Sunday, January 15, 2017

Defining Success

Members of a critique group I’ve been leading for more than ten years have asked me to present all day workshops so they can get more in depth information about their writing than just a brief critique a couple of times a month. I asked them what I ought to focus on.

The most common response was, “Anything and everything to do with the writing process.”

I asked for details. “But what do you want to learn? You’re already very good at critiquing, so I don’t have to cover that.”

The result of my questioning showed that they lacked confidence in their abilities as writers and wanted an all day workshop where they could discuss at greater length their struggles to succeed.

And there we run into a different topic altogether: define succeed. For me it originally meant completing a book and having someone read it a like it. When I completed The Prince of Keegan Bay, I submitted it to a writing competition and it won first place. For a little while I felt successful, but then I upped the ante. I couldn’t really be successful unless a publisher wanted it. So with my first prize as a confidence booster, I presented it to a publisher and was gleefully surprised to have it accepted.

Seven books later, I’ve run into a stumbling block. I submitted a story which was accepted, but when the editor read it, she found several plot flaws. I have been reviewing the problems, understand them, but fixing them is a struggle. The books which have been accepted for publication, and two which I did not submit but self-published, have been chugging along in their sales—no NYT best sellers so far. Now this block has set me back to my first goal: complete a book that my editor can read, like, and then accept. So, my concept of success has come full circle.


I can put together a workshop and help writers construct their stories into a cohesive tale. The genre doesn’t matter, they all need great characters, conflict and plot and to follow a fairly loose, but necessary, storytelling arc. What I can’t do is create their success. They must decide what the word means to them and then set their goals with clearly defined steps. 

Veronica Helen Hart considers herself a reasonably successful author. She takes special delight when readers contact her asking for more stories about particular characters. You can find most of her books at http://champagnebooks.com/store/index.php?id_manufacturer=93&controller=manufacturer, and all of them on Amazon.com.

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