Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Four, Three, Two, One, Now

Why hello there, Wednesday. I haven't blogged on you for quite a while. It's a great day to blog. Today we're going to be taking a wild and crazy ride inside the last four years (since I started writing). I'm doing this because I think sometimes writers get discouraged at how long things take in publishing.

When I started writing (December 2007), I scoffed at advice I saw on forums. Things like "Take a year off and read."

I was like, "NO WAY ON THIS PLANET IT IS GOING TO TAKE ME A YEAR TO GET PUBLISHED."

Oh, the naivety. (Yes, I had to look up that word to make sure it was the one I wanted to use.) See, I was new. I didn't really get the publishing industry. And most importantly, I hadn't been rejected yet.

Rejection plays a whole new part of the game that maybe we'll talk about later.

So there I was, four years ago in January 2008, with my first novel. And it was not going to take a year to get published. I spent January editing and preparing to query. I started querying, and quickly realized that hey, it might take a year.

After querying for 8 months, I definitely knew it would take a year -- and a heckuva lot longer than that.

What changed my perspective was a tiny conversation with my mother-in-law that I'm sure she doesn't remember. She said she was watching Oprah or something and heard an author say that you have to give everything you do five years.

Give yourself five years to make it as [insert what you want to be].

I seized on that and thought, "I can do this for five years." And then at that point, the plan was to re-evaluate and decide at that time if I should continue pursuing publication or not.

So I continued writing.

January 2009, three years ago: I was frantically preparing my manuscript for submission into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. I successfully entered that competition, and I often cite this as the confidence booster I needed to keep writing/querying. (My first novel tanked. Confidence had to come from somewhere!)

January 2010, two years ago: I'd queried for most of 2009 and had signed with my agent in November*. This January found me revising in preparation for submission to editors.**

(See a theme here?)

January 2011***, one year ago: Finally 2011! I'd spent a year waiting for this year. (No, really.) And it found me once again preparing a manuscript for submission. This time it was my second book, SURRENDER.

And here it is, January 2012, and I'll bet you can guess what I'm doing this month.

It really seems like I work in cycles. I write/draft the most in the fall. I edit and revise the most in the winter. I promote and speak and do book launch parties in the spring/summer.

Do you have a time frame for how long you'll stick with this before you re-evaluate your writing career?****


*And yes, it took me less than five years to get published, but longer than one.

**This does not mean that if it takes you longer than five years to publish that you're somehow inferior. That's ridiculous.

***This does not mean that if it takes you less time to publish than it took me that you're somehow superior. That's ridiculous too.

****We all have our own journey.

55 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

As long as I enjoy writing and as long as the ideas come to me, I'll keep writing. I don't have a time frame to do things. I just want to enjoy the ride.

Misha Gericke said...

Nope. I really want to get published one day, but I'll wait for however long it takes, because my passion for writing comes first.

:-)

M. Dunham said...

Ah, how timely. Thank you, Elana.

Let's see, I started the very first draft of my current novel in the summer of 2008. I started in 2007, but the books I worked on before weren't any good. Since then, I had to take just over a year off when I went through some very painful personal stuff, but I spent the time reading, critiquing, and generally learning even more about writing than I ever realized. Which, thanks to all the hands on with other projects, I learned a LOT that I applied to my novel.

So now, here I am in the very beginning of 2012 and about to finally start querying for this project, because my skills have improved enough that I can understand that this book has a good chance. I can understand how to fix things people comment on in a way that maintains the book's voice.

I guess I'm a bit slower than I like, but I haven't hit 5 years yet, so yay me? :) By my count, all of that learning about the publishing world and technicalities of its writing style leaves me still at 4 years, going on five as of this fall, since I started in fall of 2007.

Man, now I feel kinda old. LOL.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I haven't decided how long I would wait before giving up. I'm accepting my progress will be slow with other things going on in my life and I'm enjoying the ride like Stina.

April Plummer said...

