Face Plants and the Definition of Success
"Show me a guy who's afraid to look bad, and I'll show you a guy you can beat every time."
- Rene Auberjonois
If a writer doesn't take risks, doesn't chance looking like a fool from time to time, the work becomes derivative, a pale imitation of the work of others. By taking the safe course, one can achieve modest successes, but only by forging ahead of the curve can an author -- or any artist or businessperson -- have a shot at breaking out into uncharted territory.
Barbara Dawson Smith, an award-winning, NYT bestselling novelist I very much respect, once said (and I'm paraphrasing because my memory isn't perfect): "My goal isn't to have my books picked up by people browsing the bookstore looking for another historical romance. I want them to go looking for a Barbara Dawson Smith book in particular. I want mine to be the novel picked up by those readers who only purchase two to three books a year."
It's a worthy goal, and one I share (though in the interest of full disclosure, I'd prefer that my readers to go looking for a Colleen Thompson romantic suspense instead.) But it's not a goal I'll achieve if my books are only a pretty good example of the genre. To stand out, I have to celebrate my own voice, to be different.
And if that means risking a giant face plant in a failure meringue pie, so be it. I can always lick off the sweet white goo and give it another shot.