In his 2000 craft book On Writing, Stephen King says,
My name is Stephen King. I’m writing the first draft of this part at my desk on a snowy morning in December of 1997.
You don’t see sentences like these in books hardly ever, but there it is in his craft book, King telling the reader exactly when he is working on the first draft of his latest manuscript. He was working on the first draft of On Writing in 1997, knowing at the time the book wouldn’t be published until the fall of 2000.
There’s definitely a disconnect between when an author writes the book and when a reader flips through its pages. If the story is strong, the reader doesn’t care if the book was written last year or a decade ago or a century ago. A good story is a good story. It doesn’t matter how long it took for the author to write the novel, doesn’t matter how many drafts he went through, how many times the agent and the editor delivered the manuscript to the author with endless notes. All that matters is the book that gets published, and what the readers think of the finished product.
But time is everything when it comes to the writing of a book. You need to allow for time, allow for patience. If you start writing a novel hoping it will be in the reader’s hands in three months, then you’re going to have to turn to self-publishing. If you want to be traditionally published, then make way for time, and lots of it. There are going to be years that pass between the first draft of your novel and its publication, if it does indeed get published in the long run, of course. Some of your novels might not be published at all.
Thankfully it doesn’t matter to the reader if you started writing your first draft years ago. He or she doesn’t know. He or she doesn’t care. And thank God for that.
I wrote the first draft of my middle grade novel Monster Movie in 2015. I revised it throughout 2016. I started querying it to agents at the end of 2016. In April 2017 I was offered representation on that book. Between May of 2017 and March of 2018 I worked on multiple revisions. Then in May of 2018 my agent started pitching the book to editors. We’re still waiting to hear back. So far, it’s been nearly three years since I wrote that book’s first sentence.
Now, best case scenario, I sell the book in the next few months and get a spring 2020 release date (I really don’t believe at this point a 2019 release date would be in the cards). Therefore, and this is best case scenario, the time between writing the first draft of this book and the time it gets published is five years. FIVE YEARS!
Stephen King knew when he started On Writing that the release date for the book was three years away, so he could kind of factor that in as he wrote and revised the manuscript.
When you’re a new writer, however, you have no idea when you start drafting a novel when the book might actually be released. It’s weird to think, isn’t it? If you’re starting to draft a book this month, if you’re writing the very first scene in July of 2018, it’s totally feasible that the book might not be released until 2023 or later. Isn’t that crazy?
Sure it is, a little bit.
But you can’t think of writing that way. You can’t be tied to the time it takes to produce your best work. It’ll happen faster for some of us. Others, it might take even longer than five years.
All that counts is that you write the greatest novel you can… and that you be patient. Do your best work and the cards will align eventually. Even if it takes a few years.
Never give up!