Monday, 10 May 2010

Lady Luck and "Wasted" by Nicola Morgan

Luck - or the goddess Fortuna - used to be portrayed in art as a woman turning a ever-moving wheel, the Wheel of Fortune, on which people rode from success to failure and from failure to success.   Chance, fortune: the fall of the dice, the pattern of the cards, the flip of a coin - down the ages, people have used them in attempts to steer themselves through the multiple possibilities and uncharted waters of the future. Now here's a brilliant YA novel by Nicola Morgan that explores all this.  The hero is Jack, a teenager with a double tragedy in his past.  His life was changed for ever by a set of freak circumstances, and now he's obsessed by the 'what-if's' and 'if only's' of past and future.  If even tiny events may have unpredictably catastrophic results, how can you choose your way?  Jack has, he thinks, found the answer.  He tosses his lucky coin and allows chance to guide him.  But can chance ever be a sure guide?

The book is riveting - touching, thought-provoking, un-put-downable.  I asked Nicola if she would make a guest appearance on my blog, and she kindly agreed - so here she is this morning to talk about luck in publishing - and how you might make it work for you!





Since my new novel, Wasted, is about huge and unpredictable effects of tiny “lucky” chances on our lives, I’m seeing examples of chance and luck everywhere. Luckily, as this blog tour means I need to write about it in lots of different ways! I like Kath’s suggestion of writing about the part that luck plays in getting published, as it fits my other blogging hat: the how to get published one. So, thanks, Kath and thanks so much for letting me visit you here.

Everyone says you need luck to get published. If you’re struggling / failing, it’s tempting to blame bad luck: you’re talented, hard-working, and deserving, but the luck fairy hasn’t sprinkled stardust on you yet.

Hmmm.

Of course, some people certainly do strike it lucky. A real “right-time-right-place” event, meeting the right person at the right moment, for example, or sending an MS and just happening to have it read by exactly the person who was looking for exactly that MS.

And that’s what people usually mean by needing luck to be published. But there are three ways in which you might think differently.

First, we are woolly in our thinking about luck. We talk about luck when it was perseverance or judgement; and we fail to notice other things that actually are luck, such as the presence of talent in the first place. Oh, and there’s certainly luck in what happens to a book after it’s published – at least in the sense that the writer has little control, and we can work our socks off, doing all the right things, yet still have mediocre sales. (Ask me!)

Second, regarding the act of becoming published: actually you don’t NEED luck. Of the three elements of getting published – talent, perseverance and luck – you only need two, any two. If you have talent and you persevere for long enough, you won’t need luck. Think about throwing dice, trying to throw a double six. You could be lucky first time; but otherwise, if you throw the dice often enough, eventually you WILL throw a double six. That’s not luck: it’s perseverance.

Third, and most importantly, it’s in our control to create a good environment for luck. Not totally control it, but draw it to us by our actions. If you don’t believe me, read Richard Wiseman’s The Luck Factor. (And my blog post here – The Luck Factor) I’m not talking about the appalling luck that hits some people through no fault of theirs. I’m talking about the many ways in which you can encourage the luck fairy to sprinkle fairy dust. Hey, fairy – pick me, pick me!

Here are my top tips for being “lucky” in publishing – and they apply equally to published and unpublished writers:
  • Be in it to win it – write and submit. Often.
  • Be realistic: doing everything right does not guarantee success. A lot of published authors, including me, are hiding bruises in this recession, so you are not alone if you feel rejected by publishers. We have to pick ourselves up and keep on going. It’s a shocking business sometimes, but no one dies.
  • Be positive: the next thing you write might be your break-through. So write it!
  • Be strategic: a day working out strategy instead of writing is well spent.
  • Be connected: blog, Twitter, join groups, follow blogs and comment. Twitter is second to none (in my opinion) for making connections that are fun AND useful. I even sold a sofa on Twitter! It’s a combination of huge office and vast party, but with the advantage that you don’t get trapped with a boring person.
  • Be informed about publishing, how it works, what publishers want.
  • Be a reader: the more you read, the better you’ll write; the better you right, the more likely you are to be and stay published.
  • Be flexible and versatile: you may be a YA novelist, but is that all you can do?
  • Be open to new experiences, new knowledge, new friends. You never know what anything might lead to.
  • Be generous: with your time, your smile, your energy and your books. Karma is not a figment of the imagination.
  • Be brave - braver version of yourself. If in doubt, DO introduce yourself, DO mention your book – don’t bang on, bore or be pushy or insensitive, but do believe that people DO want to know.

In a way, this boils down to one word: do.

Hang on: do we really want to be published through luck, or through talent and hard work? Because if we want it to happen through talent and hard work, we shouldn’t be looking for that luck fairy to sprinkle sickly sherbet fairy dust, should we?
In which case, aren’t those tips redundant? No, I think they are good strategies. Good strategies make good results more likely.

A couple of days ago, on 6th May, I was talking to a teenage reading group, The Cat’s Rrar (http://thecatsrrar.wordpress.com/). Why did this happen? I was in the Children’s Bookshop in Edinburgh and plucked up courage to introduce myself to the new bod behind the till. Turns out it was Cat Anderson, formerly of Borders, and she knew my books and had just started blogging. My mind instantly went into, “What could I do for her?” mode. I told her about my new book and blog, asked if she’d like a copy for her group and offered to talk to them. This lucky meeting led to some great contacts and new readers. Did I say lucky? I shouldn’t. I could have walked out of that shop after just buying a book but I chose to introduce myself and it was that simple but slightly scary choice that led to good “luck”. Sometimes it’s really embarrassing and I cringe but this time it has led to something really good.

So, I won’t say, “Good luck”. I’ll say, “Be brave!” As Jack says, in Wasted, “Luck is just what we call it.”

PS If you want to try your luck at winning a copy of Wasted, head over to the Wasted blog (www.talkaboutwasted.blogspot.com), and sign up as a follower to be entered in the weekly draw. I’d love to see you there and I have loads of discussions going on about luck, chance, risk and quantum physics!

4 comments:

Nancy Wade said...

Thanks for the post. I enjoy reading Ms. Morgan's words and advice. I like the idea of chance meetings and bits of luck. I also agree with the perseverance part. If one gives up, what's the benefit in having luck?

Lucy Coats said...

Am loving this blog so much, Kath--usually a nugget of information previously unknown to me somewhere in every post!

All so true, Nicola. My motto is always 'cast your bread upon the waters'. It's not always returned a thousandfold, but sometimes something extraordinary washes up. You might not believe this, but I'm a naturally shy person. I've learned to be brave when I put my 'author hat' on though, because it gets results.

Lucy @ http://scribblecitycentral.blogspot.com

Nicola Morgan said...

Thanks, all, and esp to Kath for letting me hang around here today. Lucy, I so agree about the "sometimes something extraordinary washes up" thing - the bit we can't predict or control much, except by keeping our eyes open.

Katherine Langrish said...

Thanks, Lucy - and Nic, lovely to have you here. I thought the book was wonderful.