Warning: self-congratulatory post ahead.
I don’t do this very often. My success is due to the brilliance of others, from my remarkable publisher, Gunnar Grey at Dingbat Publishing, to my awesome beta readers, writing groups and friends. But I guess I did play some part in carving out a writing career this late in life.
The other day I received an email from someone teaching a course about to get your first 10,000 readers. That’s a lot of people. If you had asked me two years ago whether I thought 10,000 people would ever read my books, I’d have answered with a quick and definitive ‘no!’ Ten, maybe. Or even one hundred. But 10,000? No way.
Well, I’ve got those first 10,000 and a lot more beyond. But I was kind of kidding about the bragging part. See, that number staggers me. More to the point, it humbles me.
On August 17, 2016, Standing The Final Watch became my first published novel. When you look ahead two years seems like a really long time, but looking back it might as well be yesterday. Especially when you consider how much my life has changed in those two years.
In Unsuck Your Book: Eight Months from First Draft to the Promised Land I detailed the story of how the book came to be written. The short version is that I wrote it without prior knowledge or planning. I sat down on Sept. 1, 2014, and started writing. No expectations, no pressure, just clack, clack, clack on the keyboard.
As of today, August 16, 2018, I have 11 published fiction books, and my magnum opus World War Two non-fiction volume, Killing Hitler’s Reich, The Battle for Austria 1945 is available for pre-order, with publication next March.
The audio book for Standing the Final Watch is finished and only awaiting approval from Audible (it’s amazing!). I have a LOT of short stories finished, three more books partly written and at least one novella half finished. I have no idea how many words I’ve written in the last two years, but it’s a lot.
All of a sudden, I have the career that I’ve wanted my whole life.
So what’s the lesson here? What can others learn from my success? It’s basic stuff, but also vital. Decide how you want your life to look, and don’t stop until you’ve achieved it.
That’s it. No magic formula, no gimmicks, just hard work and perseverance. Some days my right thumb hurts so bad I can’t sleep, and my left ring finger stops working if I type too much, too fast. Literally. It just hangs down until I let it rest. My back hurts constantly. Typing for me is sometimes an ordeal. But who cares? I’d type with my toes if I had to.
Last year a young man looked me up on the internet and asked if I still mentored young people. I was swamped at the time, and leery, because experience has taught me that many people say they want success, but aren’t willing to pay the price. This young man was already reading books like Think and Grow Rich, so I agreed to take some of my limited time and mentor him, IF he promised to take my advice and never, ever give up. He gave me that solemn pledge. Whatever happened he’d stick it out. Pay attention, get excited, never quit. That was the mantra.
So what happened?
He gave up. He encountered the inevitable failure that comes with starting any business or career and quit after two months. A complete waste of everyone’s time, but mostly mine. My skepticism is well earned.
I’m telling you this because starting the business I showed him was a piece of cake compared to the failure and rejection you meet as a writer. It’s hard as hell and very few people succeed. But if you have the work ethic and sheer stubbornness to stay focused on your goal, regardless of the bad things happen along the way, you have a chance to carve out your own career. And when you do, let me tell you, it’s awesome.
So learn from me, because if I can do it, you can too.