I suspect you want it. Most authors do. Who doesn’t want to be the next big thing?
I realized a long time ago I would never write the great American novel. I lowered my expectations and did away with my illusions. However, I write to be read. I won’t deny it.
The other day a friend and I were chatting about the vagaries of fate and fame, discussing why one work of fiction, deserving or not, succeeds while another fails. She and I agreed we could make billions if we could somehow tease out the secret behind success.
What if we could bottle and sell the key to success, like, say, a perfume, a simple pheromone you dab behind your ears? Can you imagine? We’d be set for life. We could both retire today.
I think the secret is this – There is none. There is no one thing you can point to and say – that’s why so and so is successful. You can’t even point to talent. Not even unique, inspiring, amazing talent.
One day an author releases a particular work at what turns out (in hindsight) to be the right time. She hits upon the right theme, in the right genre, catches the eyes of the right readers and strikes the right chord.
There you have it.
You can’t TRY to do this. In fact I’d go so far as to say TRYING makes success all the more elusive.
Whatever has succeeded in the past for one author is unlikely to succeed in the present or future for another author regardless of ability.
Bill Cosby– “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate success. There is no straight arrow path to fame and fortune. Yes, some genre authors do essentially ‘clone’ success, but as science has discovered some clones, those with short telomeres, suffer from rapid aging. Therefore one wonders if literary clones will stand the test of time. I doubt it.
So what are we left with?
Hard work and dedication to your craft. Writing the best book you can and letting it go.
Maybe you’ll have some success. Maybe you won’t.
Or perhaps it all depends upon how you measure success.
David Frost– “Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.”
J. Paul Getty– “Formula for success: Rise early, work hard, strike oil.”
Bill Gates– “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”
Vince Lombardi– “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” Smart man.
More examples of the active verb…to be. Excerpts from wonderful authors.
a. Jack slid his cold hand between Ennis’s legs, said he was worried about his boy who was, no doubt about it, dyslexic or something, couldn’t get anything right, fifteen years old and couldn’t hardly read, he could see it though goddamn Lureen wouldn’t admit it and pretended the kid was o.k., refused to get any bitchin kind a help about it. He didn’t know what the fuck the answer was. Lureen had the money and called the shots.
b. Undoubtedly thatwas what brought the dragon. Dragons steal gold and jewels, you know, from men and elves and dwarves, wherever they can find them; and they guard their plunder as long as they live (which is practically forever unless they are killed), and never enjoy a brass ring of it. Indeed they hardly know a good bit of work from a bad, though they usually have a good notion of the current market value; and they can’t make a thing for themselves, not even mend a loose scale or their armour. There were lots of dragons in the North in those days, and gold was probably getting scarce up there, with the dragons flying south or getting killed, and all the general waste and destruction that dragons make going from bad to worse. There was a most specially greedy, strong and wicked worm called Smaug.
c. But I also felt guilty about her. I felt I was an intruder, in a territory that ought to have been hers. Now that I was seeing the Commander on the sly, if only to play his games and listen to him talk, our functions were no longer as separate as they should have been in theory. I was taking something away from her, although she didn’t know it. I was filching. Never mind that it was something she apparently didn’t want or had no use for, had rejected even; still, it was hers, and if I took it away, this mysterious “it” I couldn’t quite define – for the Commander wasn’t in love with me, I refused to believe he felt anything for me as extreme as that – would would be left for her?
d. I have read many books where the heroine was in love for a long time without knowing it. I have talked with people and they have told me the same thing. So maybe thatis the way it ought to be. That is not the way it is with me at all.
e. Leaning back against the seat of the SUV, she stretched out her legs. She was feeling tremendously better, buoyed by food, heartened by the discovery that Cian was somewhere safe, and quite frankly delighted that she wasn’t going to have to sleep under a bridge tonight using newspaper for blankets.
f. I don’t know why I was so sure I was right; but I was, the minute the idea crossed my mind. Maybe I had heard Bill dialing the phone when I was half-asleep. Maybe the expression on Bill’s face when I’d finished telling him about Uncle Bartlett had rung a silent warning bell.
g. There was some heavy murmuring at this, and Ernie went on, “Remember what was written on the wall? Enemies of the Heir, Beware. Potter had some sort of run-in with Filch. Next thing we know, Filch’s car’s attacked. That first year, Creevey, was annoying Potter at the Quidditch match, taking pictures of him while he was lying in the mud. Next thing we know – Creevy’s been attacked.”
h. Scarlett had seen enough typhoid in the Atlanta hospital to know what a week meant in that dread disease. Ellen was ill, perhaps dying, and here was Scarlett helpless in Atlanta with a pregnant woman on her hands and two armies between her and home. Ellen was ill – perhaps dying. But Ellen couldn’t be ill! She had never been ill. The very thought was incredible and it struck at the very foundations of the security of Scarlett’s life.
a. Brokeback Mountain b. The Hobbit c. The Handmaid’s Tale d. Dust Tracks On A Road e. Spell of the Highlander f. Dead Until Dark g. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets h. Gone With the Wind