Musing About Measuring Success

151 downloads of YSYD on Smashwords. 10 on Amazon (YSYD is free on Smashwords). I admit I’m tracking it closely. I’m certainly not immune to measuring the success of my writing by its popularity. Sure, writing is fun (editing not so much) and the feeling of completing a project for the first time was fantastic, but knowing that people are reading and enjoying my work is a big factor for me.

I’ve seen the advice, “Write for yourself… don’t worry about what sells… you can’t control how your work is received… just be honest with writing…”. Yeah, ok, but I prefer the way Elmore Leonard approached his work. He wrote westerns in the 50’s and 60’s because that’s what sold. When the western market dried up, he looked around and saw that crime fiction was selling. I’m sure he enjoyed writing in both genres, but the point is that he saw himself as a professional writer – and that meant getting paid to write. To get paid, you have to sell. To sell, you have to be read.

Being paid to write is a great motivator for some folks. I’m not as driven by it (making Patterson cash would be nice, though). For me, it’s about writing stories that entertain. If I just wanted to “write for myself,” I wouldn’t spend as much time editing. I’m a lot more willing to read my own stuff with the numerous typos and liberal splash of commas than an average reader would be. In the end, I try to craft a story that people will want to read.

I believe the essence of ‘story’ is that it must entertain – first and foremost. Inform, enlighten, challenge, shock – a story can do all of these things, and it should. However, if it doesn’t entertain, I don’t believe most readers will hang around for the rest of the good stuff. Like the tree that falls in the woods with no one around to hear it, if the story doesn’t have an audience, is it really a story?

So why write a western? Isn’t that one of the least popular genres these days? Without a doubt, it trails well behind fantasy and romance novels, but its making a comeback in the shorter forms and on ebooks. In addition, as a first attempt to write something for publication, it just seemed like a comfortable place to start. I have always loved westerns. Just wish I could get a few more online reviews – wink, wink. 

Now, I’ve started full on outlining and writing the next project that is more of a contemporary action/adventure story. I’m really enjoying the process. It’s a welcome relief from the drudgery of editing that has consumed my last couple of months.

I also hope to get another MA&TC story out in the coming weeks. The kids have been after me to finish it. If nothing else, they are a captive audience that I aim to please.

I appreciate all your support and feel free to leave comments, email me, like this post, or even follow me on Twitter. 

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