The Danger of Early Success


I, among others, will often remind you not to expect fame, fortune, best sellers or anything else when you first start out. Most of us never achieve such early success, regardless of the quality of our work. Some of the world’s best authors were rejected repeatedly. Some had a number of novels written and in print before they began to have a following.

Today, I am going to assume that isn’t you. Maybe your writing is terrible, maybe it is great, but for one reason or another you’ve found instant success. Right out of the gate you raced up the best seller lists. You got signed for a three book deal with a big publishing house and your fan base is rabid for more of your work. Congratulations. I’m sorry you have to contend with it though.

In some ways, rejection is the gate keeper. If you’ve never faced it, you’ve never gotten tested. Some quit, throwing their hands up and saying it isn’t worth the effort. Others however bear down harder, honing their craft with a fiery passion. Those who stay with it are improved by facing their failures. It isn’t even always that their writing wasn’t good, just that it wasn’t right for the agents and publishers they were focused on. They grew out of their rejections.

Instant success never lets you test your mettle until the pressures of success are already bearing down on you. That book you wrote that everyone loved, yeah, write seven more in a row. Make sure everything is original, but since you don’t have a body of work to judge by, a lot of people are going to expect you to also keep things the same. That is a high wire act that no one can enjoy. Worse is that you will tend to stagnate early if you get too caught up in the push to recapture the original work.

So many authors who see major early success burn out quickly. I am sure they might have had many years of writing ahead of them, but creativity is sometimes stifled by the very things we seem to think we want. There is a danger in success to early. If it happens to you, try to remember that you may need more caution than you have reason to believe. You may need to step back from the fans and recognize that a high quality story and recapturing the exact same as the original are not the same thing. Yes, you have a lot of doors open to you, but remember to look at what is beyond the archway before you step through.

Good luck with your swift success. Make sure that instead of letting your guard up, you redouble your efforts to become a better author and strive for the most creative and interesting stories you can create. You’ll get good advice and bad. Try to be discerning about which is which.

What are your thoughts?

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