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The Struggle to Measure Success Only Against Myself…

Last fall, I joined a writing group who are focused solely on self-publishing genre book series, as it’s that vein that sees the most online book sales success.

This new endeavor has been a very challenging one, to say the least. Since 2013, my mind has been on the literary, not genre, of research-heavy, symbolic-heavy works on the human experience of death. Heavy. Heavy. Heavy.

Lyrical flow, meaning, morality tales, far more in focus than plot-simple pulp fiction.

But facts have to be accepted. Online, the former are not popular. I know to leave such heavy works for the traditionally published sect, and strive for the pulp fiction in my online catalog. If a writer can’t accept what is reality, how will they ever succeed in that reality?

So, I dove in, and began this genre quest, while still fighting to finish the edits on AIR, my most recent literary work.

I took no break between works. Constant exhaustion greets me every day. It’s a weekly, daily, hourly battle to get everything done, and most weeks I usually miss that boat.

I work every weekday on this huge list of To-Do's, and often one weekend day. But the work pile is large. I slowly chip away at it. But I can’t visualize the Finish Line for the pile. At least, not yet.

Sometimes that’s simply the Writer Life — the down pour over the steady rain.

Nowadays, I don’t panic as much as in the past. I’ve got 5 books under my belt, and a sixth in Book One of CLUEless, the cozy murder mystery series. In writing my first book, there was far more self-imposed pressure, and therefore far more emotional melt-downs. Now, I diligently work every day to finish points on that To-Do list and don’t sweat it if some items marked for that day are left undone.

I’ve learned so much about life while learning to be a book writer. There are only so many hours in a day and so much bodily energy you can expend without forcing the issue, drinking too much coffee, getting too little sleep, and not eventually keeling over from complete exhaustion, which, in the end, ironically destroys your writing schedule. A writer doesn’t get much written in a hospital bed or in a sleeper's coma under the duvet.

Back to this genre writing group tale…

Many in this group are way ahead of me as per punching out books in several series.

Many have already launched successfully, with bestsellers in niche categories.

Many bang out as much as 10,000 draft words per day. I'll be exhausted at 2 to 4 G.

Many are marketing gurus, far more skilled at, focused on, online ROI than on producing prosaic art.

Which is cool. That’s what the online book selling game is all about.

“Write a good enough book. Write them fast. Write as many series as you can to have a rolling profit margin.” It's literary Pringles Chips in the can. Reader Addiction = Money.

My Mistake: On occasion, reading the members many successes, I would succumb to this peer pressure, and wonder why I was still banging away on a measly Book One of my first series. Their conversations on Click Through and Conversions rates were as barren to me as sand in the Mohave Desert, where CLUEless presides.

My Cure: I’d take a warm shower. I’d remind myself that everyone has to start somewhere, sometime, and I’d wake the next day, pounding the keys, plodding along the lonely literary lane.

My Backstory…

I've never before completed a murder mystery. I had to bone up, sharpish, on the plot structure and align my vision to what murder mystery readers expect. Me being me, I tweaked that tried and true plot line. My Whodunit wouldn’t be revealed until Book Four, with only tangential killers discovered in each previous book.

No cozy murder mystery writers, to my knowledge, write like this. Each book ends each mystery. Mine do not. Another lonely literary row to hoe.

My Acceptance:

A writer has to be their own writer. None of us fit into a well-establish mold unless we choose to write predicable tales that sell in the millions, and are instantly forgotten.

I’ve decided to meet the mundane goal half way — less profit for a little more memorable originality.

And so, with this singular drum beat, I must measure my success against myself. There's no other long term, viable measuring stick.

Yes, I still do the group work. I’m still learning the launch mechanism, the marketing tips and tricks, and the analytics to optimize my success.

But as for the production speed... my books will get done when they get done. I can’t change the writer in me.

“Good enough” books, that reality, will be hard for me to swallow. I still have a list of add-in research factoids to enter into the CLUEless Book One draft. I could ignore them, leave the draft the way it is, and publish now, but a richness on the page is what I'm truly seeking. If I can't get you to dive deep into my fantasy world, and have that experience change you, I'll not be a happy camper. That means more to me than all the money in The Mint.

I’ve read enough cozy mystery books to know “Good enough” isn’t good enough for me.

The leaning to the literary side still breathes in me.

Symbolism pops up, even when I don't plan it.

Whispers of morality tales wane in and out.

And the lyrical flow and the page presentation, they will always be as important to me as the tale.


Maybe my books will take longer to finish. And maybe that’s okay.

My grandfather used to tell my mother, “This family has to earn what they receive. We’re never given anything good for free.”

My mother hated hearing that. And it rubs me the wrong way, too. But I know my grandfather was right. Greatness in our family comes solely from back-breaking hard work, and nothing else. Lady Luck, Happenstance, Who You Know — those are nonexistent parameters in our clan.

I hear my late mother whispering…

“Keep going, Barbie. Work at it every day. Keep your head down, and don’t bother with the ‘Others’ of this world. You know what you’re doing. Do it. Your family is watching, and we’re proud.”

And they were… proud, that is. They told me often. I’ve always finished what I’ve started. I've always given everything my all. I only have two speeds: sleeping, and working like hell.


From now on…

I’ll remember who I am, what I’m trying to conjure, create, and achieve, in the life I have.

And I’ll get it all done how the Writer Me gets it all done.

For that’s what I was born to do