Writing Through Success

by Kara Isaac, @KaraIsaac

If you’d told me a few years ago what the title of this post would be I would have laughed. Writing through success? Sign me up for that to be a problem! Especially when I had practically earned degrees in writing through rejection and writing through disappointment!

In 2016 my debut novel, Close To You, and my sophomore novel, Can’t Help Falling, released six months apart. As I sit here typing they have clocked up between theman RWA RITA Award double final, Grace Award final, finalists in the Christian Retailing Best Awards and been shortlisted for two Inspy Awards.
Any one of these are the things that author dreams are made of. The truth isonce the exhilaration and excitement and sheer this can’t actually be happening to me feelings wore off, a gnawing pit in my stomach took their place. At the time these all happened, I was also neck deep in difficult rewrites of my next novel, Then There Was You, which released June 22.

These kinds of thoughts invaded as I sat in front of my laptop, riddled with anxiety and self doubt:

There is no way I can live up to this.

This story is going to be such a disappointment to my readers.

I’m not a good writer. I just had an amazing editor on those two books who made me look like one.

They only stood out because of the J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis components were something different.

I should quit while I’m ahead before everyone knows that I only had two good books in me.

As each final landed, as I fielded more questions about when my next book would be out, I came to dread working on Josh and Paige’s story. Sitting in front of my laptop feeling the weight of all these contests and the pressure to make this book just as good, if not better, that those ones.

I only started making progress once I learned that my job was to write their story to the best of my ability and not care about anything else. Not worry about my (amazing!) readers who tell me how much they’re looking forward to another book. Not worry about whether or not their story will meet the same success in contests as the other two have. Not worry about trying to reimagine and replicate whatever the mysterious components are that have earned the others favor from judges. To just do the best job that I could with their story with the time, resources and creativity that God had given me.

As I wrestled my way through the rewrites, these are the things that I kept reminding myself:

A Great Book is Subjective

Most readers can agree on what makes a bad book. Rambling prose, plots that meander, characters who aren’t engaging, scenes that don’t move a story forward, big dumps of unnecessary backstory, a style of writing that causes confusion rather than interest.

A great book meets a reader at a particular time in their lives. It may be down to a specific day or just a particular season they are walking through. A book that may just be a fun read one week may resonate deeply the next. As a reader, I have struggled to finish a book that many others have raved about and been completely gripped by others that friends thought was just so-so.

When a reader picks up their book and how they emotionally engage with it is completely out of an author’s control.

Judging is Subjective
A week after I got my book contract for Close To You, I also received my scores from an unpublished writers’ contest. One judge loved it but the other two HATED it and gave scores in the 30s. One even commented that it was evident that I was a beginning writer and s/he recommended that I learn more about the craft of writing before entering another contest.

The truth is that finaling in a contest, while one measure of success it is just that. ONE measure. Having all my first round RITA judges score Close To You well doesn’t mean it is better than any of the other amazing books published last year in its genre. It simply means that it had the good fortune of being in the judging boxes of five judges who read it at a particular point in time and it hit their sweet spot. It could have easily been the opposite.

Case in point: there is a website that reviews all RITA finalist books each year. That reviewer awarded Close To You a C-.

Readers Don’t Care About Awards, They Care About Story
While they are a huge honor, the truth is that most readers have never heard of the RITA, or the Carol, or the Christy, or the Inspys, or the Readers’ Choice Awards, let alone know what they are.

I got one shot at writing Josh and Paige’s story to be the best that I could. I love this story. I love these characters. I love their trials and challenges and imperfections and oh, I love their romance! For some readers it may be their favorite one yet, for others it might not replicate the magic that they found with Jackson and Allie or Peter and Emelia. That’s okay, too.

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My job is to write to the best of my ability and not care about anything else~ Kara Isaac (Click to Tweet)

Readers Don’t Care About Awards, They Care About Story ~Kara Isaac (Click to Tweet)


Then There Was You

Paige McAllister needs to do something drastic. Her boyfriend can’t even commit to living in the same country, her promised promotion is dead on arrival and the simultaneous loss of her brother and her dream of being a concert violinist has kept her playing life safe and predictable for six years. Things need to change. A moment of temporary insanity finds her leaving her life in Chicago to move to Sydney, Australia. There she finds herself, against many of her convictions, as a logistics planner for one of Australia’s biggest churches, and on a collision course with her boss’s son.

Josh Tyler fronts a top-selling worship band and is in demand all over the world. But, in the past, his failed romantic relationships almost destroyed both his reputation and his family. He’s determined to never risk it happening again. The last thing he needs is some American girl tipping his ordered life upside down. Especially one who despises everything he’s ever worked for and manages to push every button he has.

When Josh and Paige are thrown together to organize his band’s next tour, the sparks fly. But can they find a way to bridge the differences that pull them apart? Or will they choose the safety and security of what they know over taking a chance on something that will require them to risk everything?

Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She is the author of Close to You, a RITA Award Double Finalist, and Can’t Help Falling, an RT Review Top Pick. Her latest book Then There Was You released on June 22. When she’s not chasing three adorable but spirited little people, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. She loves to connect on her website, on Facebook at Kara Isaac – Author and Twitter @KaraIsaac