Not really, no. I'm not sure what made me decide to self-publish. I think just wanting to put my book in peoples' hands. I don't know. But I never had a time frame. It's exciting to read about your journey though! I don't think I've checked out your books yet, so I'm going to do that now!

Alice said...

I heard somewhere that it takes the average writer ten years to get published, so four years isn't long in the writing world. I've been writing for ten years now and have published articles, short stories and poems but no books yet although I have one under consideration with an editor. I figured I'd give it 10 years and reconsider so this is my year! Even if I don't publish a book, I'll always keep writing, maybe just in another direction.

Journaling Woman said...

We do all have our own journey and shouldn't compare it to others and...yet we do.

I love writing and may never be published again, but no matter what I will continue to write and try.

Teresa

Jen Daiker said...

When I find myself in a panic I think about my writing and what I feel about it.

Turns out, I spent more time wondering what people thought of me and my writing, rather than what I thought.

I love what I do. Having a short story published is quite a feat and though it isn't the route I'd originally planned, it feels fabulous nonetheless. I've chosen to write for a lifetime, because writing for myself (then for others) is what I enjoy most!

Christine Fonseca said...

I've self-evaluative by nature, so I am constantly looking at and adjusting my goals - and if I've learned anything it's this...
Thing turn out 100% differently then I have planned. So, I now work on staying loose, keeping open, and letting things unfold in whatever way they are supposed to. I am still working harder - harder even; but I am happier with the results.

Miranda Hardy said...

I like the five year rule. Excellent advice. After researching when I first decided I wanted to pursue publication, it was a bit discouraging, but I quickly learned it would take longer than I expected. I didn't give up, neither did you. That's the secret.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Cool look back. I believe that's the greatest thing about our career choice, we can give it the time it takes. I'm willing to give until I'm 80 and then I might fold. ;)
~ Wendy

Leigh Ann said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing your story. Inspirational as always.

I've been writing for just over a year, and I think I've always had the "five years" thing in mind.

I don't know. I work super-hard on writing these sweet little books, and if I'm not published in four years, or at least well on my way, I'm not sure what I'll do. I'd like to think I'd get the message and try another hobby, but...now that I've started, I can't imagine stopping writing.

Of course, four years from now, the publishing world might be totally different, so it's impossible to say.

Wonderful post!

Cherie Reich said...

Since I'm heading into this weekend to begin my fourth year with publication in mind, this post couldn't have come at a better time. I like the five year plan, and I've felt the past few months that the next two years are crucial. The make-it-or-break-it years. Of course, I can't see not writing . . . ever, but it would be time to re-evaluate and adjust goals.

Eric said...

Your five year rule is a good one, though I don't feel like I've begun yet. I still feel like I'm figuring out how to write so I don't know that I'm on the five year plan...yet. At some point though (hopefully not too far away) I will begin that five year track and see how it goes. Great post, Elana.

Jennifer Hoffine said...

Early on, I heard "You aren't really a writer until you've written a million words"...don't remember where I heard that, but it has stuck with me.

With four books done plus my WIP, I may be close to a million in unedited word count, but if I got to a million polished words and I'm still not published yet...maybe then I'll worry.

Martha Ramirez said...

Loved this post! I think what your MIL mentioned about the 5 year wait will def stick in my head too. An agent once shared on a writing loop that he has noticed that it takes about 6 years to get pubbed.

On average what he has seen--6 yrs. So to hear you share about the 5 yr mark was interesting to hear.

Martha Ramirez said...

Btw even if it takes 80 years to get where I want to be--I am willing to wait:) But I def will evaluate my plan/strategy on how to get there and tweak accordingly

Angela Brown said...

Because the publishing industry has so many avenues opening, especially the break out of self-publishing as "less taboo", that I'm honestly not sure what I'm going to do for sure. The traditional path is still strong but I can take control and self-publish in my own time.

ilima said...

