Pop open the bubbly because you just landed an agent or scored a publishing contract, two pinnacle achievements for authors. Other champagne-worthy celebrations might include landing on the bestseller list or have your book rights optioned for a motion picture.
These wins scream success and I’ve finally made it to both the author and the world at large. Okay, maybe not the world, but at least friends and families, who finally get to witness the results from the hours you spent locked away in your room.
Some authors seemingly reach these goals overnight or with their first manuscript, but for most writers, the road is incredibly long and winding with a bazillion rejections thrown at you like sharp stones. The path to becoming a published author can feel sad, lonely, and isolating—which is why it’s important to celebrate small victories.
The Roller Coaster of Writing
Even “successful” authors experience writing lows and failures. Perhaps a book didn’t sell as well as planned, or they received a negative review. Maybe their publisher doesn’t pick up a subsequent book because they already acquired something similar from another author.
On your long and winding career as a romance writer, a key thing to understand is that the emotional roller coaster never stops. The hurt of rejection, the envy and elation of watching your writerly friends reach a goal before you, the joy of an agent or editor call, the jubilation of receiving a book contract, the frustration of edits and revisions.
Why do we do it? How do we stay on a ride that tends to deliver more stomach-dropping nausea than thrills of riding the rails? What do we do when we want it to stop so we can get off for a little while?
Celebrate Small Victories
Those pinnacle achievements are infrequent happenings. In between are longs hours hidden in your writing cave with nothing but your own self-doubts to keep you company. To beat those doubts back and to remember why you ride the roller coaster, learn to celebrate small victories.
As I compiled this list of six “little” wins, I realized these smaller victories are no less important than the bigger ones because without them, you’d have no book, no agent, and no publishing contract.
No. 1: The Biggest Small Win
You need to party like it’s 1999 because you strung tens of thousands of words together to create a book. From the blip of an idea to the shiny, polished finished product, you did it.
You. Wrote. A. Book.
Regardless of how long it took to wrestle the words from your overcrowded head to the page, or if your book lands on a closet shelf instead of the bestseller list, you accomplished what many others never will.
You. Wrote. A. Book.
No. 2: You’re Not Alone
Welcome to Writerly Island, where loneliness and isolation grow like coconuts on a tree. But instead of talking to a tattered volleyball, you got your brave on and found other writers experiencing the same deserted island sensations. Perhaps you’re not occupying the same island together, but you’ve found a way to communicate across the distance.
If you haven’t had a chance to find your writing community yet, check out Twitter and the #amwriting and #amediting hashtags. Many authors, agents, editors, and publishers hang out there. Not only can you find other like-minded individuals; you can learn a lot about the industry too. All The Kissing is a great space for romance authors. We love hard and give out virtual hugs with abandon.
No. 3: Busting Through Your Blocks
Writer’s block, slumps, and long stretches of not writing happen. Turning individual words into stories is a creative mammoth, depleting your stores over time. Some authors try to power through while others need to step away entirely. However you need to recharge, when the words pour from you again, buy your favorite treat and get after it. In between bites of Twizzlers, stand up and shimmy, glad to be wordsmithing again.
No. 4: Your Family Learns to Survive Without You
One of the greatest gifts families bestow on writers is the semi-understanding of our disappearing acts. I say semi-understanding because unless your family unit writes too, they can never truly appreciate the depths to which you will go to finish a thought, paragraph, or page.
Give your partner a pat on the back when they feed and care for the wild animals while you skip into day three without a shower in order to meet your deadline.
No. 5: It’s About You, Not Them
Plotting, pantsing, 5 a.m., 10 p.m. With outline, without. Started young, picked up the pen after 40. Side hustle, full-time career. Sometimes remembering to stay in your own lane is challenging. We watch our writerly friends, notice they’re doing things differently, and wonder if we should do it like that too.
Nope. Find your own process. It may take some experimentation, but it will be worth the win. You’ll worry less about what (and how) others are doing it and be freed up to crank out more—and better—words. In your own way, in your own time.
No. 6: A Reader Who Loves Your Words
Before your baby finds an agent or a publishing contract, you hold it, love it, and cringe at the idea of someone else reading it. But at some point, you let it go and brace yourself for the worst. Instead you thrill at the compliments and how much the reader loved your story. And they weren’t related to you! That’s a cause for celebration because if one non-relative loves your words, others will too.
All Wins Are Important
All the wins are important, big and small. They keep us going when we feel like quitting. They provide checkpoints, reminding us of why we write. Perhaps you don’t celebrate them with champagne, but find a way to recognize and appreciate what you’ve accomplished.
Tell me romance writers, what small victories do you celebrate?