Thursday, February 25, 2010

30 years for a manuscript to get published


I read recently about an author, Selden Edwards, who worked on his novel, The Little Book, for thirty years before it was finally published by Dutton.

To be fair, he wasn't working on it non-stop during that time. He did what many of us have done: write it, shove it, revisit and revise, submit, rinse, repeat.

But really, how many of us have something that's been on our minds that we've doggedly worked on for thirty years?

I started my my first novel seven years ago. It began its life as an assignment for a writing course. Completing the book was the beginning of my journey to learn and hone my craft: I read books on writing fiction, experimented with different types of work, submitted my work regularly to critique groups, entered contests for feedback, and paid attention to the books I read as a writer as well as a reader.

And rewrote and rewrote and rewrote based on what I've learned.

So, while I've occasionally wondered about how slowly this first book came together, I also know that writing the novel wasn't the only thing I was doing during the time.

I don't know the fate of my book, whether it will be published, and when. But Edward's story of persistence gave me a boost. Sometimes it's good to file away early works as exercises, but sometimes it's good to hang on to the hope that willingness to improve and perseverance can win.

17 comments:

tanita davis said...

I can't yet say that I've worked thirty years yet on anything (that would cut deeply into my babyhood, when the most I worked on was gumming books), but I've put away a novel for about ten years - mainly because it was an attempt to fictionalize a piece of history that is horrible and painful -- and relatively recent (90's). Disputed historical fiction is rarely that close to the present day, I've noticed, and being personally involved makes it harder to write coherently.

...but, I'll keep trying.
At year thirty, I'll quit.

Bish Denham said...

That's a nice bit of inspiration. Although I've been writing for more than 30 years I've not spent it all working on one thing.

Kelly H-Y said...

Wow ... that's a long time. That's a definitely lesson in persistence and patience!

Daniel Dragomirescu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
storyqueen said...

I love this post!!

See, world, there is no ONE way for the publishing process to work.

There are many paths to the same destination.

Shelley

laurel said...

Interesting...I'm taking a similar stance as you are, working one manuscript as I learn and hone my craft. My initial notes are from 1992, though I didn't really begin serious work on it until 2006. Perhaps some day I'll say it took twenty years to write my book too. HA!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hmmm. The birth and raising of a book? All the stages of growth? :D

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Kudos to you. I have a problem with patience and could never work 7 years on one project. I may go back to my first project and make it better later in my life, but right now I just have to many ideas that I need to get out of me. :)

Solvang Sherrie said...

I love hearing stories of perseverance that pay off. Very inspiring, thanks!

Corey Schwartz said...

Wow! 30 years... that is something! Love stories like this.

Julie Dao said...

I love this post! So true! It would be nice if the path to publication were straightforward and only required one formula. You write. You revise. You send it out. You get published. But it's not and it's different for everybody. I don't know if I would have the courage and the persistence to work on something for 30 years, but it's clear that this man truly loved what he had to say and wanted to make sure he said it as best he could. Great story, thank you for sharing!

Yat-Yee said...

I'm so glad the story has inspired you. I'm going to have the number 30 in my mind when I contemplate quitting on something.

MG Higgins said...

This is so encouraging! After a few rejections from agents, I tend to chuck a manuscript and start something new. As Shelley said, there's more than one way to get published. Hang in there.

Lady Glamis said...

Wow, yeah, 30 years! My first novel, which I still haven't given up on has been in the works for about 13 1/2 years now. So...maybe it'll get to 30 years eventually! It's certainly not going anywhere now. :)

Tabitha said...

I started my second novel almost eight years ago, and it has taken me this long just to figure out how to write it. But I am on the right track, and also on the homestretch.

Great post!

Natalie said...

Wow, 30 years! A year feels like forever to me, I can't imagine waiting 30, but it is inspiring.

Sheryl Gwyther said...

Yat-yee, enjoyed reading your posts. It's interesting to me that you've come from music to writing. I'm an Australian children's author and I've come from art to writing. I can empathise with your committment to the craft and your story - any your perseverance, too. Best wishes.