Friday, 25 April 2014

Just My Luck*

Unlucky for some?

Come on writers, you know the feeling:

Your book has been rejected with nary a hint of what you can do about it before the next submission.
One of your writer friends, who's been at it less time than you have, telephones to share news of her latest contract / publication date / agent's gala barbecue, on the same day you get a book proposal rejected.
- That writing competition you sweated blood over ended up being won by a debut writer, barely out of his teens, who put his success down to the year he spent in South America funded by his publishing world parents.
- The 5000 Twitter followers you cultivated so diligently has translated into three copies of your book sold (and one of them was your auntie, who you're certain will never read it). Meanwhile, another unknown author, in the same genre, used exactly the same approach to sell 100s of books in only three months.
-    The blog interview you were so thrilled to get has somehow mis-spelt your name.
- Your book proposal has been accepted by a publisher, sort of. It's just that they're looking at 2016 and can't really confirm until next year whether it will really be viable.

Sometimes it can seem as though the black chicken of doom has made a nest out of your manuscript. We know that luck is an important factor in a writer's success and 'bad luck' can be a contributing factor when progress seems to be as elusive as a five leaf clover.

The essential thing to understand about luck - and this doesn't in any day diminish its impact or importance - is that it is unfathomable. Unless you subscribe to cosmic ordering, intercession or the application of sympathetic magic, you'd best get used to random outcomes - entirely outside your control or influence - in the mix.

Of course, it's human nature to focus on what is desired or what's missing, rather than the good fortune that has, black cat-like, already crossed your path.

Chances are that you've written - or are writing - a book of some kind. If so, congratulations! What good fortune to have had sufficient education, inspiration, time and opportunity to write something. I'm going to assume you're not currently starving, being tortured (artistic angst and writer's block doesn't count), imprisoned because of your beliefs / politics, or forbidden from expressing your ideas on paper / online. Lucky you, huh?!

You also have the marvellous luck to be alive at a time when technology is both available and affordable (and often free), enabling you to self-publish your work, connect and interact with thousands of potential readers. That some technological good fortune also allows you to identify agents and publishers - many of whom welcome material submitted electronically. Imagine the advantages that gives you over writers past.

I can't promise you that 'your time will come' or even that 'talent will out'. Sometimes it's just luck of the draw - who opens your material on what day, what mood they're in, what they're looking for and how much time they have. If you've visited this blog before (in which case, I wish you all the luck in the world!), you'll know that all I can promise you is this: It all stops when you stop writing.

In the meantime, do count your blessings while you seek your writing fortune and be lucky.

Now, just for fun, and by way of balance for the bad luck stories above (which are all artistic licence versions of my own experience), here are a few of my good luck stories.

-    The two book covers given to me, by Annemarie Skjold of Whyte Tracks and James of www.GoOnWrite.com
-    The magazine editor who, while rejecting my original pitch, got back to me with a different proposal for a monthly magazine column. This month will mark the acceptance of my 25th monthly column.  
-    Every non-fiction editor and website owner who has accepted and published my initial pitch, including this one over at Bubble Cow.
-    Musa Publishing, for turning two of my short tales into fully realised ebooks.

* The phrase 'just my luck' had been in my head for a day or so before drafting this post, and then I read about the death of the wonderful writer, Sue Townsend. We could debate into the wee, small hours whether we actually make our own luck. As writers, if we stick with it, we make our own stories.

1 comment:

  1. I wish more people would acknowledge the role that luck has to play in whether or not you "make it." When good stuff happens, we like to assume that it's because we're so awesome; when bad stuff happens, we think it's because there's something we've done wrong. Neither extreme is true. A more accurate scenario is that success happens when preparation meets luck.

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