Edward Willett

What does writing success mean to me?

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The Flames of Nevyana blog tour has wrapped up! The final two stops of note were this long review of the book from Jorie Loves a Story (too long and detailed to easily excerpt, so read it in situ), and an interview from Melissa Yaun-Innes’s blog, of which here’s a large chunk (Just in time for Hallowe’en, it’s headlined, “Crawl into Edward Willett’s mind”)…

Q. What does writing success mean to you? Awards, money, readers, all of the above?

To me, what feels like success varies depending on the day of the week.

Well, not quite, but almost.

When I receive an award (and I’ve received a few—a Saskatchewan Book Award for my YA fantasy Spirit Singer [Tyche Books]; an Aurora Award [the top award for Canadian science fiction and fantasy] for my science fiction novel Marseguro [DAW Books]; even a City of Regina Heritage Award for Historic Walks of Regina and Moose Jaw [Red Deer Press]), then naturally it feels for that moment that awards are what writing success is all about.

When I sign a contract that means I will soon be receiving money with which I can a) pay the water bill; b) get the car serviced; c) pay off Visa, then money certainly seems like the best measure of writing success. Since I’m a full-time writer with no other source of income, this is certainly one kind of success I’m constantly seeking.

When I find a glowing review of one of my books, particularly if it appears in a prominent publication whose reviews are influential, then the getting of good reviews seems to me the perfect measure of writing success. In the immortal words of Sally Field receiving an Academy Award, “You like me, you really like me!”

When I write a sentence or a scene or even, if I’m lucky, a whole chapter with which I am utterly and completely satisfied, then that seems like a good measure of writing success. I have pleased my most persnickety critic, myself. (To paraphrase Sally Field, “I like me, I really like me!”)

But thinking long and hard on this question over the years, particularly when doubts as to the wisdom of my chosen career arise, I’ve come to the conclusion that what meaningfully defines writing success is readers. Writing is, ultimately, a form of communication. As writers, we strive to transplant the ideas, characters, situations, and entire worlds we imagine into the imaginations of other people. It’s a monumental task. When it works, your writing is successful —it’s that simple, and that hard.

Alas, we don’t always know when we’ve succeeded. Most readers never bother to reach out an author whose work has entertained, enlightened, challenged, or changed them. If you become a bestseller you can assume you’ve reached a lot of readers, so perhaps that is a measure of success, but the truth is, every writer is successful whenever he or she manages to bridge that gap between his or her mind and the readers, to open up a new world of imagination. I like awards, I like money, I like reviews, and I’d love to be a bestseller. But ultimately, I think every book I write is a success—and therefore I am a success—so long as somewhere there is a reader who loves it.

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