Yesterday, I discovered that I am a highly successful novelist. It was quite a surprise. I’ve not managed to write a novel, never mind publish one.
But I have started two – maybe more, my hard drive is so cluttered. With the first, I got to about 27,000 words before I stopped. The second is about 60,000 words. I stopped that one too.
Until the day before yesterday, that made me sound like a failed novelist. Even a gutless one. I hadn’t just not made it, I’d given up. Twice.
But that’s not the case.
The aim with the first book was to write every day for three weeks – a continuous narrative, with the words accruing day by day. Job done.
For the second book, I wanted to reach 60,000 words. Again, job done.
I set my novel-writing goals and I achieved them. Hence I am a successful novelist.
The day before yesterday, when I was a failed novelist, I used to look back on my failures and wonder what went wrong. How could I avoid failure next time?
I’d need a rigid writing routine. I’d need a clear, detailed plot outline. I’d need to know what sort of WRITER I wanted to be. And I’d need time. Lots and lots of extra time.
Now that I’ve realised I’m a successful novelist, my thinking has changed.
I’m looking back on my two triumphs. Thinking about what worked, what success has taught me.
I know I can write a lot of words. That’s good. I can write every day, regardless of how busy I am with other stuff. When I’ve got no idea what happens next, I can make things up.
I’ve learnt that I’m flexible about process. I can write at home, on the train; out shopping, out running; on my own, with friends.
I can use Word. Pages. Scrivener. Ommwriter. I can use my laptop or a typewriter. I can use pens or pencils. Expensive notebooks, cheap notebooks. Scraps of paper. Sticky notes. Glue. String.
The main thing I’ve learned is this: I like doing it.
I like doing it so much that even if a pernicious virus deleted every draft as soon as I typed The End, I’d still keep doing it.
Now it’s true that I might have written an enormous amount of dross. But I think the same could apply to a lot of other novelists, many of those whose “success” is measured by more traditional yardsticks – such as sales, fame, critical acclaim.
What I do know is that whenever I’ve been writing my novels, I’ve had fun. Well, it wasn’t always fun. But it was satisfying. Hugely.
So I’m a success. Is that a reasonable conclusion, or an absurd act of self-delusion? Or both? And does the answer matter? I don’t think so.