In March, I wrote a post expressing the extreme weariness I felt in regards to bringing my book to completion. I committed to finishing strong, but it was one of those statements that I wrote and only half-believed. At that point, I still had some pretty significant revisions to do before the book was finished. The process of finishing seemed to stretch on forever.
Now it’s mid-July, and the book is officially done.
Bringing the book to completion was a major exercise in patience for me. I’ve talked about my struggle with being patient on the blog before, and this was yet another episode in the saga that is my personal development as a writer, and more importantly, as a human being.
Here’s the TL;DR: a good writer gets used to waiting.
The hardest part of finishing the book was waiting for my readers. I’ve had various eyes on my book throughout the writing process. I’m blessed to have a number of very supportive friends, mentors and fellow writers in my life who have been willing to look at the different drafts of my novel, Shelf Life. Voices have chimed in along the way, and I gathered little bits of advice here and there, but I always had a job to do. I kept writing while they were reading. The timeline of the book depended on how hard I was willing to work, but once I got to the final draft of my book, it became about other people.
Once I sent my book out to my final readers, there was nothing left for me to do, and that was really hard. On average, it took about a month for each of my readers to finish the book. It was so tempting to start sending the book out before I heard back from them. I knew it would take a long time to even get a rejection from an agent, so I wanted to get the ball rolling. But, I resisted the urge. I reminded myself to finish strong.
Instead of pestering my readers or sending out queries too soon, I started putting together my plan. I researched agents and formatting advice. I attended a virtual seminar on query writing. I wrote my query letters. This preparatory activity came in fits and starts. To be honest, most days it didn’t feel like enough. Although looking back, it was indeed very important work. My novel’s journey to publication felt stalled even though there was lots of action happening behind the scenes.
If you’ve ever experienced it, you know that “stuck” feeling is a strong one and not always a logical one. Looking back, it’s easy to dismiss that time as only a month or two, but when you’re in the midst of it, you don’t know how long it’s going to last. All of your readers could give up halfway through. They could hate it, leading to even more revisions, which would prolong the timeline even more. We could have a global pandemic that shakes up the entire world! (Spoiler alert: that actually happened.) There’s a lot of uncertain moments in writing and in life. That’s when you begin to learn about the value of waiting.
It’s better to have the right thing later than the wrong thing now.
It’s so easy to reach for things that will only provide temporary satisfaction. Sending out an unedited query, querying an agent you haven’t researched because it’s convenient. These things feel like forward progress, but they’re not. They actually set you back under the guise of helping.
Fortunately, my lovely readers did finish the book, and my period of waiting came to an end. It was a relief to know that their feedback didn’t require another major draft. I made the final edits and finally experienced that strong ending I was striving for. It was so sweet to know that I didn’t sully it with haste. I don’t think I’ll ever feel like this book is completely “done,” but I can send out the book knowing that I did everything I was able to with the skills and experience I have at this point in life. Being able to write that gives me immense satisfaction and fills me with encouragement. Uncertainty doesn’t last forever.
And now, I know that I am heading into another season of waiting. I sent out my first query letters last week. The publishing process is notoriously long and at times disappointing, but I feel as though this little period of waiting has prepared me. I know this next step will be more difficult in many ways, but I step into it knowing the value of waiting for something good.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing.