I’ll Know I’ve Made it as a Writer When . . .

. . . I finish a whole manuscript.

. . . I learn how to rewrite that whole manuscript.

. . . I get five/ten/fifteen/one hundred/etc rejection letters from real-life agents.

. . . I knuckle down and rewrite the book again. And again. And again. Etc.

. . . I get a request for the whole manuscript from a real-life agent.

. . . I get an agent.

. . . I get five rejections from publishers.

. . . I get ten rejections from publishers. (Would you believe twenty rejections? How about thirty? One hundred? One thousand? One million?)

. . . I start writing my second/third/fourth/fifth/etc book despite the fact that the first/second/third/fourth etc book hasn’t sold yet.

. . . I get an offer from a publisher.

. . . the deal is announced in Publishers Lunch.

. . . I get my first real editorial letter.

. . . I have my first hissy fit about my first editorial letter.

. . . I knuckle down and rewrite the book.

. . . I get my second real editorial letter.

. . . I have my second hissy fit about my second editorial letter.

. . . I knuckle down and rewrite the book. Again.

. . . (And repeat. Or not. Depending.)

. . . I get my first copyedit.

. . . I have my first hissy hit about my first copyedit. (Only robots speak without contractions! “Me and LJ” is how my character would say it NOT “LJ and I” because my character is not the FREAKING QUEEN OF FREAKING ENGLAND!)

. . . I get my first ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of my very own book with my name on the front and EVERYTHING. Oh my Elvis! It’s real, people. Book by me! *faints*

. . . I get my first page proofs and am overwhelmed by the urge to completely rewrite everything and make the book, you know, ACTUALLY GOOD!! (Also notice that I use the word “actually” way too much and that is BY NO MEANS the only word I use WAY TOO MUCH. Wonder if I have also overused CAPS and italics and exclamation marks!!! Consider getting publisher to cancel book. Actually.)

. . . I get my first good review.

. . . I get my first bad review.

. . . I get my first meh review.

. . . I am enraged by an eleven year old who enjoyed my book but wished it was as good as [redacted]’s bestselling piece of [redacted] about [redacted].

. . . I get my first box full of my own finished actually TRULY REALLY book what I have written MYSELF!!!

. . . I open said book on a page with a typo of “actualy” and the CAPS and italics in the wrong places.

. . . I realise that it is the last book in the entire world I wish to read.

. . . I go to my local bookshop and there is my book in a real actual book shop.

. . . I get a query from my publisher wondering where my next book is.

. . . I miss a deadline.

. . . I miss two/three/four/five/etc deadlines.

. . . I get my first query from Hollywood which goes nowhere.

. . . I am sent on tour to promote my book.

. . . I bitch and moan about being sent on tour to promote my book.

. . . I am not sent on tour.

. . . I bitch and moan about not being sent on tour to promote my book.

. . . I get my very first fan letter. Someone read and enjoyed my book enough to write to me! Best. Day. Ever.

. . . the fan letters I get make me cry because they are so moving.

. . . the fan letters I get make me cry because they are so illiterate.

. . . I get more fan letters than I could ever possibly answer.

. . . I become a New York Times bestseller.

. . . I am disappointed when my next book only reaches no. 8 on the New York Times bestseller list.

. . . I am not a New York Times bestseller.

. . . I think about killing those entitled bastards who whinge about their books only getting to no. 8 on the New York Times bestseller list.

. . . I quit my dayjob.

. . . I can live off my advances.

. . . I can live off my royalties and don’t have to sell books on proposal anymore.

. . . I have to live in a garret and eat ramen in order to keep writing.

. . . all my friends are writers.

. . . I don’t have to hang out with writers anymore.

. . . I win the Nobel Prize.

. . . I do an event and half the crowd is dressed up as characters from my books.

. . . one of my books is optioned to be made into a movie.

. . . my book becomes a movie.

. . . my book is made into a movie and I get to complain about how Hollywood destroyed it.

. . . my book is made into a movie and I get to go to all the Hollywood parties for it and stand in the corner because no one’s interested in talking to a writer. Even a nobel-prize winning New York Times bestseller who can live off their own royalties.

. . . all my books are optioned to be made into movies.

. . . all my books are made into movies.

. . . my first book is remaindered.

. . . all my books except the most recent are remaindered.

. . . I fire my first agent.

. . . I move to a different publisher.

. . . even people who don’t read know my name.

. . . only people who read my genre know my name.

. . . only some of the people who read my genre know my name.

. . . I have to change my name and genre in order to keep being published.

