The truth about overnight success (it’s a lie)

Jan 31, 2023

Writing “success” doesn’t happen overnight.

We all tend to get caught up in such a narrow view of success, and specifically this idea of it happening “overnight.” Writers definitely experience this. We see the people on the NY Times bestseller list, hear about the new writer who got a million-dollar advance, see a book get turned into a movie, and through our hands up in defeat. We lose sight of our own path and what we’re actually trying to accomplish. 

But comparing yourself isn’t going to get your farther. Or, anywhere actually.

I like to say that my publishing contract happened overnight after a decade of work. But the work isn’t the glamorous part of the story, right? The work is the stuff that happens by yourself, behind the scenes, the hard times people don’t ever see. Especially if the things you were working on for that amount of time never get published. 

The truth is, there are very few people that can say who can say they’ve skyrocketed to instant success as a writer.

Sure, it happens maybe 1% of the time, but it’s not the norm. For the other 99%, there is a lot of work, effort, blood, sweat and tears that goes into every piece of writing. The payoff, much like the output, is subjective. Some payoffs seem bigger and better—a big paycheck, an award, a contract. Some are less prestigious but invaluable, like creating new habits, improving your craft, learning a lesson. 

Success is something that we constantly define in such a narrow view.

We look at the people who’ve had their books or stories turned into movies or Netflix series or who repeatedly hit the top of the bestseller list. We look at the Stephen Kings of the world and we forget that they, too, had to start somewhere. Carrie was rejected by 30 publishers before being published when King was 26. 

I got my first contract for the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries from a proposal. At the time, I didn’t consider myself a cozy writer, but I thought, what the heck? I’ll give it a try. I wrote the proposal, did one round of edits on it and it sold. The process took maybe a month. 

I had been working on novels for the 10 years leading up to that. Those books still aren’t published. 

When I got that contract, it was a success, and it led to two more series. It’s a great story. But anyone who tells you that massive writing success is something that can be achieved overnight, they’re lying. Writing takes work. Practicing and refining your craft. Getting familiar with the business. Commitment. 

Sometimes it takes a village. Sometimes it takes people helping you and contacts and shoulders to cry on when something doesn’t go the right way. Learning the business of publishing, whether you’re self publishing or traditionally publishing. And none of this happens overnight and that, and that doesn’t matter.

What matters is working on your craft, putting out a good story, and ultimately having the version of success that lights you up because everyone’s version of success is very different. And success doesn’t always have to mean the million dollar advance or the movie deal.

Don’t get me wrong. Those things are amazing. But if you don’t have them, it doesn’t mean you’re not a success in your own right. 

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