I love reading posts like this from those in the writer world because they get it. I'm querying my first MS now, and I know it will probably be years and a number of books later before I'll likely get there, but I'm okay with that. I look forward to improving my writing each day in the process.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I am kindof looking at this as another college education. It took me 5 years to get my first degree, then I got a certification, then I got a Master's. And through all of it was mini-deadlines, feedback, critiques, improvement, repeat.

Thanks so much for this!

SHANNON O'DONNELL said...

You're right--every journey is different, but no journey is without setbacks and pep-talks and perseverance and hope.

I hope 2012 takes me out on subs and maybe into the next step of my journey. It's been three years for me so far. *fingers crossed* :-)

Patti said...

Thankfully I don't have to be in top physical condition to write, so I figure I have quite a few years of doing it.

J.R. Johansson said...

It's always interesting looking back at our own journeys. And I totally agree, everyone has their own and comparing them does no one any good. Great post!

K.T. Hanna said...

Thank you. Though you might not realize it, many of your posts help aspiring authors tough it out.

So, thank you.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Writing is my passion. I'll never stop writing. One day I will have an agent and a publishing contract but there's no date written in stone for when that will happen. Not yet, anyway.

Stephanie McGee said...

I have no time frame. Already I've been going two years without anything. But then I am not the world's fastest writer. That's something I need to work on. I will never stop writing though. It's become such a part of me the last two and a half years that there's no going back.

Lauren Alissa Hunter said...

Oh this absolutely terrifies me. At the same time, it is encouraging. The question of "how long I will hang in there" isn't really an option-- There isn't anything else I've ever wanted to DO other than write. It is really only a question of "how long I will hang in there before I succumb to writerly despair?"

Ha. Thanks for breaking this down, it's always refreshing to see someone else's process so that we can let go of these Cinderella notions of "I'll write something great and then go get it published!"

Jessica L. Foster said...

Excellent post. It's great to hear someone success story, but not glossed over the tough times. I think it's funny how we all have such confidence when we are new and haven't been rejected yet. But rejections are important in the process.

Carolyn V said...

I HAD a time frame, until I found out it took longer than that. ;)

Miriam Forster said...

I started writing my answer to this and it got so long that I just made it into a blog post. :)

http://msforster.blogspot.com/2012/01/my-journey-or-theres-always-more-to.html

Deana said...

I loved reading this post. I often go to authors blogs and go back to the beginning because I like to read how it all started for them. Thanks for sharing this!
For me, I've been at it for four dang years! And I haven't had the guts to submit anything yet because I haven't felt my stuff was ready. But this is my year to query. But, if nothing comes of it, I'm going to keep on truckin' cause I love it:)

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Love it. You know, I've realized lately that nothing happens as fast as you think it does. Only in very rare instances do people get agents or book deals in a matter of days. Usually, it's more drawn out and (unfortunately LOL) more painful.

BTW your third asterisk made me laugh out loud and almost snort my coffee out of my nose. Thanks.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My expected time frame is long since gone, but I'm still here. So my new one involves completion of my next novel by June, polishing and submitting to my publisher by the fall, and hopefully the third book out the following fall. And that is where I expect the time frame to end.

Jessica Salyer said...

I have no time frame. I'd like to finish my first book by summer (edits included). If I accompish that I'll be happy. One goal at a time. :)

Jen Chandler said...

Hi Elana!

Thanks for posting this. You're right; sometimes it's hard to keep things in perspective. Most of the time, all we see is the end result: the best selling author getting ANOTHER award. We don't see (or don't care to look for) the long years they spent working on their novels and submitting, editing, getting rejected, etc.

It's very wise to learn to keep things in perspective!

Cheers,
Jen

Marsha Sigman said...

I love your asterik notes. I'm not even sure that's how you spell asterik and I refuse to look it up. Usually I say that little star thingy.

I'm trying not to put a timeframe on being published. I'm just going to write the stories in my head and see where it takes me. I won't ever stop though.

Tara said...

