In my recent tweet-up with Debbie Young (of Off the Shelf promotions fame and appearing appearing here soon) we started talking about how our ideas of writing success have changed as time has gone on. (Yes, I’ve covered this before too, but it’s the season for revisiting past themes!) Or maybe it’s not success per se I’m thinking about so much as the milestones we set ourselves and how if things don’t quite go to plan, it doesn’t always matter too much.
For instance, I remember when I finished my first course of writing classes I set myself a target of getting a short story published within a year. LOL. You have to remember at this point I had completed (with great difficulty!) precisely two short stories of indeterminate quality. Nor did I read many short stories so I had precious little idea of what either commercial or literary outlets actually wanted. But at least I realised my ultimate aim of writing a novel (which would obviously get published straight away!) would take a little longer.
In fact it took me two years to get published in Buzz Words Magazine by which time it had stopped coming out in print, and since I still thought of print as the ‘real thing’ the thrill was still real but maybe less than I hoped for. So that’s the other problem. With long-term projects the goal-posts are quite likely to move. It was actually 2008 until I was accepted for a printed literary magazine. But in view of the whole goal-post scenario, it was actually just as big thrill as anything I had done up to that point, which included a nifty prize for my first novel and a clutch of short and long-listings elsewhere.
My road to publication novel-wise, of course took a lot longer – in fact I had to write two before being taken up by a Thornberry Publishing. But a number of things occurred along the way that felt like vindication of my commitment to writing even if they did not bring either fame or much in the way of fortune.
Perhaps top of the list was being asked to write articles – in one case to author a golf blog, in another to provide some simple articles on IT for writers. I was quick to accept both of these because I knew they would form part of a professional writing portfolio and also give me some degree of publicity even if this wasn’t part of my overall plan. And one of these commissions was paid!
Even before the fiction bug bit, I had done bits of writing allied to my day-job and was always at pains to submit on time and to the brief, something I think has stood me in good stead. In fact I’ve just accepted another commission to write regularly for a local community magazine on the basis that this – along with possible future workshop activities – is a good way for an author to maintain a public profile as well as make a bit on the side while waiting to be discovered as the next great novelist. And it’s things like these that gradually make it easier to describe myself as an author, since I can evidence my professionalism in all these different ways.
There’s just one snag of course. All of these things (plus social media shenanigans) eat into novel-writing time. A balance has to be struck or short-term projects might elbow out the long-term aim. That would be the worst kind of own goal. I see that NanoWrimo (that’s National NovelWriting Month) is coming along soon – with a target of 50,000 words. Maybe this is the time for me to sign up.