Luck is a myth – or is it?

There is something karmic about the fact that my day to blog falls on St. Patrick’s Day. And of course, what goes better with St. Patrick than luck (not touching the concept of green beer).

Luck gets dealt a bad hand, if you think about it. First, it’s celebrated. Luck is a good thing. We like being lucky. We like being thought of as lucky. We like charms for luck. Sports players–and fans–have hoards of lucky emblems, objects, and routines. Luck is a Big Deal.

At the same time, we live in a country (and a culture) that prizes hard work. As Calvin Coolidge said (and I’m paraphrasing), perseverance and hard work trump all. You can make it anywhere if you just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and keep on keeping on. It’s what we tell ourselves, our kids, and our friends when we stumble. “Don’t give up. With hard work, you’ll get there.” When someone we perceive as less talented, or less worthy in some regard, scores success we scoff. “Oh, she just got lucky.”

So luck either doesn’t exist (only hard work) or it’s not important and not worth celebrating.

Except…it is.

Many of you know I’ve spent much of the past year (since May 2015) in the query trenches with my first novel (well, the first novel I’d dare share with anyone) And Corruption For All (henceforth to be referred to as Corruption). I’ll not lie to you, it’s been hard. I’ve gotten some disheartening rejections. One came a mere two hours after I pushed Send with a terse, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Many more queries have disappeared into the Internet ether, never to be heard from again.

Then again, I’ve gotten some encouraging feedback and rejections. “You are so close” or “this is really good, just not quite good enough for me to take on.” Friends, early readers, and potential agents have offered good feedback and I’ve done revisions. I feel the book is stronger. But still, no offers.

Because–luck.

See, there is so much about publishing that is totally out of an author’s control. Is this type of book selling? Does the agent already have a client writing something similar? Is there a publisher whose ready to take a gamble on a new, untested author? And so on, and so on.

The only thing I can do is write a darn good book. I think I’ve done that. And the only thing I can do is write another. And sit. And wait. And keep sending my stories out. And keep writing more. That I can control. The writing. The effort I’m expending. My perseverance. I can’t control agents, publishers or anyone else. Nothing else to be done.

Now excuse me. I have to go rub my lucky rabbit’s foot charm and put on my lucky socks before I send out the next batch of queries.

Mary Sutton | @mary_sutton73

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Author: Liz Milliron

Liz Milliron has been making up stories, and creating her own endings for other people's stories, for as long as she can remember. She's worked for fifteen years in the corporate world, but finds making things up is far more satisfying than writing software manuals. A lifelong mystery fan, her short fiction has been published in online magazines Uppagus and Mysterical-e. She has also had stories included in Lucky Charms: 12 Crime Tales, Blood on the Bayou (the 2016 Bouchercon anthology), Fish Out of Water, and Mystery Most Historical. She is a past president of the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime. Visit her online at http://lizmilliron.com, find her on Facebook at https://facebook.com/LizMilliron, or follow her on Twitter (@LizMilliron).

11 thoughts on “Luck is a myth – or is it?”

  1. Thoughtful, Mary! Luck + perseverance both seem key. And having been lucky enough 🙂 to be one of your early readers, I know your book is great and will make some publisher very happy. C’mon lucky socks!

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  2. Mary, there is so much wisdom in this. The hard work and perseverance got the book written, polished to a high shine, and ready for prime time. After that what happens does contain a huge amount of luck. I’ve got my fingers crossed for you!

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  3. Right. Sometimes what looks like luck is being ready for a good thing to happen – having worked really hard at writing the best book you can so when you get a nibble you won’t waste the chance! I’m keeping my Irish fingers crossed for you, Mary.

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  4. Great post, Mary! Luck is definitely key in publishing, but it takes hard work to get to a manuscript to a spot where luck can even come into play. My fingers and toes are crossed for you!

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  5. I’ve always believed people make their own luck. After all, Mary, how would your book find a home if you didn’t query? How would your book find a home if you hadn’t practiced your craft on all your earlier books? How would your book find a home if you hadn’t researched the art of writing, marketing, and publishing? It won’t be luck when someone buys it, it will be because you made it available, as many times as necessary to get that “Yes.” True luck would be if an editor was at your house because you kindly opened the door to their knock when they had a tire blow out. And while they were waiting for AAA, they saw your manuscript, started reading, and bought it on the spot. But you know what? You still opened the door to their knock.

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  6. I totally agree. It’s a combination of hard work, perseverance, and…luck. We have to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right product. Fingers & toes crossed here for ya! I can’t wait to see your book in print!

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  7. Luck is definitely part of the publishing equation, but as my friend puts it, “everything you do right is like a lottery ticket, upping your chances.” Write a good book = ticket. Study your craft = another ticket. Learning to market = another ticket. Etc. Etc. Eventually, good things will come. Hang in there. Querying is rough business, but the pay off is good.

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  8. Interesting hypothesis. Is luck just those combination of a myriad of factors about which we do not know and cannot control? If we did and could, would we be able to develop an elegant formula for predicting success? So since we do not have that knowledge and control, we commit those factors to the otherworld, that mystic place where magic controls and faeries still banquet. Or, even if we could know all those things and manipulate them, is there still an element of randomness? Good stuff to ponder. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Mary et al and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

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  9. Thanks to all of you for the well wishes. I’ll keep you posted.

    I think you’ve all hit a common theme. I love the analogy of “tickets.” You get tickets by working hard. Learning your craft and polishing the book. Writing a kick-butt query and continuing to send it out, regardless of responses (or lack of responses as the case may be). All of these things put you in the right place when opportunity presents itself. Thus, what looks like “luck” may or may not be the work of Keenan’s fairies.

    So yeah – we make our own luck. But there’s still that element of “things I just cannot control” and that may be the mythological impersonation of Lady Luck. We can woo her, but who knows if the wooing will be successful?

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