Yes, it can be hard to say good-bye.
When you work on a new writing project, it can be fun to get entirely swept up in it and never want to reach the end. Writing a first draft of a long project is challenging and exhausting, but it’s also pure bliss, especially on those amazing days where the writing comes together and you’re firing on all cylinders.
I’ve written twenty-one novels in the last eleven years, and every single one had its moments where I didn’t want to be doing anything else. You’re creating characters from scratch and spending time in a world entirely of your own making.
And when the novel is working, it can be fun to work on one revision after another for months on end, doing big and little things to make the work better, fine-tuning each scene, cutting things here, adding things there.
At some point you want to get some beta readers to look at your work and give you feedback. Then, yes, revise it again. But once you feel there’s nothing really left to improve, that it’s the very best you can do, it’s time to step back and say good-bye.
It doesn’t matter what you end up doing next with the manuscript…
1. Querying it to literary agents.
2. Sending it out to publishers.
3. Self-publishing it yourself.
Once that project is on submission, or you’re getting it ready for publication, the best thing you can do to not go completely insane is work on something else. Start a short story, or a novella. You don’t need to go straight into another novel right away.
Whatever you do, don’t go back and revise the same novel again because you’re too afraid to part ways with it.
Tomorrow I’m self-publishing a novel I’ve been tinkering with since 2013.
It’s June 2021, and I’m finally releasing one of my novels into the the world that I started writing the first draft of in January 2013.
You read that right. January 2013!
That is a long time to be working on and thinking about a manuscript. Too long. The truth is I was too afraid to say good-bye.
I spent most of 2013 and the first half of 2014 working tirelessly on this novel, an LGBTQ young adult book called Magic Hour, which tells the story of a wedding videographer who realizes he can make anyone he want disappear by snapping his fingers. Over the course of eighteen months I did about five drafts (and received feedback from some beta readers in the process), and then I started querying it to literary agents.
The response was tremendous. During the summer and fall of 2014 I got about twelve full requests and five partial requests, and I did a PitMad in 2015 that got me at least ten more full requests. I was working on other novels at the time, was immersed in other worlds, but I kept believing in Magic Hour. I thought an agent might take it on.
But I never could get a yes from an agent. Some gave me positive feedback, but no agent fell in love with it, even those that liked my pitch on PitMad. 2015 came and went still with no offer of representation, and so by 2016 I was sending Magic Hour into novel contests (most of them an expensive $30 to $50 a pop) and querying publishers that would accept pitches from unagented writers. Again, I got some more positive feedback, but no offers.
In 2017, the craziest thing happened. I got an offer of representation from a literary agent!
But it wasn’t for Magic Hour.
It was for another book I’d written — a middle grade horror adventure called Monster Movie.
I put Magic Hour aside and got to work on my middle grade, and then three years passed. I would bring up Magic Hour to my agent here and there, but she never gravitated toward working on it or even wanting to read it. Magic Hour stayed in the drawer all the way until the summer of 2020, after my agent and I had parted ways, after I had moved onto half a dozen other novel projects.
On a quiet weekend in July of 2020 I pulled Magic Hour out of the drawer and read it again. I loved returning to those characters and that world, recognizing a style of writing and a specific place in my own life that was long gone. So much had changed in the past seven years. I could barely recognize the person who wrote that novel way back in 2013.
But I still enjoyed the hell out of the story, and so I did one more revision, shortening some of the chapters and doing some necessary line editing.
I could have put the book right back into the drawer. Let it linger there until the end of time.
Instead, I kept it out, polished the book one last time in May 2021, and then hired a graphic designer friend to make me a cover!
Yes, more than 3000 days since I started writing the first chapter of Magic Hour back in 2013, I’m finally self-publishing the LGBTQ young adult novel on Amazon, and there’s one thing I keep thinking over and over.
It’s about time.
Yes, sometimes, especially after many years, it’s time to let that book go.
This is not to say you have to self-publish your book if every other avenue had led to a brick wall. If you deep down think the book is a rotten mess and shouldn’t see the light of day, letting your book go might mean letting it linger in a drawer or on your hard drive forever, and that’s okay.
But in some ways it’s more painful to not publish it in any way, shape, or form, especially if you dedicated a year or longer of your life to it, than it is to just release it to the world and see what happens.
Maybe nobody will read it. Maybe it won’t get the best reviews.
But if you think it’s really good, and it’s polished and professional, and other people have reacted even a little bit positively to it, you might be ready to hit the PUBLISH button so at the very least you can move on and say good-bye.
Because when you don’t release it, there might be that temptation to go back yet again and tinker with it some more when your time would be more wisely used to start something brand spanking new.
I’m excited to be releasing a new book tomorrow, and I’m thrilled to see what kinds of writing projects, both short and long, you might be ready to put out there, too.
Whatever it may be, I wish you only the best.