Does your career trajectory look like this:
I think we all know which graph is the most accurate. This is one of the most challenging parts of being an author - we have close to a total lack of control over our own career paths. Luck is a huge part of the journey. The right manuscript landing on the right desk at the right time. Your as yet unsold novel hitting a trend that no one saw coming. The sales director having a headache the day of the acquisitions meeting. We need to have talent, craft, commitment and hope. We also need a massive dollop of luck.
When we get lucky, we want to stay lucky - but I haven't worked out the recipe for that one yet. The moment life feels good, the rug can be pulled from under an author's feet. The email that makes your face drain of blood, when the book you've slaved over is having its contract cancelled. Modest sales that leave you with a distinct sense of lukewarm enthusiasm from the editorial team who once promised you a glorious marketing strategy.
What control do we have over any of the above? Close to none. Is that likely to change? Well, some would argue yes with the advent of ebooks. Personally, I'm not rolling up my sleeves for the revolution quite yet.
Why do we keep writing when we're so tossed on the storm? Time and time again, in moments of angst, loved ones have told me, 'You do it because you have to.' They're right. The little girl who slaved over stories in her exercise books had no concept of sales figures or failing book chains. She's still part of who I am. And, oh, the rollercoaster ride! And the friends. Want to find a really good friend? Share some of your bad writing news. You'll soon find out who cares.
These are the type of friends you need when times become good again. I have a personal theory about book launches. The most important people present are usually standing at the back of the room, quietly watching, smiling, going largely unnoticed by all except the author. They're the husband, or the parent or the childhood friend who knows you're doing exactly what you should always have been doing. They're there to enjoy your good times, and they'll be there for the bad times, too. They could probably draw an accurate graph of your career trajectory, because they'll have been there every step of the way.
But they have more sense than that. Like us, they know writing isn't about plotting data.
It's about plotting.
You can visit my website at www.karen-ball.com.