Tag Archives: moving the goalposts

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?