Defining Success

If you ask me to define success, my answer would depend on the day. Today, it means I achieved the literary goal of submitting my novel to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. I had to achieve four smaller goals on the ladder reaching toward the ultimate goal of having my book on your bookshelf (and everyone you know’s bookshelf).

The goals took herculean effort. I added over four thousand words to my young adult novel in less than one week and did my best to smooth out the edges of those words, that became scenes and dialogue, so that they fit into my book seemlessly. I stayed up late. I kept an open notebook next to my bed with a pen at the ready for those ideas that elluded me during the day. I made myself keep my ass in the chair and made myself write even when it got numb, my daughter came home early from school and when dinner had to get made.( We ate too much frozen pizza last week, I’m not that good!)

I wrote even when I thought I couldn’t and I kept at it when I felt like I was failing, when each word dragged me down the path of self doubt. I struggled against hating my work. I changed the title of my book to What Death has Touched. I rewrote my pitch too. I pushed past the fear of sucking and embarrassing myself in a very public way. I posted on Facebook that I was entering the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, so I couldn’t quit. And then I hated myself for telling everyone in case I don’t make it past the first round.

If it weren’t for my friend Lisa Koosis setting fire under my ass I would never have done it.  She reminded me about the contest and said she was going to submit and I thought, hmm, maybe I could, too. Then my uncle passed, my daughter had surgery and life got a bit more hectic than anticpated. All those luxurious days I thought I’d have to edit and revise were gone. So I did what it took to reignite my passion, I gave myself an impossible deadline. I uploaded what I had and announced my entry on FB knowing full well the book had to be revised to meet the guidelines. Now I had to do it. There was no turning back. I am not a liar. I told 500 people I was in, dam straight I was going to be!

I double-dog-dared myself and leaned on Lisa for help. I sent her emails filled with self dout and fear. I told her the probability of me losing and then got back to the work at hand. She cheered me on. Each one of these things is a success. I hate when people quote,  “It’s about the journey not the destination.” Fuck that. It’s both.

It’s about working harder than you ever thought you could to achieve a dream and not quiting. It’s about checking off attainable boxes that drag you the higher goals kicking and sweating. I have a quote posted on my board, it says:


So I’m happy to say I did it. Ironically the contest closed before the closing date of January 27, 11:59 PM because 10,000 people had entered (it closed at 10k or 1/28 whichever came first). I didn’t get to upload the last version of my book What Death has Touched, but honestly that doesn’t upset me. I did what I thought was impossible to do. I wrote a book. I rewrote a book and revised it and sweat over it and critiqued it and hated it and loved it and am shopping it. I am one stubborn woman. And today I am not wallowing in my lack of control over what happens to it next, no, today I am working on my next novel because this is who I am. I am a glutton for punishment, I am a writer.

What the hell is holding you back? Get over it!’s definition:

suc·cess noun

1.the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts orendeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals.
2.the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
3.a performance or achievement that is marked by success, as bythe attainment of honors: The play was an instant success.
4. a person or thing that has had success, as measured byattainment of goals, wealth, etc.: She was a great success on the talkshow.
5.Obsolete , outcome.

6 thoughts on “Defining Success

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  1. Beautifully said, Holly. We need to stop and enjoy every victory along the way. It’s something I need to remind myself of more often. I’m so proud of you for plowing ahead and doing this! 🙂

  2. Holly. Great post. I read another definition of success in one of the quotation books and I like it above all others:
    “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.” ― William Feather
    It’s especially apt for writers. Success will come – if we don’t give up. Trite but true.
    BTW: I also love fantasy and write fantasy.

  3. ABNA also galvanized me to finish a draft of a YA novel I have been fiddling with for years! It’s not perfect, but I made massive headway and it has a satisfying beginning, middle and end. Being able to upload revisions each day the contest was open was quite motivating because I felt a little thrill of accomplishment each time I did, even if the changes were incremental 😉 So no matter how far I progress in the contest, I already won a personal victory!

  4. I entered the ABNA. I had a couple of novels that I could have entered, and one that, if I had put my mind to it, I could have finished before the closing date. But, now that self published books are eligible, I decided to enter The Cloths of Heaven which I published POD a few years ago. It is still my favorite, was written for my brother, and I would be so thrilled if it got through to later rounds.

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