The Timeline of a Novelist’s Career

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by Cynthia Ruchti

One word started a seismic reaction in the late 1800s. “Gold!” When gold was discovered in the Klondike region of the Yukon, 100,000 men dropped everything and headed for the area.

Only 30,000 to 40,000-far fewer than half-arrived. The rest were thwarted along the journey by conditions, ill health, the terrain, difficulties, dangers, and discouragement.

It’s estimated that of those 40,000, only 4,000 found gold. Only a few hundred got rich.

One report says that only 12 stayed rich.

Sounds like writer odds, doesn’t it?

If you’d asked any of those initial 100,000 men on Day Two where they were headed, they would have told you, “To find the gold!” Where will you be a month from now? “Mining for gold.” Two months from now? “Taking it to the bank.” Two years from now? “Quitting my day job, building my family a new house, and stirring my tea with a gold spoon.”

So few did. Some derailed on Day Three. Some made it to the gold fields and saw nothing that sparkled but snow and ice. Some found gold and lost it in bad decisions. Some had it stolen from them. Some returned home with empty pockets but found successful careers of another form. They discovered something about themselves.

Every miner’s timeline looked different from every other miner’s.

Where are you on the timeline of your career as a novelist? Halfway through your writing lifespan? Just starting? A few steps before a defining moment that will change everything? Nearing the end of your writing career…and you had no idea?

None of us can see that timeline. That’s the tricky part. The only moment we can know for sure is “just starting out,” but even that spot is deceiving, since God began something in eternity past that would set us up for the moment we first laid our hands on a keyboard with the intent of bringing an imagined story to life.

How many more contracts will I get? Only God knows. (That’s truth, not a flippant statement.)

How many more years will I be able to write? Only God knows.Cyn's books

Will I ever have to lay down the pursuit for another calling? Only God knows.

Does He intend for me to write novels until the day I die? And when will that be? Only God knows.

Pessimistic as that might sound, it’s actually a bracing statement that can bring both peace and a sense of determination.

What if the Twelve from the Klondike gold rush had stopped their pursuit because the odds were stacked against them? Instead, not knowing if they would succeed, they pressed on, applying principles we can adopt for ourselves as novelists:

• They planned smartly. Those who succeeded calculated what they would need to survive in those conditions.

• They scouted out the likeliest areas for discovery.

• They threw themselves into the work.

• They protected what they earned and made wise investments.

• They didn’t squander their opportunities with hopelessness.

Where am I on my writing career timeline? Where are you? We can’t know for sure. So we press on, gathering as much education and experience as we can, scouting out the publishing territory, being diligent to show up at the mining site with sturdy gloves and sharpened tools, ready for work.

Will you and I have many long years on the bestseller lists? Who but God knows? All we can do is move forward, at peace with the idea that He does know, and that our breakthrough moments might be just ahead.

Cynthia Ruchti 2Cynthia Ruchti is an author and speaker who tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark. Her recent releases include the novel When the Morning Glory Blooms, an RT Top Pick with 4.5 stars; Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices, a nonfiction from Abingdon Press Christian Living; and Mornings with Jesus 2014, a compilation of devotions with other authors, from Guideposts. Another novel with Abingdon Press Fiction-All My Belongings-releases in the spring of 2014, with more on the horizon.

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