I'm going to sound like a fortune cookie when I say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, so says Lao Tzu. And I took my first step! I finally finished the first draft for this YA novel I've been working on for quite awhile. I'm not popping the apple cider yet because my story needs A LOT of revision, but I'm grateful I've come this far.
The thing about writing any book is once you start telling non-writers you're writing a book, or you've just completed a manuscript, the next question will often be: So when will your book be published? I usually respond: I still have a ton of writing and/or revision to do OR I need to find an agent OR I need to find an editor. And the next time I run into the non-writer, the well-intentioned question might resurface: Why aren't you published yet?
I sincerely welcome all questions people have for me about my work as an aspiring author. I also understand that unless someone's also a writer or they work in the publishing industry, they might not be familiar with the multi-year process spanning from the lightbulb-over-the-head moment to the tangible finished product sitting on a shelf at the bookstore.
The truth is, I don't know if I'd ever be published. The uncertainty is part of the territory when you're an unpublished author. In my journey to be a published author, I've gone through periods where I'd get sidetracked by other pursuits or challenges. But a few incidents helped me get back on track. Let me share one of them:
Years ago, I was at the library hanging out in the writers section (surprise surprise). There was an elderly gentleman who was also browsing in that area. We struck up a conversation and I found him real sharp and witty, like a cool grandpa kind of a character. He also knew a lot about writers and the craft of writing. He said he even met Stephen King at some writers convention. Being that he was browsing through the writers section, I thought it was fair to ask if he was working on a book. He said he had done some writing but never showed his work to an industry professional or tried getting anything published. I asked him, why not?
His response: He was afraid people wouldn't like what he wrote.
So this gentleman could have the Next Great American Novel saved in his laptop, and the world would never get to read it because of his fear of rejection and negative criticism.
This incident was a wake-up call. If I want to be a published author, I need to go all the way. Even if I get rejected. Even if I get negative criticism. I need to have the satisfaction of knowing I put 110% of myself into making it happen. Even if I don't ever get published. (Wistful sigh.)