Life After the Six-Fingered Man

Inigo Montoya: Is very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.

Westley: Have you ever considered piracy? You’d make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts.


The goal of every aspiring writer is to be published.

Maybe that publication comes in the form of a review, an op-ed, an article, a short story, or–*gasp*–even a NOVEL. Hooray! You’ve finally published a novel!

Now what do you do with your life?

Welcome to the Inigo Montoya Dilemma. In The Princess Bride, Inigo dedicated his life to hunting down the six-fingered man who killed his father. After the six-fingered man was dead (spoilers!), Inigo found himself at a loss as to what to do next.

I think every one of us feels that moment in life–after college, after children,  after the marathon, what have you. Writers especially are keenly aware of this. They publish the novel, and then have to create a new benchmark, a new personal goal that motivates them to keep moving forward.

Otherwise, why would we keep writing?

Some of the benchmarks are obvious: Hit the USA bestseller list. Hit #1 on the NYT bestseller list. Win a [award of your choice] Award.

Some of the benchmarks are more personal: Be invited into an anthology by your favorite editor. Have a cover designed by your favorite artist. Have lunch with one of your literary heroes.

I was talking about this mental list I constantly have running in my head to one of the Mermaids and thought: Why not write that down and share it? Why not see what others would include as *their* benchmarks?

So that’s the game, today. I’ll start, and you guys include your picks in the comments. Ready?

Earn out your advance
Write a sequel
Hit the NYT bestseller list
Hit #1 on the NYT bestseller list
See your book in a bookstore
Spot a stranger reading your book in a public location
Chat–as a peer–with one of your literary heroes
Sell a book based only on a pitch
Publish a book outside your original genre
Qualify for Active membership in a national writers organization
Win a major award
Get fan mail
Have a fan bring you presents to a book signing
Have a fan cry with joy at meeting you
Get invited to be Guest of Honor at a convention/conference
Give a keynote speech
Give a TED talk

Okay…now it’s your turn! What else would you add to this list?

14 thoughts on “Life After the Six-Fingered Man

  1. Good morning Alethea!
    I have three very serious and important benchmarks I’d love to reach one day as an author. These are very serious, so no giggling or eyeball rolling because like I said, they are very serious. In no particular order…
    ***Magically get Alex Geerman as my cover model (This is all Susan Mermaid’s fault, btw, for bringing him to the pond. Turns out he’s a really cool and goofy guy.)
    ***Have Depeche Mode call up my people (me) and ask to write a soundtrack to my book series. (This is Dave Gahan’s fault for singing the song “Nothing’s Impossible.)
    ***Have a sleepover with all my favorite authors including all current and former mermaids, Lynne Silver, Megan Hart, Dianna Love and Sherrilyn Kenyon. And I get to paint everyone’s toenails. (This is all you writers’ fault for being so darn good and making me love you so much.)
    I hereby challenge the stars to align and make THAT happen. I love you and miss you Alethea. xoxoxoxo What color do I get to paint your toes?

    1. Carlene-Mermaid, you can totally paint my toenails! I would like something really, really bright with sparkles on top! 😉

  2. My ultimate-I-can-die-now moment is very specific. After having frolicked in the ocean at Sunset Beach, NC, my very skinny self (yes, dream land) is walking back to my beach chair when I look to the left and see someone holding a copy of my book, completely engrossed in it. The location of this fantasy is key because that beach is my most favorite place in the world and I have read many, many romance novels there.

    Once this happens, I can die. Happily! 😉

    1. Once this happens, and it will, you must vow to live many more years and put out many more engrossing books. 🙂

  3. Top on my list right now is finding that sense of balance between home, work and writing. Getting published would be another big one.

  4. Great post, Alethea! Love all of your benchmark, ladies. My moment is also pretty specific. I want to walk into a bookstore with my kids and have them see my book displayed, and I want them to say proudly, to each other or anyone else, “My mommy wrote that.”

    1. I love your benchmark Pintip! My mom is always telling me to put what I want out into the universe so it has no choice but to come back to me. You just put it out there and I’m really proud of you. I also can’t wait to walk into a bookstore and see that book written by none other than Pintip Mermaid. xoxo

  5. I’m feeling lazy today, as it’s the last week of commitments to school, but I want All of the Above. Let me be sloppy, have my toenails painted in a sinful color, make all the lists and win all the awards and have all the experiences.

    Eyes wide open, arms ready to catch all of it, knowing it’s out there for the taking.

    1. You shall have it all, Susan! Beginning with midnight red toenails courtesy of moi. Eyes and arms wide open my friend, wide open. Love you fishy sister.

  6. I think at this point in time I’d be completely satisfied to just sell. I was listening to someone talk at some point at some conference within the past six months, and the person was talking about never being happy. Maybe it was at SCBWI? But it made me realize that when we hit our benchmark, we’re oftentimes not happy even then because then we raised the bar on ourselves long before we hit it so that we never meet that bar. Ever. I think once I hit my first benchmark, I’ll be happy and only THEN raise it a bit.
    I love yours though! And we’re in completely different places right now, writing-wise.

Comments are closed.