Blog Highlights: Luck Plagues the Diligent

For the grand opening of this blog, I’m spotlighting some of my favorite blog posts and moments from over the years throughout the month of June.


Week Two: The Writer’s Life





First posted on March 8, 2011

See the original post at:


There’s a lot of luck involved in building a writing career. You’re lucky if you get an idea that puts you ahead of a big trend. You’re lucky if you strike the nerve of a great agent. You’re lucky if a publisher decides that your book will be the one they put their marketing power behind this season. You’re lucky if your book manages to garner that elusive buzz around it that can catapult it to the bestseller lists.

But putting all your hopes and dreams on luck is one quick way to ensure you’re not going to have any.

My Dad’s favorite saying is: “Luck plagues the diligent.”

I’ve only heard those words about eight million times in my life, but sick as I am of them, I have to admit he has a point. To some degree, we have to be responsible for creating our own luck. There has to come a point when we take our career into our own hands and start figuring out how to make things happen.

When I started going to school for my master’s, I did it with the intention of building a career in the publishing industry, but not necessarily writing. I thought I would be an editor or a publisher or a literary agent, because I knew that I wanted to work with books, but I also knew that statistically very few authors are able to make a full-time career out of writing. I figured the smart thing would be to plan to work a day job and continue writing on the side, as a hobby, and maybe someday-publication.

But as I learned more and more about authors who were able to make a career from writing—from the bestsellers down to the struggling mid-listers who also freelanced to make ends meet—it became clear that that was what I wanted to be doing. I believed I would be happy anywhere on that spectrum, rich or struggling, so long as I was a full-time writer.

And one question started to repeat in my head: If they can do it, why can’t I?

So my goals started to shift. I started to look at the careers of writers I admired, not just their books and talent, but at their actual careers. Yes, I dreamt of becoming the next J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer (who doesn’t?), but there are way more factors in those success stories than I could control, so I instead focused on career elements and trajectories that I thought I could mimic, and why they seemed to work.

[And yes, I realize how practical and neurotic and absolutely UN-creative-right-brain-thinker that is, but maybe taking college courses at the time had me thinking more like a business person than a writer. Either way, I really did have these thoughts.]

Here are things I noticed:

Many of my role-model authors wrote commercial, genre fiction that focused on fast, suspenseful storytelling and awesome hooks.

Most chose a genre and stuck with it, building their name (or “brand,” though I hate that word) within a particular audience, such as young adult or paranormal romance or horror.

Many of them had consistent release schedules (most putting out a book a year).

In YA in particular, a lot of my favorite authors wrote ongoing series and, in some cases, would have more than one series in production at a time.

Lastly, many of my favorite authors had awesome online presence—blogging, facebooking, etc.—even though they’d probably reached a point in their career where these things were “unnecessary.”

The best part was that these were all things I could control. I can study the craft of writing and educate myself on the trends of the market. I can choose what kinds of books I want to write and who my audience is and brainstorm ideas that I think would appeal to that market. I can write a book, or two, a year (I think—this is still waiting to be proven, haha). I can maintain an online presence and, heck, even enjoy doing it.

Out of those realizations, decisions were made, goals were set, and—even though, yes, luck undoubtedly played a role in how quickly I was able to achieve my dream, and even though my career has yet to stand the test of time—I am now, on this day, supporting myself with my writing.

Not to get all life-guru here, but I know that many of you reading this blog have the same dream, and I understand that striving for dreams can be scary, especially when the statistics tell us that our dreams are feasible only for a select few. But I believe in hard work, in planning, in diligence—and in making our own luck.

And I really do mean it when I say: If I can do it, why can’t you?