I got a wonderful question on my blog the other day about what separates successful writers, defined by this reader’s terms as writers who earn a good living solely at writing, from the rest of the heap, and I thought this might be a good subject to tackle here at Unboxed. I think it comes to down a mix of things, some of which people might like, some of which, they might not. But best as I can tell, these factors all come into play:
1) Luck. Yup, dumb luck. Look, there are thousands upon thousands of talented writers out there. I can’t and won’t dispute that. So surely, some of breaking away from the pack and becoming a go-to writer for magazine editors or for agents and publishing houses, does come down to luck. I got my big break when The Knot asked me to ghostwrite a wedding book for them. It was one of my first freelance gigs, and though the job itself was a total nightmare, it was a huge coup. And sure, I happened to be a good writer, but I was also in the right place at the right time: namely, I was getting married, pitched them a story idea, and had one of their editors take notice of the fact that I had previous ghostwriting experience. Bam. A few sample chapters later and the job was mine. From there, I quickly landed my first national magazine story in Bride’s.
2) Persistence. Much like acting, establishing a reputation in the publishing world can take a looooooong time. And along the way, again, much like acting, you are going to be met with more rejection than not. Probably 100 times more rejection than acceptance. Which sounds daunting, I know, but it’s true. After that Bride’s story, I landed one other national piece which was promptly killed (another story for another time), and I then had a long dry spell of pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching. I think the next few things I landed were smaller FOBs that eventually led to bigger pieces, but still…there were dozens upon dozens of times that I could have tossed in the towel and said, “Screw it. No one is taking my ideas, no one thinks I’m a good writer, I’m done.” Thank the lordy that I’m as stubborn as all hell, and there was no way that I was going to quit. [Read more…]