Tuesday, June 08, 2010
With a little bit of luck
Get three writers together, and pretty soon, you'll have a full-on conversation of craft and POV and their To Be Read piles. Keep them there five more minutes, and they'll drag out their current WIPs.
Five minutes after that?
They are so gonna be talking about luck.
Usually it's luck that they don't have. You know, the Sparks kind of luck or the TWILIGHT sort of luck. The-I-was-plucked-out-of-obscurity kind of luck.
In front of unpubbeds, of course, we published authors are not supposed to talk about luck. It's not specifically spoken, no oath we're given once we're members of RWA's PAN. But nonetheless, it's a sort of general expectation: We're supposed to toe the party line that hard work is all that it takes to get you The Call.
Yes, craft and mechanics are important. Anyone who writes unintentional sentence fragment upon sentence fragment, loaded down with adverbs and a whole lotta of telling, well, she's a far piece from inking a deal.
To ignore the importance of luck, however, is to only examine one side of a coin. Maybe it would be more acceptable if we referred to luck as opportunity, but I call it as I see it.
For instance, Tawna Fenske had about the worst luck in the world when it came to landing a publication deal. She sold her first book and was working on her follow-up when the line closed. One month before her book was supposed to come out.
I, on the other hand, had a glorious bounty of luck. Three months after I decided to pursue publication seriously, I had lucked into (1) a great critique partner, (2) an in-person pitch opportunity with an editor and (3) a new line eagerly searching for authors. If that ain't luck, frogs don't have lips.
Yeah, yeah, the editor changed lines, the line closed, and I eventually sold that book to a completely different line, but I was lucky.
In addition to my one mantra in life (disappointment = expectations minus reality), I swear by another saying: Luck is opportunity meeting preparation.
You will, if you write long enough, see your share of bad luck. You'll be writing ghosts when everyone else is writing vampires, and just as soon as you start writing vampires, they'll move on to zombies. Lines will close, publishing houses will go out of business or merge, agents and editors will retire. Some days, it will feel like a plague of Biblical proportions.
But speaking of the Bible, I firmly believe in the verse that says God works all things to the good. That line closing? It wasn't the home for you. That editor? She might have been a nightmare to work with. Something better, infinitely better, is planned for you.
The upside is that sometimes luck is with you. Be ready. Be prepared. Who knows? An agent on Twitter or her blog might say, "Oh, man, I just got asked by an editor for a ghost story, and I don't have any. If you have one, send me one now."
And that's when you smile, because you've polished that old ghost story to a brilliant shine. You can hit SEND while all the other writers are cursing their luck that editors are no longer looking for zombies.