Samuel Goldwyn said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

I was talking to my friends Brett Battles and Tasha Alexander recently (actually, we were IM-ing or iChatting, depending on your choice of weapons) and was marveling at how wonderful it is that the three of us — and so many of our friends (many of whom are here) — have managed to do what so many in the world want to do: publish a novel. And how incredibly wonderful that is.

I don’t remember the details of the conversation, but I’m sure one of us mentioned how “lucky” we all are. I’m also sure that I’ve used the word luck a number of times in my life to explain certain turns of events, both good and bad.

But when I wake up in the wee hours and start reflecting on such things, I have to ask myself if I believe in luck at all.

Is there really such a thing?

When it comes down to it, I probably agree with Goldwyn. Luck is a word we use and nothing more. Most of the events that line up to create luck are the product of years of hard work, networking and struggle.

And, I hope, talent. Without a certain amount of talent, none of us would be in the position to BE lucky, if it does indeed exist.

That said, I think I like this quote best: “We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like?” — Jean Cocteau

So what do you think? Does luck exist?

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I agree with the talent thing. I don't know how I acquired a good ear, but I've had it as long as I can remember. That was luck.

All the rest is sweat and disappointment.
Karen's experience is a near-perfect example of what I believe. Maybe it was lucky that Gore's environmental movie did so well, but if Karen hadn't worked and networked and studied her craft for years, that "lucky" opportunity would have passed. But because of her effort, a wonderful, well-written story was right there, "in the right place at the right time."
I definitely consider luck to have played a huge part in me getting published. Ken Bruen suggested to Al Guthrie that he might want to get me to review some books for Al's Noir Originals site. In passing, Al mentioned to me that he had found something that I wrote funny and did I have anything else. Serendipitously, I had done a very silly story for e-mail list 4MA involving crime fiction cliches which we had been discussing. Basically I stuffed all the cliches into a plotless story. I sent it to Al. He, for some bizarre reason, liked it, and said that if I would consider expanding it to book length, he - as commissioning editor for PointBlank - would consider publishing it. I told him not to be so stupid :o) But, long story short, about a month later it was written, Al suffered a lapse in sanity and accepted it, I cried, Al did a brilliant editing job and about 18 months later it was published.

Yes, I consider myself very very lucky. Whether it was luck, chance, being in the right place at the right time... without that chain of events I would never have written a book.
You just never know, do you, Donna.

When I couldn't get an agent interested in my first two novels I decided I'd try another tack and wrote a half dozen short stories. I sent them off to EQMM and Janet accepted two. But her assistant read all of them and took them home to show to his wife. His wife worked for Jay Acton who called me and asked if I'd be interested in ghosting a novel for John Douglas, the FBI profiler. I said I would. When Jay said he wasn't interested in repping my own work I asked my editor if he knew of someone who might be. That's how I ended up at ICM, then with a book deal.

Ironically, it wasn't the stories that sold that landed an agent, it was the stories that didn't sell. I don't know if you call that luck or not, but it's definitely not a tactic you'll find in your average How To Get Published self-helper.
Luck, Fate, Serendipity. Doesn't matter what you call it. It boils down to having the right book in front of the right person at the right time. And unless you've done the sweat equity, written the thing, it ain't gonna happen.

That's not to say that talent doesn't come into play. And, don't forget that it's the order of the thing we can't control. Sometimes someone will write a book, and wham, it gets picked up right away. Sometimes it takes years and years to get everything lined up, right book in front of the right person.

Luck? Sure, if that's what you want to call it.
I've been told that getting a novel published takes talent, persistence, and luck. For me, that's it in a nutshell. For the past 5 years, it was persistence, persistence, persistence until three months ago, when luck kicked in. I've written about the serendipitous process that got me my deal elsewhere (thread on Submissions, I think). Talent increases when we scribble, scribble, scribble and when we are open to critique. But I still think it's worth saying that it may be lack of luck rather than lack of talent when all those rejection letters say "I just didn't fall in love with it" or "Do you have any paranormal romance?" or "I loved it but I only take cozy technothrillers."
I'm always amused at stories about actors who get a lucky break after 20 years of paying their dues with weekly cattle-call auditions, mind-numbing commercial work, and non-speaking roles in straight-to-video movies.

(I think I just set a record for most hyphens in a sentence.)
Clearly you've never worked in academia. Those bastards buy hyphens by the carload.
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
--William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
We're all lucky to an extent. We could have been born dull-witted or scrabbling to survive in some remote village. I do feel fortunate to be where I am and hope to make the most of what I've been given.
For the most part, I think what most people call luck is basically chance, which certainly does play a role in life and success. And I read an article somewhere in the last year saying that people had statistically unlikely runs of what researchers called luck when playing cards. But, yeah, an awful lot of success is hard work. It certainly isn't going to happen magically. No one who is successful as a writer got their work published because the publisher came banging on their door, and the books obviously don't write or revise themselves (alas). But what about the untalented hacks who are wildly successful? (In the interests of avoiding a flame war, let me mention Dan Quayle, who is indefensible regardless of your personal leanings.)
Most of my "lucky breaks" have involved events transpiring that keep me from suffering the full brunt of my own screwups.

No, I don't care to discuss it further.


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