Working in the publishing industry for more than ten years and as a published author with two novels, many people have asked me for the keys to succeed. If I had those keys, probably I’d be elsewhere. I have no intention to give you a magic recipe just to get you listening. Let be honest, there are many unpredictable and sometimes inexplicable factors that define success. Also, there’s opportunity, marketing even money. Is success high sales? is it celebrity? Each one would have their own definition. So by looking at Edouard Louis’s Story we all can learn something and think about an idea of the success we dream of.
A few years after Edouard Louis’s arrival, not only he has sold thousands of copies, but he has been translated into many languages, his books had been adapted to stage plays, where he has even made his debut as a performer. Louis recorded himself the English Spoken Audiobook of one of his works. And recently has announced the adaptation of his books into television series format. Quite a phenomenon and a symbol of success.
I little of bit of my story with him: In 2015 I read his first work, The End of Eddy. In 2016 when he visited the Bogota International Book Fair, I attended a lecture he did in an independent bookstore. Then in 2019 while I was visiting Paris, I attended a reading he did along the extraordinary Emmanuelle Béart regarding a translation Louis made of Anne Carson's play, Antagonick. And of course, I’ve read his others books during this time.
1. He was not afraid to show what the French hide
The first thing I point out from Édouard Louis is the country he portrays. The image of France that is exported is the one often written, filmed or recorded by the French bourgeoisie, their intellectuals, the privileged classes. I think much of what France means as a cliché, is found on those products.
Edouard Louis was born and raised in Picardie, a region in the northwest. Not that far in distance from Paris, but really far away in terms of economics, education and opportunities. The release of his first book The End of Eddy was so threatening for the establishment, that many of them were skeptical about the experiences Louis wrote because they seemed excessive and even unreal. Anyway, we love Parisians but some of them don’t go beyond the Périphérique. Édouard Louis made visible the darkest side and shadows of his own family. But this was not only of them, it was about thousands of people in so many places that reflected in his telling.
2. He invented himself and found a spotlight in the scene
Edouard Louis invented himself in 2013 when he officially adopted this name and left behind his birth name: Eddy Bellegueule. Within the French culture the name Eddy can be associated to a working class person or as part of a non privileged origin. And the last name could be understood in a funny way: Belle as beautiful and Gueule as Face. Eddy Beautifulface.
On the other hand, Édouard Louis choose the autobiography to express and expand. He has addressed his own identity, the violence of a system, the history of his father and masculinities up to the emancipation of his mother in his most recent work. With a deep, raw, brave and even compassionate look, he got a well deserved spotlight in the literary scene. Louis knows, explains and fights a long establish system that could had gave him another destiny.
3. He betrayed everyone
With The End of Eddy, Edouard Louis has betrayed everyone: his family, his community, even his non written “destiny". The hardest thing about autobiographical writing is to tell things as they felt, pure emotions, without fear of what people would say, or what they would think, and Louis did it with such frankness, with such harshness, that he has left them all exposed, naked. There is no possible writing that gets to be comfortable, pretty and also express the real nature of emotions. Real writing hurts even when you read.
I’ve reach out some readers of Édouard Louis over Twitter, and asked them: From your personal point of view, what had made him as successful as he is? Here we have some of the answers I got:
- @rcollete : I believe that Mr. Louis' success lies in his personal experience at the service of contemporary collective history. He has given a new dissection of violence, for us readers, hungry for a realistic approach to society, without the traditional romanticization of life. As he himself says: “I don't like literature, which is a mere exercise in style. I had political reasons for writing my book. The world of my childhood was absent from literature. I tried to include in literature what literature excludes.”
10 Writing Success
Read a lot. During your writing process, read whatever is related or has a dialogue with your writing. Learn from others. Be inspired by others.
Have goals but be flexible. Writing is a habit. It is not a weekend project. Words need to rest, to lay, to age. So don’t get anxious about time. Enjoy the ride because you’ll get there.
Be an observer. Look closely to the world around you, observe it and give it words. If you are writing fiction, give words to sensations. If it is non-fiction, observe as a scientific would do.
Spend time thinking about how to achieve an emotional connection between your characters and your potential readers. The better your reader's experience is, the more likely he or she would recommend it. And nothing is more powerful than word of mouth.
Write faithfully, working every sentence. Publishing is not about giving your manuscript away to the publisher to write it. They will help you improve it, but first and foremost it is up to you, because a writer is made in his or her pen, not in that of an assistant editor.
Don't be afraid to start with yourself. As in life itself, before criticize others first look inside you. So start with the questions that make you uncomfortable, face your true and hidden motivations. Don't be afraid to betray everyone, to invent yourself.
Understand the basics of the publishing industry. Go to bookstores, visit a book fair, follow social handles that talk about books, watch booktubers, listen to podcasts on books. Look for the publisher that already publishes similar works to yours.
Listen. Share your idea or manuscript with people you trust and have some knowledge of the subject. There’s no point in sharing a novel with someone who never reads novels, or an academic essay with someone who is not used to this kind of reading. Find the right person and listen to what they have to say.
Don't believe in magic formulas or catchy titles like “How to be a successful writer before 30”. Start by writing. Keep writing. Write from your heart, with all your soul, with courage, with intelligence, with discipline.
And remember that extraordinary life stories have no age, you can be one.
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