Success and What it Means to Me

This month, as the weeks wind down on my day-job and I get closer and closer to that sweet, sweet freedom, I’ve been thinking a lot about goals. Not the daily word counts or mastery of various story-telling skills type of goals. The big ones. What is my greatest hope as an author? What is the achievement I could reach that would make me pause and and think, “Holy shit, this is everything I could have imagined!”

Bunny has made his goals for me shamelessly clear: “I can’t wait until you make millions of dollars selling books and can buy me a pool with a jet ski.”

If you’re questioning what kind of use a jet ski is in the limited space of a pool, don’t bother. One must have lived with Bunny and spent years dissecting his thought processes and imaginings to understand the many mysteries and wiles of his beautiful, magical brain. I assure you, the jet ski is essential to his happiness within that little fantasy.

While making millions and buying my husband his beloved pet jet ski would absolutely be wonderful, I can’t say it’s actually what I envision success to look like for me. To break into that kind of readership, I’d have to go one of two routes.

  1. Traditional. By which I mean writing in a consistent genre and producing stories that fit the current fads. Publishers have all kinds of metrics and stats to track what is currently selling, and those are the stories I’d have to write and pitch to the agent I’d also have to get, just in order to sneak my foot in the door. And then I’d have to hit on something really good and attract loyal readers in numbers I can’t even imagine, while putting out a book or two every year in an ongoing series. Because publishers like predictability, and that’s what popular series are. Predictable.
  2. Win the author lottery. By this, I’m talking about the Fifty Shades phenomenon. I could write something and get it e-published, then accrue stupid amounts of readers purely by word-of-mouth until it explodes into massive book deals and generous movie rights. This would basically require luck, and that’s all. Not even skill, in my opinion. I’d just have to touch on some specific subject that there is a current unmet craving for, and make it generic enough to appeal to enormous audiences from all backgrounds.

The first option just doesn’t really appeal to me, due to the inherent restrictions. I talked about this a little in my first post. Much as I enjoy reading the occasional mass market paranormal romance, that is a very narrow channel to swim, in my opinion. I’m not saying I’ll never write something that might fit into that category, and I might even look for a traditional publisher for it, but it’s not my goal. If that happens, it’s because that story just so happened to interest me, and it’s what I felt like writing. It would not be a planned strategy I’m undertaking.

I have almost no chance of banking on the second option. Like I said, it’s a lottery win. There is nothing more I could do to increase my chances of winning than what I will already be doing. Which is writing and publishing. And I highly doubt my type of writing will have that wide an appeal.

My version of success looks very different. Honestly, if I could earn $40K a year just writing, I would be absolutely ecstatic. Hell, if I could get $20K a year, I’d be over the moon and brag to anyone who would listen, I’m sure. But more than the money, I find myself measuring success against the quality of my writing, and my own pleasure in reading it. I keep thinking about different authors I’ve discovered, and which of them have a portfolio I’d be proud of.

Kele Moon is at the top of that list, at the moment. It’s kind of an odd choice, I know. You may never have even heard of her. I honestly don’t know how popular she is or how many books she sells. All I really know is that her books tend to get about 100 reviews on Amazon with at least 4-star ratings, and that they are among my favorite to go back and re-read. But, like I said, the monetary success isn’t such a priority for me right now. The reason I keep coming back to Kele Moon is because she seems to have done the very thing I want to do. She has written books that fall into almost all of my favorite romance genres, as well as covering every possible pairing with the exception of F/F. She seems to genuinely write what she wants to write, and do it well.

I want to do that. And I want people to not just read my books and enjoy them, but come back to them as solid, enjoyable re-reads. This is a modest goal, by many standards, I know. But those are the authors I most admire. Not the crazy successful millionaires that hit the Best Seller List with every book, but the ones who are writing books that may hit a little left of center in the popularity bull’s eye, because they’re maybe just a little odd, or have a character that may only appeal to a very specific type of person and completely horrify/befuddle/disgust everyone else (Hello, Paul. I <3 U). I don’t care or expect for my books to be massively appealing. I’d so much rather write a book and have someone read it and and tell me, “I love what you did there. I’ve never read a romance with characters like that or with a love story that went to those places and still somehow worked.”

That is my version of success. And that has become all the more salient as I’ve been writing on my current project.

Here’s where I issue the apology for not posting anything last week. This time, I get to honestly say it was because I was too busy writing. I’m halfway through Camp NaNoWriMo now, and have had to increase my monthly goal four times already. I started with a goal of 20K words by the end of the month, and am now up to a goal of 60K. A number I’ll likely increase at least once more, as I just surpassed that count last night.

I’m going to finish this one. Like, for real. It’s happening. I’m only about three scenes away from the end, in fact, as I just wrote my third plot point yesterday. It was utterly heartbreaking and I loved every second of it. I promise, as soon as I finish the first draft and have time to go through it with some initial edits, I’ll start posting details and snippets. Major learnings, too, as there have been several. The draft is definitely a draft, in the truest sense of the word. It’ll need a lot more than just initial edits–there are whole scenes I’ve already decided to rewrite and others I know I need to go back and add in altogether–but it will be a complete story, and something I can hopefully refine into a real novel-ish-type-thing. All done in less than a month. While still working full-time, I might add. #humblebrag

Actually, that should probably just be #brag. 60K+ words is a lot of words, y’all.

This project is not anything earth shattering or exceptional. It’s fluff, pure and simple. But it is a fluffy stepping stone. It is an achievement that I can weave a rope from when I’m facing a wall of doubts. Because hey, now I know I can do this. If I can write a sort of coherent full-length draft, then I know I can improve on it to make a wholly coherent full-length novel. It will just take more practice and studying.

Luckily, in two weeks, I’ll have more than enough time to devote to that. And maybe by the end of the year, I’ll be feeling even more confidence. Like, jet-ski-in-a-pool confident.

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