Five Authors + Five Questions : Success

Writers write. It’s what we do. To go above and beyond that, by answering interview questions they receive in email, is astounding indeed! For this round of Five Authors/Five Questions, I’ve barged into the workdays of Louise Marley, Lavie Tidhar, Lisa Mantchev, E.C. Myers, and Jay Lake.


Question four: What would a successful year of writing look like to you?

Louise Marley: The perfect year would be a completed novel and perhaps two or three short stories.  I don’t think I’ve ever been more prolific than that.  A more businesslike writer would probably talk about sales, but I tend to let the publisher worry about those, as there’s only so much I can do about them.  I like having a year in which I can look back with pride on my output, and look forward with some confidence as to where that work will appear and how my readership will react to it.

Lavie Tidhar: There are two ways to look at this. One is, can I pay my rent? The other–have I written something I am profoundly happy with?

A good year would answer the second in the positive. A great year would answer both!

Lisa Mantchev: One new book out in hardcover, another in paperback. Starred reviews are nice. My next goal is to hit one of the bestseller lists. When that happens, I am going to get the phoenix tattoo on my back enhanced.

E.C. Myers: Probably like some other writer’s career… But in all seriousness, I would say that “success” comes from writing stories that I’m proud of, that are better than what I’ve written before, that no one else could have written. Sales are wonderful, but they’re largely out of my control. I can’t sell anything if I don’t have good work to submit. If I could publish at least one novel a year and a story or two in magazines that I love, and maybe attract some compliments or recognition along the way, I’m doing pretty well. Someone, probably one of my Clarion West instructors, said that as your career progresses, your idea of success changes. You always want a little more than you have: more sales, more foreign sales, more awards, more popularity, maybe an agent or a movie option. It’s human nature and not necessarily a bad thing, because if you don’t give in to jealousy or despair, it only drives you to work harder, write more, and push yourself to improve and develop your craft. Just like every project is different, every writer is different, and it’s not usually beneficial to compare your progress to someone else’s, especially when you don’t know what they’ve had to do to get where they are.

Jay Lake: Well, last year I held down a full time job, parented a teenager, had liver surgery and six months of chemotherapy, crammed in a fair amount of travel prior to being sidelined medically (including being co-host of the Hugo awards), blogged about 250,000 words, and wrote about 250,000 words of first draft fiction. My original plan, had I not experienced another cancer metastasis, was to write 600,000 words of first draft fiction. So was last year successful? I didn’t meet my original plan goals, but I was still pretty productive in the face of some serious medical challenges.

More loosely, I would consider a year with two novels and two dozen short stories drafted, plus revisions on prior work, to be successful.


How do you define success? Leave us a comment! Next Wednesday, we wrap up these five questions with a bit of advice for new(er) writers. Stay tuned.

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