Skip to main content

Make Your Own Luck

Hello everyone

I hope you had a fantastic holiday weekend and got a lot of writing done - particularly those of you participating in NaNoWriMo. Be sure to check out our Cyber Monday sale as well. There’s a ton of great stuff for writers – excellent gifts for you or your writer friends! You'll get $15 off orders of $75, and $20 off orders of $100 or higher. Simply enter code WDS267 with your order by 11:59 Eastern tonight (and check for certain titles that may be excluded).

The week prior to Thanksgiving, I was fortunate enough to attend the New England Crime Bake, which is the annual writing conference for theNew Englandchapter of the Mystery Writers of America. It was a terrific event (always is). If you're ever in the Boston area, it's well worth your time to attend, even if you don't write mysteries.

One of the most enjoyable sessions was the opening panel discussion, which included a host of bestselling mystery writers talking about the craft. Included in the session were Barry Eisler and Michael Palmer.

At one point, each panelist was asked to give their opinion on "what is the most important factor in becoming a writer?" As one might expect, initial answers varied from tenacity to a consistent work ethic. However, Michael Palmer said it was all luck. That deflated a number of the attendees as it took personal effort out of the equation. Barry Eisler turned it around, however, by noting that "luck" is something you make for yourself. For example, you have zero chance of getting published if you don't at least write a manuscript. You also have zero chance if you don't bother to send your manuscript out, or show it to agents or editors (unless, of course, you go the self publishing route). You have a small chance of getting published if you do those things, however, and a substantially better chance of getting published if you spend time building an effective platform. And you have a pretty good chance of getting published if you network with agents and editors at writing conferences, network with other readers, study the craft to make your work the best it can be, write every day, and are diligent in submitting queries and proposals of the highest quality.

Barry then asked the audience members to ask themselves what they had done improve their odds of getting published - to make their own "luck". Ask yourself the same. What did you do over the holiday weekend to improve your odds of "getting lucky" with your work? If you didn't do something this past weekend, when was the last time you did? If you have a hard time remembering, then what Michael Palmer says is true - you may need a lot of luck to get published. But don't let that be the case. Make your own luck - if not this past weekend, then today, and tomorrow, and every day to come.

In related news, I contacted Barry Eisler after the conference and asked if he would be the central keynote at the Writer's Digest Conference , January 20th - 22nd in NYC. He agreed, which is fantastic news. Barry is a great speaker with excellent insights about the craft and business of being a writer. But he's also on the leading edge of publishing. You might recall from news reports that Barry turned down a six-figure deal in order to self publish his books and retain all creative control. Then Amazon stepped in and offered an entirely new deal, which enabled Barry to retain total control over editorial and design, while Amazon would publish and promote the book (The Detachment). Barry accepted and a new publishing model was born.

If you want to see Barry speak, as well as our opening keynote, A.J. Jacobs, and our closer, the founder of National Novel Writing Month himself, Chris Baty, come join us at the conference!

Write always!


Phil Sexton, WD Publisher

Follow me on Twitter @psexton1

The Time Is Now: Securing First-Hand Accounts of History for Writing Projects

The Time Is Now: Securing First-Hand Accounts of History for Writing Projects

Writer Stephen L. Moore discusses the benefits of having first-hand accounts for historical writing and offers advice on best practices in securing interviews while there’s still time.

From Script

Character Exploration and Development in Television (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, exclusive interviews with writers, showrunners and more who share a common thread of character exploration and development!

Janet Key: On Letting Your Novel Take Shape

Janet Key: On Letting Your Novel Take Shape

Author Janet Key discusses the experience of letting the novel take shape through the editorial process for her debut novel, Twelfth.

Benjamin Myers: On Fleeting Moments Becoming Finished Novels

Benjamin Myers: On Fleeting Moments Becoming Finished Novels

Award-winning author and journalist Benjamin Myers discusses the out-of-body experience of having the idea for his new novel, The Perfect Golden Circle.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: 7 WDU Courses, a Chat With Ran Walker, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce 7 WDU courses, a chat about flash fiction with Ran Walker, and more!

Christopher Stollar | How to Crowdfund Your Book

How to Crowdfund Your Book

Crowdfunding in publishing has received a lot of attention in recent months. Successful crowd-funder and author Chris Stollar shares his tips for realistic and practical tips to make crowdfunding work for you.

12 Dos and Don’ts of Revealing Critical Backstory in a Novel

12 Dos and Don’ts of Revealing Critical Backstory in a Novel

How much backstory is too much backstory, and how do we know when we haven’t given enough? Here, bestselling author Jenna Kernan offers six dos and six don’ts of revealing critical backstory in a novel.

How and Why To Turn Your Play Into a Novel

How and Why To Turn Your Play Into a Novel

Award-winning novelist and playwright Lynne Kaufman discusses the differences, similarities, and benefits of turning your play into a novel.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Thinking There’s Not Enough Room for Your Story

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Thinking There’s Not Enough Room for Your Story

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's mistake is thinking there's not enough room for your story.