Truly happy

As I begin taking steps toward having a novel released, I start wondering about, you know, comparing myself. As I mentioned in a previous post, A little healthy comparison, an author cannot compare certain things. Sales, fans, popularity, success. Not only are these elements largely outside of a persons direct control, they are also subjective.

Sales depend on exposure and marketability (cover art, blurb, author presence), as well as content. Fans are a trickier thing again, but a small and rabid fanbase can do more for an author than a larger, lukewarm group. Popularity comes and goes, for the book, for the author, for the genre. And success, that’s all in the eye of the beholder. Success is determined by what you want, and reaching milestones and goals.

Will I be able to keep that mindset once my book is out there, competing with the rest? Will I stay Zen? I like to think I know myself pretty well. I am honestly, truly happy to support other writers and see them succeed. In terms of what others have achieved before me already; the stack of finished manuscripts, the publishing acceptance, their dream agent, or a roaring independent career, I can say that I only rejoice for them! I can assess what they’re doing, and make decisions about my own path in relation, but I don’t feel grumbly that I’m not there yet.

But it changes when you’re down in the dirt with them. It would be naïve to pretend otherwise. Looking from the outside in might have a twinge of longing beside it, but once you’re actually exposed and, really, once you’re vulnerable, something shifts.

Again, I’m pretty self-aware, as far as I can tell. I don’t believe there will ever come a time where my friendships and admiration for other people and their own writing success will become tainted with jealousy or resentment. I don’t work that way. Sure, I get down on myself when I think I’m not doing so well, but that has little to do with what others are getting out of their efforts. My little stabs of depression are almost universally because I haven’t reached a goal I set out for – even if that goal was a barely half-thought mad idea in the first place.

In the end, it’s not that someone else did – it’s that I thought I could, and I didn’t. Especially if I know I didn’t try hard enough. So here’s to ongoing happiness, even when the competition starts!

~A

Advertisements

A little healthy comparison

As artists, there are a lot of reasons why we should never compare our work to everyone else’s. Every person has a unique take, and every creation we bring forth will reflect what is ultimately incomparable.

But I feel like some writers take that notion too far. Instead of holding up their work beside another and seeing where they could strive for improvement, many of them declare their piece finished with no greater judgement. They don’t assess what makes a story good, so they can’t apply that knowledge to their own creation.

We’ve all heard the stories. A writer who’s rejected by every agent and publishing house turns around and says they all missed out on something great. They drop a pile of money on self-publishing, only to prove they had been submitting an unpolished draft. No wonder it wasn’t picked up; the story wasn’t ready for publication.

Instead of being really honest and hard on themselves, these people abandoned reason in a glorious spray of egotism. They might’ve had a real chance at traditional publishing if they’d only been willing to compare and see why their story wasn’t up to snuff.

Criticisms of certain popular teen romance novels are only damaging this mentality more. “If that crap got published, I can too!” Simple fact is, most big books have a specific audience and appeal, and had a professional, experienced editor make it into a very readable piece. The writing is intentionally simpler for the younger market. Hate it all you like, there are no outrageous, book-breaking errors in the vast majority of traditionally published works in the YA range.

As with all “rules”, there needs clarification. Don’t compare yourself to others; they will have a different output, a different situation, a different career. They will sell more than you, or less than you. They will have a bigger fanbase than you, or a much smaller, yet more dedicated one than your own. They will have a larger marketing budget, or a smaller one. There will be differences, and you cannot compare yourself to those; they are outside of your control.

But you can compare your technical skill. What makes other books good? What makes you read your favourites? What stands out, what do they do, what don’t they do? Learn. Learn as much as you possibly can about the technical side, and compare your work in the most vicious, heartless way you can. Tear it down. See what emerges from the rubble. Start again, do it right.

There are also stories of people who were rejected by everyone, self-published a very good book, and are now international best sellers. Because they made sure their work could stand up against the other greats.

~A