Thursday, August 23, 2018

What Makes a Writer Successful?

by Henry McLaughlin @RiverBendSagas

I was sitting and chatting with a group of writers the other day and one asked, “What makes for a successful writer?” People started to bubble up with definitions and dropping names on both sides of the question.

I raised my hand. “How do you define success?”
 The silence was like what happens when someone belches at a fancy dinner. Is success programmed into our DNA?
Or is success for a writer a whimsical gift distributed apparently without rhyme or reason by the fairy god-agent?
For me, success is doing what God has called me to do with full commitment and determination for as long as he calls me to do it.

Believe me, he and I have had several discussions about this, especially recently. Well, ‘discussion’ may not be the correct word. Discussion implies two or more people talking. My discussions with him are more like me yakking and complaining and begging and him sitting and smiling, waiting for me to finish my rant. 

Then he would ask, “What did I call you to do?”

“Write and help other writers.”

“Are you doing that?”


“Then you’re a success in my eyes.”

And my “Yeah, but...” died unspoken.

He reminded me of one of the beta readers of my first novel, Journey to Riverbend. She asked me not change a scene because it brought her closer to God. At the time, God told me that even if the book was never published, it accomplished his purpose, which was to bring her closer to him. Even unpublished, the book was a success in his eyes.

My definition of success was different than his. Mine was based on material evidence. Contracts, sales, etc.

His is based on obedience and faith and trust. 

How do you define success? 

What makes a writer successful? Thoughts from Henry McLaughlin, @RiverBendSagas on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Defining success for a writer, thoughts from Henry McLaughlin, @RiverBendSagas on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Henry’s debut novel, Journey to Riverbend, won the 2009 Operation First Novel contest.

Henry edits novels, leads critique groups, and teaches at conferences and workshops. He enjoys mentoring and coaching individual writers.

Connect with Henry on his blogTwitter and Facebook.


  1. Well said Mr. Henry. Success is often dependent upon how we measure or define it. I can think of no better description than alignment with God's calling in our lives. What a great reminder sir. God's blessings...

  2. Success means I tried and never quit.
    Well-written post, Henry.

    1. Thank you, Ingmar. Never quitting until God tells us to move in a different direction is so right. And he will give us that needed nudge to let us know.

  3. Success means that I was able to bring someone closer to God.

  4. I hear you, Henry. There have been a few times I've questioned God about my writing. I can't quit either. When God places that call on your life, you do it until he says, "It is finished."

  5. Absolutely!! Thanks for sharing, Loretta.