Monday, June 13, 2011

Can Success Come Too Quickly?

"The worst thing that can happen to a man is that he succeed too quickly."
~Author Unknown

What do you think of this quote? True, false? 

We are studying the life of Joseph in church and this quote came up in the sermon yesterday. But it can apply to the writing life, too.
  • We all know getting published often takes years (and years and years and years).
  • What if someone had published your first book? You know, that piece of crap you have hidden under your bed, the one you take out occasionally to giggle at. Are you ever glad that first book wasn't published? 
  • And if it had been published, would your second book have been equally crappy because you didn't have to try very hard with the first one? 
  • What would your sales have looked like with the first book? Would those sales kill you mid-career? Would your projects be immediately dismissed because you don't have the advantage of being a debut novelist with no track record? Instead, you're a published author with a poor track record. 
Maybe I'm being harsh, but the point is, there's a time for everything. Even a time for being published. There are worse things than a rejection from an agent. Premature success could be one of them.

My goal is to put out something great and lasting, not simply to publish a book. For me, yes, success could come too quickly. Call it lack of confidence (which it may be), but I don't consider myself a good judge of when I'm ready. I'm just trying my best and taking what comes.



  1. To answer your question simply, YES. Success can absolutely come too quickly.

    I think the much-maligned Stephenie Meyer is a prime example of this. Is she a much better writer now than she was eight years ago, when she first wrote TWILIGHT? She has to be. And yet the publishing world has labeled her as a skill-less hack simply because she was fortunate enough - or maybe unfortunate enough - to publish her first book.

    Sounds like you've got a great game plan, Amy, in just trying your best and taking whatever comes. We're all rooting for you:)

  2. I think we are twins separated at birth. :) I've been thinking this exact same thing recently as regards my own writing. I'm with you, I want to put my absolute best out there, and I want the practice and wisdom that comes with occasional failure. Funny thing to hope for, I guess, but I do think success can come too quickly.

  3. I believe it can come too quickly. Fortunately for me, this is not one of my problems

  4. Now that's a positive spin on rejections - thanks for that fresh perspective!

  5. Thank goodness my first never sold! I tried to read it a few years ago, just to remember what it was like. I couldn't even understand it. Honestly.

  6. Amy, I totally believe this is true! By failing again and again we learn what's right and what's wrong. My first project was a mess, and the agents who rejected it were smart! They did me a big favor. I think when success is hard won, we appreciate it more. Great post.

  7. Great attitude, Amy! I should post the first story I ever tried to get published...It's awful! I'm rather embarrassed that I queried it. (blush) It was in the early 90's...I hope I've improved since then. :)

  8. Well said, Amy! I am so, so glad my earlier books weren't the first ones I got published. I think success truly can come too quickly.

  9. If my first book had been published immediately, I probably would have got stuck in that style. Writing for years before being published allowed me to try all kinds of genres and styles without fear!

  10. You know what? I believe a first book can be published and be successful (as we have seen) and the timing can be right OR wrong. The most important thing is how we feel about our work. There's no doubt that the longer you sit on a piece, the stronger you can make it, My debut novel is much stronger now than it was a year ago. And as a fellow believer, I can honestly say that God's timing is PERFECT. It will happen when He knows bewt.

    Because...'All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.' Romans 8:28

    That's one of my favourite quotes from the Bible. :o)

  11. Wow, never thought about it much before this post, Amy . . . but I'm sure that success for you will come exactly when it's intended to! :)

  12. I'd never thought of it that way. But yes, thank heavens it wasn't published!

  13. Everything happens for a reason. I say tht to myself or someone else at least once a week!

  14. I'm glad my first books were rejected. Because if my new books are ever published, it will be even sweeter than if my first book had been published (even if I loved my first book).

    And you're right. It's the rejections that push us to become better writers.

  15. I agree, but I think that a lot of great stuff gets rejected, too, because it's not quite right for a particular editor or agent.

  16. Yes, it can come too quickly, and I wish it would happen to me :) LOL. But then again, I'm a great believer of everything happening at the prescribed time.

    I love Eccl. 3:

    To every thing there is a aseason, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

    A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

    A time to weep, and a time to a laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance...

    And so, even when success comes too early, it is how it's meant to be. Often, we don't see the person's struggle to achieve it.

  17. Oh, I'm so glad you wrote this. I am on the fence about tucking my first book under the bed (despite some mild success with contests and queries and a couple of fulls still out there) and part of the reason is that I've written something better.
    But, I do have to admit to being jealous when it seems that people have had a bit of overnight success (although perhaps it just seems overnight to me).
    Thanks, lady. Great post. Great reminder.