How Do You Define Success as a Writer?


We creative types have a tendency to dream big, and why not? If we want something badly enough, the sky’s the limit. Unfortunately, when we begin the hard work that is involved the get there we can feel as if we’ve been hit with the ice bucket challenge. This can be an especially daunting time for unpublished writers, like myself, yet we have an advantage over those already published – time.

During my university studies, one of the first subjects I undertook was on publishing and editing. One of the required readings stuck a chord with me and has remained ever since. It demonstrated the hard work that is required if we wish to succeed as authors (admittedly, though, some of it was rather extreme). This particular author did not discover fame, rewards or find himself upon the road to riches. He was, however, an extremely productive writer.

Born in 1907, Gordon Clive Bleeck is a relatively unknown author, yet he was one of the most prolific and successful fiction writers Australia has produced. He wrote in multiple genres, including crime thrillers, romance and science fiction. As well as writing under his own name, he also wrote under a number of pseudonyms – believed to number at around twenty-two (I told you that was extreme)! Some of these include ‘Brad Cordell’ for westerns and ‘Belli Luigi’ for thrillers and horror stories. In total, he wrote 250 novels or novellas – 150 of these were westerns, which were produced every month for nine years. What is also remarkable about Bleeck is that all this output was produced while working full time.

Admittedly, he may well have had a particular formula for some of his books, like the westerns for example, but so does Mills & Boon and we all know how successful they have been over the years. Regardless, it is still an extraordinary achievement and clearly he had an audience for his work.

As unpublished writers, we not only have time on our side, but we need to make sure that the writer’s life is for us. It’s not going to be easy, no matter which road we take, so we need to be prepared to be in it for the long haul. We become writers because we love stories, and like any other art, it pleases us when we see other people enjoy our work. To me, to become a successful author means writing my stories, getting them published and finding an audience that love what I do. If I’m extremely productive in this process, I’ll be very happy indeed.

How do you define success as a writer? Are you prepared to do what it takes? Are you making the most of your time as a ‘pre-published’ author?

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How Productive a Writer are You?

I’ve always admired productive authors; I find they are a great source of inspiration for me to keep pursuing a writing career.  I envy them their imaginative drive, hoping one day I can do the same.  Since this article came out from the New York Times, there has been some talk that writing one book a year is not enough.

Like other readers, I can become impatient for the next book by an author, particularly books within a series.  However, if I have read a particular author’s work before and know to expect good quality, then I am happy to wait for it.  As a writer, I understand the pressure can be immense; both publishers and readers alike desiring the next book to be better than the last.  Expectations for authors these days are high, but like any other business, push yourself too high and you could get burnt out.  You don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity; readers are prepared to buy and recommend particular authors if their work is highly regarded.  Producing two books a year is doable, but it also depends upon the author’s genre and the amount of research required.  Author Jody Hedlund has some good ideas on what you could be writing between novels.

In an interview with Writers’ Digest some years ago, author James Patterson explained how he manages to produce so many books.  His explanation was simple: when one book is finished, write another book!  This seems to be the usual catch-cry whenever you read books regarding the craft of writing; as soon as you finish one, begin work on another.   You can’t always wait for the muse to make its appearance; there are times when you have to force it to show up.  By continuing to write between books, you are not only producing more work, but also improving your skills as a writer.

If, like me, you are an unpublished author, we have an advantage – we don’t have deadlines to meet.  We don’t have the added pressure on what to write and when to write, however, we do have the same amount of time like everyone else.  It is in our own best interests on how to use that time and use it wisely.

Being a writer in today’s world seems to be separating the hobbyists from those who just have to do it.  I’ve always dreamt of being a published author, yet I know that it will forever be nothing more than a dream if I am not putting the effort in.  I trust you are doing the same.

Are you a productive writer?  Do you believe writing at least two novels a year is doable?  What are your thoughts on the expectations of authors these days?

Free image by Salvatore Vuono courtesy of