The Measure of Success

Here’s my secret: I never wanted to be a writer.

I didn’t plan for it. I didn’t dream of it. I didn’t set out in a calculated way to make myself a part of the writing/publishing world.

I didn’t do those things, but there was one thing that I did do.

I wrote.

Sometimes I wrote a little bit. Sometimes I wrote a lot. I wrote letters (one a week, for eight years, and then sporadically in university). I wrote a diary (grade 6 to grade 12). I wrote terrible stories. And then I wrote some good ones. But I was never one of those people who “always knew I wanted to be a writer” or “dreamed about being a writer”. I just wrote.

When I sat down to write my first book, I was flying absolutely blind. I didn’t know what was going to happen in the story (except a vague “rocks fall, people die” kind of impression of the ending). My entire method for writing was this: I went to Starbucks. I bought a coffee. I opened my laptop. The story appeared on the screen. It was like an out of body experience.

I didn’t want to tell anyone, because even though I had been writing for YEARS at that point, I knew that this was different. People would think that this was “real”. I had to tell my brother (because I was living with him, and he started to miss me when I left the house for work at 8:30 in the morning with my laptop and came home at 10PM), and he was really great about supporting me without clamouring for details I didn’t have yet. But every day, I was terrified that I would open the computer and nothing would happen. Every day, I was afraid it would be over.

At the end of November, I had 85K of novel, and immediately it started. “Are you going to get it published?”, “Are you going to write another book?”, “I always knew you were going to be a writer!”

I made the classic mistakes. I talked too much, and told my family too many things about my plans and my hopes and my dreams. That works for some people, but it really, really doesn’t work for me. I prefer not to tell people things until I know, for sure, all of the options and outcomes.

Also, I still didn’t want to be a writer. But I wrote.

At the end of 2010, with one complete MS and two halves under my belt, I was almost, almost, ready to think about being a writer. I made a New Year’s resolution to write another book, and to query that first one. I theorized that I would probably not write fanfiction, because I would be busy.

The universe began laughing almost immediately. By the end of January, I had 30K of fanfic, and by the end of February 20K more. In fact, on September 30 of 2011, I had 212, 869 words. Part of that was the second half of a book, but most of it was fanfic. And, by golly, I was getting good at it.

I wrote THE STORY OF OWEN in November, and finished out the year with nearly 300K of writing. If that doesn’t make a person a writer, I don’t know what the heck does. I had learned something very important in the meanwhile, too. I wanted to be an archaeologist. I wanted to live in Ontario. I wanted to eat all the gingerbread cookies*. I was a writer.

This year, as of September 30, I have written slightly fewer than 80,000 words. I do not view this year as less successful than 2011. For starters, I sold a book. Also, I proved that I could write “on demand”, when my editor said “Hey, I need 18K” and I realized I had 9 writing days to do it. The bulk of my total word count makes up my fourth complete MS draft. NaNo is coming up again, and for the first time since 2009, I don’t have a plan. I’m hoping to write another complete draft anyway.

And I’m not scared.

Because, numbers aside, and come hell or high water, I’m a writer. And that’s always been enough for me.



*I shared. *sighs*


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