16 January 2015

Guest post: How author Ruthanne Reid defines success as a writer

Science fantasy author Ruthanne Reid has three novels out - The Sundered (which is a great read, btw), The Christmas Dragon, and Strings - all with high ratings on Amazon; a fourth on the way, Notte; and a slew of short stories available on her website.

But none of that matters. Read on to find out why.

How author Ruthanne Reid Defines Success as a Writer


That's cheating, perhaps, to use one word, but it's true. Let me explain.

When I started this whole writing thing, I really had no idea how publishing worked. I wanted to write, find an agent, and then see my books on the shelf at Barnes & Noble, where they would inspire potential movie deals and copious amounts of fanfic.

What a starry-eyed waif I was.

I had no idea what I was getting into. The current of the publishing world is not just strong like a river; it's out of control, insane, like the vomit from a burst dam, drowning and crushing almost everything in its path. I'm serious. Lots of authors - lots - are incredibly talented, skilled, hard-working, and creative, but you will never see them in B&N. You may never even hear about them. Why? Because there are too many of us.

We are hidden by the dam's forsaken flood.

This was a hard lesson to learn, and I won't go into all the details now. I will say this: at the end of the day, disheartened and holding the shreds of my dreams in my hands, I realized I still had to write. Even if I never became Neil Gaiman, I had to write. No, I needed to write. When I don't write, bad things happen. My husband delicately refers to it as "going twitchy."

So what's a girl to do?

I had to reevaluate what writing was and why it mattered. I had to choose whether to keep agent-hunting, or self-publish. (That has been covered on my blog already, and while it wasn't an easy choice to make, I wouldn't do it any other way.)

So, self-publish it was, but then I had to reevaluate again. I'm not Hugh Howey or Amanda Hocking. The moment I judge my success by theirs, I lose.

Just how many people had to enjoy my work before it was "good enough?" The Sundered has 156 reviews and a 4.3 star rating on Amazon at the time of this article (holy crap, amIrite?), and that's better than a lot of books by my favorite authors. So was that good enough? Yes? No? Would anything ever be?

I love writing. I've produced books I can be genuinely proud of - books I know others enjoy. I've created a whole universe - no. I've written down the universe that's been percolating in my head since I was 14, more than 20 years ago, and to my absolute delight, other people like that universe, too.

It took me years to figure this out, and if I could help anybody else reach this understanding without all the angsting I went through, then I will consider my purpose in this world complete.

Here is what matters: creating something (a) you can be proud of and happy with, and (b) that doesn't leave you burned out and angry when you're through.

One-word summation: contentment.

Some Cautions:
  • If writing is so frustrating that it takes away your love of creating, stop.
  • If fame and fortune are the only things that matter, you'd be better off trying for American Idol. Believe it or not, your odds would be better.
  • If, however, it's enough for you to make a good thing and share it with people who like good things, then you have found something even better than success. You have found contentment, and that, in my opinion, is where true success lies.

And that is how Ruthanne Reid judges success as a writer.

Indie author Ruthanne Reid writes about elves, aliens, vampires, and space-travel with equal abandon. She is the author of the series Among the Mythos, and believes good stories should be shared. Subscribe to her free email newsletter for free books and more at http://amongthemythos.com. You can connect with her on Twitter (http://twitter.com/ruthannereid), Facebook (http://facebook.com/mythos), or Tumblr (http://ruthannereid.tumblr.com), where she looks at too many kittens and Avengers blogs.


  1. My definition of success has many layers, but the simplest one is this: if I can inspire even one person struggling through depression to write their own stories and use writing to climb out of depression like I did, I'm a success. Money and fame might be nice, but if I can inspire others to create, I've done my job.

    1. Excellent, Diana. I think you're 100% right.