To write a novel is often an impossible chore, or at least it can feel like it. Time spent in planning and plotting, time spent in discussion and reflection, demands recognition. You live with this story for so long it becomes an obsession. It becomes the thing you do with your mind when it is idle. Even when it is not, it becomes the thing you focus on.
Sleepless nights come with a novel’s creation. Long hours. Doubt, crippling and nagging. The need to work on it even when it is the last thing you want to do. When you are writing a book, you are in a large way alone. You are the only one in the world who can see what you see, and no matter how much you try to explain it, all your spoken words just fall short.
If you are in any way working on an idea that is a hard sell, then you have to deal with the doubt of other people. You tell them your story concept and you get a look. You get a skeptical look that tells you the idea you have has rung sour to the listener. You find yourself working on something that gets little support from your friends and family. You get a kind of dull feeling about your work and in the middle of this, you still have to write it and make it fresh and exciting.
So how many times could you do it in secret? How many times could you write a novel and set it aside?
The feeling of finishing a book is indescribable. I am going to try anyway. You get a kind of bulb when you are close to the end, a blockage in the tubes of your mind, like an onion bulb fighting to push its way free. You feel a great deal of pressure and a desperate desire to finish the work. When you reach the end and the last word is written, you can feel that bulb burst free. You can feel it explode, and a deep sense of relief fills you.
With the relief comes elation. It brings a high that takes over your life for the next few days, weeks if you are lucky. Then the fall. See, you want to get it out. Every time, you feel a deep need to give it to the world. You want it to be alive and vibrant in front of people. Books live in the mind of the reader and nowhere else. You have just created a piece of yourself and you want it to live.
The hardest thing about publishing is waiting. Waiting for the editors, waiting for the cover designers and the beta readers. With publishing a book comes a lot of sitting around. The entire time you are doing this, you are anxious to get your book out.
You write a book, you get all the way through, and you have two beta readers read it. Then you put it in a box, mail it to yourself and stack it in a closet. And that is where it sits.
You don’t send it out to agents because you know you are not good enough yet to make it great. You need practice and honing in order to make this manuscript worth reading. You are hard on yourself and you don’t want to put it out wasting the readers time. So in the closet it goes, a stack to collect dust and go unspoken. A child stillborn that has no voice and is sitting in the dark.
Heard a writer say once they were afraid they would not get to finish their series because they couldn’t sell the first two books. That is when it hit me. The secret book. The quiet child waiting in the closet to come to life. How many could the average writer write before true despair hit?
For me, that number was not two, three, or even six. For me that number was eighteen. Eighteen times I had chopped away, one word at a time, until the book was finished. Over 12,000 pages written before any of my work was read by anyone, save two beta readers. Over three and a half million words of silently talking to myself before the pressure got to be too much and I had to speak. I had to let the first of my children free to live in the mind of a reader.
It is to date my greatest strength. I have millions of words sitting and waiting. Story upon story of work I have but to do a tiny bit of polishing to and it will be ready for the world. I am currently twelve years ahead of my publication schedule. My two epic series are completed. Finishing an epic series is nearly impossible. It takes years of work, thankless tedious work to finish an 800-page book. Let alone eleven of them.
When I started writing books I had a bit of support from a few people. My wife Rebekah made it a priority for me to work. Every day she listened to the story being constructed. She read over and over again stories that would not be heard for years. She went without her husband as I worked day in and day out for hours without count. My friend Traci read diligently. She listened to me talk about the work and she read every single page. Sometimes more than a few times she would read the same book. And in the end, these two women kept me alive, kept my work alive until it was ready and I was a good enough writer to make a go of it.
For thankless years I honed. I’m ready now. I have published seven critically acclaimed books. I learned from the years of stuffing my closet. Learned from years of building and working. It is ready now. Ready to be picked up and enjoyed, ready to come to life in the mind of a reader.
And as I have been saying from the very beginning, as this blog post promises and the scope of the work I have published so far implies, there is so much more coming.
So for my writer friends whose work has yet to hit the market, I say keep writing. Keep telling your story, even if no one can hear it right now, because when the day comes, when you are ready to let your work see the light of day, you will have a greater understanding of the scope of your world, a greater understanding of how to clean a piece and build a manuscript. You’ll have a greater understanding of the patience needed to bring a world to life. It doesn’t matter how long you have to wait or how many secret books you need to write, just tell yourself, “Until it’s ready, until my skill level is high enough, I’ll put it in a box and put it in the closet, and promise it that one day it’ll come to life.”