This is awesome. I started writing my novel in 2005...and just signed with an agent with it. Shooting to be published within a decade! =)

(Also, Elana, I used your guide to revisions extensively when I did my last round of edits, and it was enormously helpful. Thank you so much!!)

Donna K. Weaver said...

Good question about cycles. I'm beginning my third year, so maybe it's too seen to read a cycle for myself.

You coming to LTUE this year?

Jemi Fraser said...

I like that 5 year effort time-frame. Learning any new skill and reaching the point of being somewhat accomplished is NOT an easy task. I've been at it for 3-ish (maybe 4????) years, and I'm getting closer to trying that whole querying thing... :)

Peggy Eddleman said...

We started writing at about the same time! For me it was January of 2008. Weirdly: I didn't query for the first time until Sept of 2011. I guess I just knew that my first novels were going to tank, and didn't want to hear anyone else confirm that. :) I don't think I really had a time frame of how long I'd stick with it. I guess I just figured that I wasn't willing to give up no matter how long it took. Although I did hear Brandon Sanderson say he wrote 13 novels before he was published, so in my mind, I thought, Okay. I'm not going to worry about giving up until I at least reach that point. And at the rate I write, that could've taken 13 years!

Mindy McGinnis said...

Great post!

Well, it took me ten years to get a two book deal, so technically your math is dead on :)

Mindy McGinnis said...

Great post!

Well, it took me ten years to get a two book deal, so technically your math is dead on :)

Kimberly said...

Awesome post. I don't have a timeframe. Yet. :)

Liesl Shurtliff said...

I didn't have a time-frame. It took me exactly seven years from the time I decided I wanted to be an author to the time I had an offer on my a book. If I had been told it would take me that long I probably would have quite. But seven is my favorite number.

Liesl Shurtliff said...

Quit. Not quite. I can spell sometimes.

Kristin Briana Otts said...

HUH. That's interesting. Now that you mention it, I do a lot of drafting in the early months of the year, and I edit during the second half of the year.

Also, I'm glad you didn't give up writing. :)

Theresa Milstein said...

Nice to see your timeline. Now you're all set for Facebook.

I had a 5-year goal too, though I would've taken sooner. Sadly, this April will be 6 years. But I got short story publication in year 5, so I'm counting that as progress. Sort of.

Matthew MacNish said...

Time frame? I suppose that depends on how long I live.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I hate to admit how long it took me to see my work published, but I finally made it four years ago. I firmly believe if you want something badly enough and work hard enough you can see your dreams come true. Especially if you don't give up on them. I don't think you can put a time limit on passion. And if you have a passion to publish a book you'll hang in there until it happens.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

I like that five-year reevaluate rule of thumb. I'd hate to be chasing something obsessively for thirty years and never succeed. Taking the time to reevaluate gives you an out if your heart changes. I don't want to be a pit bull, too desperate to hold on and prove something that I miss other joys and dreams that might be out there. It's hard for me to imagine that I'd ever stop writing, but if another five years down the road I'm not published, I might decide to write toward other goals.

Great post, Elana!

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I'm in this for the long haul. I'm willing to keep writing books and putting into the work until I reach my goal of publication. You're right that every writer has their own journey and I wouldn't want to quit before I get my chance.

jbchicoine said...

All I know is that I seriously began to wonder if I'd find a traditional publisher. It will be four years when all is said and done (and published). Worth the wait.

Meanwhile, I'm just so glad for all the help I got on the way! You probably don't even realize the part you played, but Thanks to you too!

Leslie Rose said...

I'm of the "it happens when it happens" school. Of course that being said I'm also the queen of instant gratification so I have to have a lot of talks with myself about patience. BTW I preordered SURRENDER today. Yipee.

Larissa said...

I really love this post. The five year thing is EXTREMELY helpful to me right now, so I'm gonna hold on to that. Thank you.

L.T. Elliot said...

I think that's a brilliant timeline--and I'm proud of you for being able to reevaluate in the midst of working so hard. Sometimes, that change is harder than anything for people. You triumphed! Yay, Elana!

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