You finished your book, so how long until it’s out on shelves? Says some ignorant family member at dinner.
Let’s discuss that, shall we?
(Not necessarily the rude family member who thinks all the hard work is done once you type THE END)
The first step on the Writer’s Journey is the idea. It might come to you as a character, you might see the scene, you might think of a funny joke you can’t get out of your head, or even just a single what if that you wonder the answer to. But it all starts there.
Then, you begin drafting. And you try all sorts of different paths and characters and worlds to make your story come alive. You draw maps. You write story bibles. You lose ten thousand words and cry about it. You stockpile images and make Pinterest boards and Spotify playlists. And before long, you reach the end of your draft.
That was rough.
You’re still drafting. Because now that you’ve finished draft one, essentially your discovery draft, you get work on the second draft. And the third. And the eighth. And sometimes you’ll have the sixteenth draft of a single scene in the fourth draft of your novel. But eventually, you reach something that you’re proud of. Your FinalDraftNoReallyIMeanItThisTime6-14FINALFINAL3.DOC.
It’s finally time…
To give it to your writing group.
And they’re going to rip it apart. Not really. But they are going to help you make it better.
Then you’ll edit and revise. Which inevitably involves more drafting because now you need new scenes to connect some major plot wholes and there’s a whole decription missing on page forty five.
Great. It’s done.
Now you need an editor, a critique partner, and some beta readers.
You get feedback from your editor and critique partner at the same time and you fervently return to the drafting phase.
You edit again and hand your work to your beta readers. They react favorably minus a few really confusing scenes in act three.
You edit and draft again.
Finally, you’re done.
So now you get to agonize over your query letter. Do you need to mention how long you’ve been writing this piece in particular? No. But you should mention any writing qualifications you have. But you need to do it quickly. Succinctly. Because you only get one page and there needs to be space for your signature and contact information.
Then you need an agent, because most publishing houses no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts, so first you need to fill your inbox with rejections. You research each one and slowly get irrational because some of them haven’t updated their websites since 1996 but they represent some of your favorite authors. You stalk them on Twitter. You read their blogs. You listen to their podcasts. And you send them an email as per their guidelines.
You wait for months.
You might even wait a year.
To get rejected.
Your inbox fills with rejections.
But long after you’ve reached your limit, you finally get a full manuscript request.
And then you wait some more. If you’re lucky, the agent loves it. They love you. They set up a call and you talk to each other. You sign with the agent.
Or your work doesn’t match with their list, they apologize for not signing you, and remind you that publishing is subjective and you’ll find someone someday.
Once you’ve signed, the agent decides your book needs more work. They send you some notes and tell you to seek out an editor.
Guess what you get to do again?
MORE EDITING, REVISING, AND DRAFTING!
You good? You still love writing? Great.
Now it’s time to go on submission. Your agent is going to send your work to editors they think will like the book.
This. Takes. More. Time.
And just like querying agents, being on submission kills a small part of you while you wait on your rejections.
The day finally comes. An editor likes your work, they talked their publisher into making the purchase.
They just need you to make some changes.
So you edit, revise, and draft all over again.
Then time ticks away and you get your publication date. You go on tours. You do interviews. You talk up your book that is not anywhere close to your original idea and everytime someone asks you about it you have to relive every draft you’ve ever written to answer it correctly.
Book stores order your books, the date arrives, it’s finally on the shelves.
During all this, time has passed. Months have gone by on each draft. You spent weeks staring at your blank document willing it to fill itself with words. You filled notebook after notebook, lost important solution filled napkins, and contemplated the importance of sharing your story while staring at your moonlit ceiling when you should have been sleeping.
But you did it.
You made it.
Now you need to draft book two.
Originally published on June 21, 2021 @ 12:00 pm