The question in the title is one I have been asked countless times as an aspiring writer. It started out in junior high, when I was turning a former short story into my first ever novel. Of course I’d told my friends all about it with excitement, and of course I’d completely underestimated how much time and effort would be required to actually get it done. By the time we were in high school, my friends were fairly well fed up with waiting as I kept starting over or getting stuck or being just plain busy with my schoolwork. I did finish a draft I was happy enough to share eventually, but I never did get it revised to what I thought was a publishable standard.
I’d like to think I learned from that experience, and I did in as far as I no longer bother people with every twist and turn of my writing process or have unrealistic expectations of success. But even as a “certified adult”, I did tell everyone, including readers of this blog, that my current novel was ready to be sent out in hopes of publication over a year ago. I did start querying. I got several form rejections, a few no responses, less than ten in all but nothing positive. I decided to try rewriting my first five pages. And, in doing research about what might cause agents to reject the first five pages, I found my type of novel opening right on the list of reasons from one of the very agents who’d rejected my query package.
Cue the crash of confidence. It started small, with me deciding to not drop the reader right into a sci-fi/fantasy novel right in the middle of a technology and magic-infused action scene. It ended with an entire manuscript rewrite as I got feedback on that rewritten opening and some of the chapters that followed from fellow writers.
So here I am, in the exact situation I told myself I’d never be in again. I told people I was at one point in my writing process, truly believing it to be the case, and it turns out I wasn’t. Over a year later, I have a nearly completed rewrite, which I plan to submit for feedback in its entirety, following which I will almost certainly have even more changes to make.
It seems sometimes that the journey is never-ending. Worse, it seems that the path is full of mirages, creating the illusion that you’re almost there, creating premature excitement. I don’t want to be constantly disappointing the people who get invested in my efforts, but it’s probably also not a good idea to say, “I’m almost there!” and then a year later have everyone who heard me wonder what ever happened with that.
Going forward, I’ll be trying to strike a balance. Expect me to keep trying. Expect more disappointments and failures and moments of crippling self-doubt. Don’t expect my book to be published a year from now or two years from now or even five years from now. But feel free to hope with me.
Because as a far better poet than I once wrote:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –Emily Dickinson
Good luck out there, fellow writers.