A Writer’s Most Important Lesson: Patience

You’ve written a book.

It took a while, or maybe it didn’t, but it’s done. All 600 pages of it. All 175,000 words.

Something inspired you and you just sat down and did it.

It was amazing. You feel accomplished. You are a writer. You finished a book.

Now you want to send it out to the big world of publishing. Right?

Wrong.

WRONG?

WRONG.

Okay. So it IS possible you’re a genius and your first work is a piece of art that will sell big. BUT…chances are much better that you’re in the same boat as 99% of all writers out there: You have a lot to learn.

The question is: How bad do you want it?

How bad do you want to see your book on the shelf? How bad do you want to be a Published Author? HOW BAD DO YOU WANT YOUR FIRST WORK TO BE QUALITY?

If you want all these things enough, patience will become your best friend.

People often look shocked when I tell them I haven’t queried yet. “How long have you been at this?”

“Almost five years,” I say. This surprises me too, because I’m typically the world’s most impatient human.

“What in the world have you been doing for five years?” They always look stunned.

“Studying. Reading. Editing. And writing. A lot.” (Like almost every day).

At that point, people usually give me a wide-eyed look and change the subject. And I never understand why they think I SHOULD have already sent work out to agents if I KNOW it wasn’t ready.
My CP wrote and worked and studied for TEN YEARS before getting published. Does it always take that long? No. We all have our own journey, but overnight success is not typical. Did it pay off? YES. Is her first work something to be proud of? YES. 

I will settle for no less from myself.

Could I have already queried? Yes. Possibly published? Possibly. But would that work been indicative of what I’m capable of? No way.

I’ve come a LONG WAY from that first manuscript that was 200,000 words long, full of backstory and laden with nothing but telling. I kid you not.

I’ve worked my ass off. It has not been easy. Ever. Not only did I have to deal with my own self-doubt, but also doubt from others as they watched me tackle what they considered a giant too big to slay. 

I dealt with the understanding that I knew NOTHING about what it takes to be a writer. What did I do? I educated myself. I studied everything I could get my hands on. I read EVERYTHING. I wrote EVERYTHING. How could I know what kind of writer I was if I’d only ever written one book? Only ever read one genre?

I couldn’t. I don’t think I actually figured out my place as a writer until this year. I finally know where I belong. And believe me, if you’d told me a couple years ago I’d be writing books like I’m writing, I would have laughed at you and called you a monkey.

But I’m happy. Like I said, I know where I belong now. I know what intrigues my mind. I know what challenges me. What stories I want to read.

This is my advice, and I know writing advice is a take it or leave it thing, but here it is anyway.

1) TAKE YOUR TIME: Don’t rush to get something ‘out there.’ It takes time to learn to write and write well. It takes a phenomenal amount of patience to be in this business, so prepare early on. Understand that knowing what you’re doing and making a good first impression on agents and readers is important. This takes patience.

2) UNDERSTAND THAT WRITING IS A CRAFT: It just is. It is as much an art form as you allow it to be. If I handed you a palette of paints, a brush and a canvas for the first time, would you expect to sit down and paint a masterpiece? Probably not. Writing is no different. This takes patience.

3) DO WHATEVER YOU MUST TO IMPROVE: Study. Break down novels. Break down movies. Read a variety of books. Write a variety of stories. Have your work critiqued. Again and again. Revise. Think. Did I say study? This takes patience.

4) DON’T SETTLE FOR LESS THAN YOUR PERSONAL BEST: Just don’t. Can we all improve? YES. Even seasoned writers have room to learn and grow. But the writer you are after one manuscript is not the same writer after five manuscripts. You will improve as time and WORK goes on. This takes patience.

5) BE PREPARED FOR HARD LABOR: Giving birth to a book is a lot like giving birth to a human. It’s true. And I know. I brought 3 of my own humans into this world. In the beginning, it’s wonderful. You’re excited. A new little book is on its way. By the end, which can be a lot longer than 9 months, you’re just ready for it to be OVER. With a book, there are no sedating drugs, though sometimes you will wish you had them. So why endure? Because you love it. Because you made it. Because it’s a part of you. Surviving through the end is a feat. This takes patience.

So. You get it. Be patient. Work hard. Success will come.

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4 Comments

  1. If you know it's not ready, then you are smart not to rush into it.
    There's another aspect writers don't consider. When they are unpublished, they have all the time in the world. There are no deadlines. That all changes with that first book. I say learn all you can now and enjoy it.