5 Reasons Why a First Book Takes Years to Publish

It’s almost 5 years and The Loyalists Wife is not on the shelves yet.

Most people don’t ask anymore.  Only a few really know how hard I am working to hone my manuscript and make it perfect.  This post is to inform the others and, more importantly, to give hope to writers on my same journey.

What have I been doing all this time?  Here are 5 categories of book-related activities that have kept me learning and leaping ahead.

  1. Learning the craft of writing.  I’ve been taking writing workshops and courses to learn craft and then going back to my manuscript numerous times to apply my knowledge. I’ve killed my darlings so often I could be indicted.  And I’ve been finding the hook, excising adverbs, birthing compelling characters, and cutting all that doesn’t directly serve my plot.
  2. Searching for the perfect writing group.  Through writing groups, I’ve found other writers to share my struggle and help along the way.  First I looked for one in my city, but had to start my own.  I floundered with it for a year before shutting it down and  going to another 15 miles away. Unfortunately no one there was yet published and I desperately needed that stimulus.  I sourced out the writing society in a major city near me, and finally plunged into an excellent critique group attached to the London Writers Society.
  3. Reading a lot of how-to writing books.  Seeing what successful writers do has been invaluable.  When in doubt learn from Stephen King or Anne Lamott or dozens of other excellent writers.  My very first how-to book was How to Write and Sell Your First Novel by Oscar Collier.
  4. Establishing an on-line social media presence.  I happened upon a Vancouver conference for writers which highlighted social media and I’ve never looked back.  Now I do video interviews, tweet, blog twice a week, comment on others’ blogs, and establish online connections with like-minded writing people.
  5. Making useful connections in the writing world. Through conferences I’ve met Barbara Kyle, whose course I took, Michael Neff, who runs the Algonkian pitch conferences, and Terry Fallis, whose debut book, The Best Laid Plans, was the first self-published book to win the prestigious Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour here in Canada. Each of these writers has contributed to my own writing journey.

If you do the math, that’s about a year for each of the above, not to mention the year I spent researching and writing the first draft of my ms. Five years.

Of course I didn’t ever work all day, every day at my writing until this last year.   Sometimes I even took a few months off for things such as downsizing a lifetime of things saved for that rainy day, and moving to a smaller place.

But now, having learned so much, I just want to apply it and get that book on the shelves.  Oh, and I’ve got the second and third in the series knocking around in my head, too.  They will be much quicker off the mark.

How long did your first book take?  What did you do to make it the best it could be?  Would you do anything differently now?  Are you still awaiting that day when your book hits the shelves?  Consider leaving a comment on this broad subject.

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14 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why a First Book Takes Years to Publish

  1. I write short stories and had sent some seven short stories to a publishing house which took them up for a review and sent a rejection note. Some of the stories I have written share a broad contectual similarity and I wish to write some more and then try my luck with other publishers pitching them as stories connected by a broad theme. However, I published one short story with a newspaper paper last year. I have also published some articles. Would like to hear your views on this.

    Indrasish.

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    • I am not sure what you want me to comment on, but I have removed your link. One must be careful not to spam when one is commenting on web articles. You have said nothing about what you read here of mine, yet you want me to comment on your publishing experience. My advice is to give more than you get on the web. When you comment, make sure you actually read and mention the piece. As far as your stories, keep writing, learning, taking courses, etc., as I’ve suggested above. Best wishes in your journey, Indrasish.

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      • You seem to have got too offended. I read your blog and agree with what you say but didn’t have anything specific to write on in comment. Your advice is to ‘give more than what you get on the web.’ By that same logic I don’t think it’s wrong to write a problem and expect a reply, not preaching. The blog world works on ‘you help me and I help you’ basis. And sometimes what you give may be more than what you get, but that shouldn’t offend you so much. I have also received comments on my blog that were not exactly related to the blog I wrote. But I did respond without sounding inhospitable. And then, the topic you have written on is much broader than the points you have mentioned. So writing about my publishing experience and asking for your views is not really outside the purview of your topic. It may be outside the five points you have mentioned.

        As for the link I left, while I was uploading my comment I was asked for some personal details, like e-mail address, website link etc. My blog doesn’t ask for those details. And given that yours does, is it very far off the mark to leave one’s blog link? The link could be avoided. I’m not sure why it annoyed.

        Anyway, thanks for the reply you left and the views you gave.

        Indrasish.

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  2. You made *excellent* use of your time. I’d add (1) submitting your work to contests so you can get some valuable feedback and (2) starting a new project so you can exercise what you’ve learned on something fresh.

    I wish you all the best in your writing career!

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    • Thank you, Linda! These are excellent suggestions and I should have put them in because I have done them. And I’m sure I’ll think of more things that have helped along the way. While waiting to tweak a couple of things with an editor, I’m working on research for book two of my historical trilogy.
      Also, I appreciate your good wishes. I checked out your website and quite enjoyed its pleasant tone and interesting subject matter. Good wishes to you, too.

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  3. I’m with you, Elaine. I’ve read on average it takes 8 years to get published. I worked on my first book for about 5 years too, doing the same as you, applying my lessons to the wip. It’s on the shelf atm as I felt the need to start fresh with new projects, new lessons. I still hope to see The Botanist’s Daughter published.

    You are doing all the right (write) things to get there, and I can’t wait to celebrate at your first book launch!

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    • As I will dance the delightful at your launch, especially of The Botanist’s Daughter. I can’t think how lonely writing used to be when all the same lessons were there to be learned, taking just as long, but the web writing community was not out there. I have met so many amazing writers who are journeying with me through that medium that I can’t imagine doing this alone.
      Thanks to you and to all my writer friends.

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  4. If someone had told me how long this process is, would I have started it? Would any of us? You sound like you’ve been very busy for the last five years and I am sure it all shows in your story. And I know that as you write the sequels they will reflect all the myriad lessons learned in the first novel. One of the things that happened to me as I read and learned and studied was that I forgot to submit the darned thing to publishers! So don’t forget to get it out there, now that you’ve put in all the effort. I’m with Sharon, and I’ll bring the cake to the party!

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    • Party? Did someone say party? You’ll be having a great one in February and that’s wonderful. Gives me hope and you kudos. Hurrah!
      And now I must get back to the actual writing instead of the social side of it. Thanks for your support, Jessica. It’s so appreciated.

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  5. Elaine,
    Thank you for your honesty. It’s reassuring to know that other writers are going through the same things. I too have been doing exactly what you wrote about…and the funny thing is, the more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn!
    I wish you the best of luck and I look forward to seeing your endeavor on shelves!
    And I am impressed you blog twice a week. That should be my new year’s resolution.
    Cheers!
    A.B. Canyons

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  6. I started working on my book almost seven years ago and am just now putting the finishing touches on it. The reason it was such a long journey is mainly because I was in the eighth grade when I started writing it. I was young and still had a lot to learn. While that still holds true, I feel like I’ve learned so much. My writing has improved and my plot ideas have evolved due from things I’ve learned, things I’ve read, and simply from growing older. I’m hoping that, after seven years of hard work, I will be able to put it down and say I’m happy with it…soon!
    I really enjoyed this post! I’m glad I found your blog 😀

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  7. My first book took three years to write and then I put it away for a few years before deciding to get serious about publishing it. It took about three months of research for the right market and then it just happened. My publisher contacted me and within eight months I had the book in my hand! I went through a POD publisher my first time and did fine. I won’t use them again for my next book, but I’m not sorry I did it that way the first time through.

    I’m currently working on a science fiction which has taken two years to write and a historical which has taken nearly ten years to finish because other projects got in the way. Both are nearly finished and ready to start editing.

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