to have her guest blog in the near future!). It’s a delightful story for the 8 to 10 age group.

Her event Monday night was held in the same room where I launched my second novel back in 2008. Seeing Eileen’s happiness and exuberance brought back great memories of other book launches I’ve attended and hosted, and I have to say there’ve been a few of them. Looking back, I’ve attended launches at arts centers, community halls, libraries, bookstores, a pub, a restaurant, a church, and of course, there’s been a few Facebook online launches.

My first launch back in 1995 is still one of my favorites, not just because this was my first published book but because it was a house party for friends, families, and writing colleagues. We served a lot of food and wine that night, I sold books, and everyone had a good time. Best of all, I didn’t have to worry about being out of the room by a certain time or cleaning up early. Honestly, if I hold another one, I might just do it again, which brings me to my second point. Will I ever do another launch? Even though, I’ll be bringing out book number ten over the next few months, it’s not a question I can answer right now.

While I didn’t hold a physical launch for my latest Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock, I did the usual launch-day announcements. It was the third week of November and I was in over my head with weekend craft fairs, the day job, and my publisher’s launch of one of my novellas a week after that.

While it’s still gratifying to see a new book in print, I’m not overly excited to be the center of attention again. The speech preparation, venue rental, RSVPs, and catering issues have always caused this introvert a fair bit of anxiety. Still, maybe another house party is the answer. We’ll see. The Blade Man is coming either later this year or early next…I’ll let you know when.

A Writer’s Strength

thinking-writing[1]I recently came across an interesting article in Entrepreneur entitled “12 Things Mentally Strong People Do That No One Else Does”. What struck me most about this piece is that you could substitute the word ‘people’ for ‘writers’ and it would be just as apt, if not more so.

For writers who plan to be in the biz for the long haul, I’d say those 12 ‘things’ are essential to survival and success, however you define that word. You can find the article HERE, but I want to share the five tips that stood out for me most:

.           Mentally strong people learn to say no

.           They overcome their inner critic

.           They delay gratification

.           They don’t blame others

.           They respect, and even like, their competitors

Two others, expressing gratitude and creating my own definition of success, are things I’ve already been doing a while. The one I’m working on these days is exposing myself to pain, which extends beyond my writing life.

If I can do better at the ones I’m stumbling over, perhaps the desire and stamina to write, publish, market and sell books for another twenty+ years will stay with me as well.

My Own November Challenge

I’ve often been tempted to participate in the amazing Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) where writers commit to writing 50,000 words from Nov 1 – Nov. 30. It appears to be a great way to start a novel, but November is absolutely the worst time of year for me to attempt it. You see, I have my own writing challenges every November, especially this one.

This fall I’m releasing two books (more about the second one next week), promoting both through extra blogs and social networking, plus selling print copies of my books at four different craft fairs.

All this is being done while maintaining the day job and starting Christmas preparations. To keep myself sane and happy, I also spend the first hour of every day writing. After all, it’s what I most love to do.

Keeping all these balls in the air can be difficult, yet I need to test myself, not just as a writer, but as a business person. I want to see what I’m capable of and to learn where I need to cut back. I’m in the thick of things now. It’s exhilarating and exhausting, and I can’t say there’s a lot of peace of mind at this point, but I’ll be able to assess this a little more clearly at the end of this year. Meanwhile, I wish all those who are attempting Nanowrimo the best of luck!

Knock Knock, front cover

Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/y6wejnls

Apple: http://tinyurl.com/y96xscpv

Amazon: myBook.to/KnockKnock

#amblogging: A Disciplined Writer? Well, Kind Of…

Writing Clip Art(2)jpgThe most common thing said to me by writing colleagues is that I’m a disciplined writer. This always takes me by surprise a little because I don’t think of myself as disciplined, just a habitual writer. Someone who does a little bit of writing and editing seven days a week, whenever I can fit it in between the day job, the chores, and family demands. For the most part, it’s been that way since I started writing 35 years ago.

On a really good day—and those are rare—I’ll manage three hours of writing, but never at one sitting. I don’t get up especially early to write. Nor do I sit at the computer for hours on end. Even if I could, I’m not sure I would.

From 2010 to 2013 I had the opportunity to write full time. But even with regular writers’ group sessions, I felt that I was isolating myself too much. So I returned to a part-time day job. Now I have two part-time jobs (one has very few hours per month), and I just took on some volunteer work, again with only a couple of hours per month.

I tend to forget that not everyone can, or even wants to write every day, and that gathering the willpower to finish a novel is a struggle for many. For me, slow and steady gets the job done, eventually.

Sure, I sometimes wish I was a faster, more prolific writer, and more efficient at marketing. But as I grow older I also appreciate how important family is. My ambition isn’t as strong as it once was. Sure, I still have writing goals, plenty of them, and I’m still committed to working on them. Does that make me disciplined? I don’t know.

Often, I get tired, and sometimes I think about quitting writing, publishing, and marketing just to gain a little more relaxation time and peace of mind. This thinking often happens right after Christmas, after an extremely busy fall and holiday season. But I have those goals to complete. More importantly, writing still matters to me. So, I’ll maintain my habit until I realize that it doesn’t matter anymore…should that day ever come.