. . . I write a book that I am truly happy with.


  1. Alayne on #

    Effing brilliant, and I’ll be sharing it with my students.

  2. Ashlyn on #

    Oh so true. I am now going to live off this list.

  3. Nicki on #

    Oh my God. If only I could achieve half those things! Amazingly well written and hilarious. LOVE. Must bookmark to read regularly 🙂

  4. Jessa on #

    So … Is it weird that I cried, and smiled and laughed while reading this? What a PERFECT blog post from inside the mind of a writer. I loved it and will read it many more times, I’m sure.

  5. Sue on #

    Oh, I just laughed in delight at this! I love your books!

  6. Mike on #

    Awesome, awesome post!

    Was waiting for the “I die, and then am labeled one of the most brilliant men/women of letters in my generation.” Alas, another still-born idea. Still: this was brilliant without it!

    I’m only up to step 2 on this list, but still…my imagination– the thought of checking off each item on this list — will keep me pushing forward.



  7. Jessica Leader on #

    I will have made it as a writer when people post my bloggings on Facebook, and others click to them!

    I will have made it as a writer when someone anticipates the release of my newest book with a squee!

    This is really great and true–a good reminder for us to enjoy what we’re doing and be grateful for the milestones!

  8. Virginia on #

    HAHAHAH! Love it! I’m down to the copyedit!

  9. Marie Erving on #

    This is great, and unexpectedly encouraging.

  10. Chaz Brenchley on #

    Oh, damn. I can tick almost every one of those boxes, except the last (and one of the two NYT choices, by definition, and one or two of the others). Does that mean I’ve made it? Are we nearly there yet?

  11. Tania Roxborogh on #

    You could also add about getting slightly annoyed at as yet-to-be published/best selling/award winning writer friends who tell you off for moaning about being a writer when ‘at least you’re published/best selling/prize winning…’ I say: you’re only as good as your last great review in the public’s eye.

  12. Chris Stachura on #

    Oh, wow, how affirming and spot on! You mean someone else thinks that way?? Does that mean I’m not crazy? Or are we both? 0.o

  13. Jack Durish on #

    Yep, that about sums up the life of a writer. Only, I went through 125 agent rejections and made it straight to the publisher without one.

  14. Justine on #

    Thanks so much everyone for your kind comments. I’m glad you got a giggle out of my gentle poking of fun at us neurotic writers.

    FYI: I’m in Sydney. Most of the commenters are in North American. There’s often a gap between people commenting and me releasing their comments.

  15. Laura Hurlburt on #

    My sister sent this to me because I have just finished writing my first YA novel and am considering entering the “attempting to be published” fray. It certainly affirmed many of my fears, but it sure was funny!! Thanks for the excellent belly laugh!! All the best to you “down under”!

  16. Hannah on #

    Love this! Can’t wait until I can say more than of the above (something a little more exciting than “finished a whole manuscript” and “got x rejections from real agents” :]

  17. L.L. Muir on #

    Only a writer…

  18. Kate Traylor on #

    Portrait of an extremely successful career! I love it. (And it seems like the last one might be the most important?)

  19. short story lover on #

    A writer should not be influenced or inspired by other writers.

  20. Kate Traylor on #

    @short story lover: Is that a joke? Because it’s impossible to write in a vacuum. No one ever starts writing without having been inspired and influenced by other writers.

  21. Lindsey Whitney on #

    Love the list! Very funny, inspirational and true.

  22. Justine on #

    Kate Traylor: I suspect short story lover belongs to the Ayn Rand school of writing. 😉

  23. Iulian Ionescu on #

    This was awesome. What is scary is that I just barely at the second line… Wow… long way to go 🙂

  24. Bernice Mcfadden on #

    That was hilarious! I hope life is wonderful..!

  25. Justine on #

    Iulian Ionescu: There’s no particular order and most of these things never happen. Good luck!

    Bernice Mcfadden: Thank you! Hope yours is fab also.

  26. Margo Christie on #

    Wonderful! Especially “Finished my first manuscript.” I’m there, and need to daily remind myself that being a writer means, simply, that I write. Being a published writer, now that’s a horse of a different color! I’m also at “I’ve won a prize in a major novel contest,” having finished second in Amazon’s 2012 Breakthrough Novel Award. Still struggling with getting “These Days” noticed by agents though, so I’m also at “I get frustrated with the lack of daring on the part of agents and give self-publishing its first serious look!” Thanks for this concise and comical look at the frustrations and awards of being a writing!

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