Have you ever wished you could skip to publication?
Waiting can be discouraging, especially when a dream is involved. Writers at all stages have felt that their stories would never appear in a bookstore.
But being forced to let years pass between writing our first story and publication isn’t a curse. God hides many blessings in the intervening time that can shape us into stronger writers if we’re patient and observant.
Blessing #1: Time to Learn
As we mature, we’ll look back and realize we weren’t as smart as we thought. Life was teaching us lessons we didn’t know we needed.
Like it or not, our experiences affect how and what we write. Through research, we can portray struggles we haven’t undergone, but personal development can’t be rivaled. Sometimes we need firsthand understanding to create depth in our writing. As we wait to show the world our work, we have space to grow as people.
We also have an opportunity to refine our craft. A writer never starts as an expert. Even the gifted among us need to improve, and published authors never stop learning. Now is the time to expand our knowledge so we can fine-tune our work before sharing it.
Yes, publishing early has perks. But launching a story well requires more than pitching to a publisher or throwing an e-book on Amazon. Authors must manage their public presence, promote their books, and interact with readers. The ability to put a book in print doesn’t guarantee we’ll be adept at marketing it. Publishing later in our writing careers allows us to increase our platforming and marketing skills, instead of scrambling to get up to speed after publication.
Blessing #2: Time to Make Mistakes
Trial and error are the best tutors. As we study both the craft of fiction and marketing/platforming strategies, we’ll mess up. A bunch.
But, as unpublished writers, we get to blunder in front of a small audience instead of hundreds of readers. Authors can embarrass themselves with errors as minor as a few typos and inaccuracies to as massive as gaping plot holes. Josh Harris, who published I Kissed Dating Goodbye at twenty-one, ultimately apologized for some of the opinions in his book In the statement he posted on his website, he writes, “I have made it [his response] public because I think my reevaluation should be commensurate to the public reach of my book.” Because countless people read his work, he wanted his change of heart to have the same reach.
His expression of regret was a brave move and showed that the stories of others had impacted him. We’re not promised we won’t uncover similar mistakes after our stories are read. Moments will arise when we must reconsider our actions and beliefs because we’re imperfect humans.
Having a teachable spirit in this situation is incredibly important. If we don’t learn from our oversights when the stakes are low, we will repeat them. Our mistakes offer wisdom that we’ll benefit from applying now and can carry over to our published careers.
Blessing #3: Time to Discover Who We Are
Nobody has life figured out, and trying to make sense of it is a messy process. We’ll rarely feel we have a sufficient handle on our existence.
But without the pressure of publishing, we have a chance to cement our beliefs before sharing our creations. When we encounter criticism, the solid foundation we’ve built will prevent us from falling apart.
“Since my novella was published, I’ve received lots of positive reviews but a couple negative,” Maddie Morrow, Rooglewood writing contest winner, told me. “A few years ago that would have killed me. Now I can look at it honestly, and whether I agree with their interpretation or not, I know I did the best I could with the story and didn’t cut corners. So I don’t have to worry about the negatives.” If Maddie had published years before, these critiques may have caused her to doubt herself and her story. But through her journey as a writer, she learned to stand by her choices even when others disapprove.
Hurtful comments are inevitable, so we’ll have to cope with them whether we’re ready or not. Playwright Irwin Shaw writes, “An absolutely necessary part of a writer’s equipment… is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts upon himself.” The best way to brace yourself for stinging reviews is to solidify the reasons behind your work and beliefs now, not after publication.
How Do We Know Our Story Is Ready?
When the time to publish comes, how do we determine whether our story is good enough?
Writers seeking traditional publishing must overcome obstacles before signing a contract. Agents and publishers have no intention of supporting inferior books; they have reputations to uphold. A writer must prove herself to convince a professional to accept her story. A skilled writer usually has higher odds of achieving this than a green one.
What about self-publishing? Writers can turn manuscripts into e-books without gaining the approval of experts and run a greater risk of releasing their work prematurely. But, even though most of us don’t have editors and publishers peering down at our manuscript, we have friends who can warn us that our work isn’t ready. We need to seek feedback from honest people who can spot a quality story and are interested in our genre. Yes, hearing that we need to improve can be disheartening, but when we finally publish our first story, we’ll be grateful for the truthful men and women who didn’t let us down.
Use This Time Wisely
We will never be perfectly prepared for publication, and we shouldn’t hesitate to pursue our ambitions because we haven’t mastered every aspect of our personal lives. But waiting is a natural part of the process and, in a way, the dream. Yes, it’s hard, but that delay doesn’t have to be wasted. We have the opportunity to grow, gain insight, and enjoy the moment. The Lord understands what He’s doing by letting our dreams stay out of reach. Take the time He’s given and use it well.
A long time ago on a hill not so far away, Gabrielle Pollack fell in love. Not with ice cream or cats (though those things are never far from her side) but with storytelling. Since then, she’s been glued to a keyboard and is always in the midst of a writing project, whether a story, blog post, or book. She was a reader before becoming a writer, however, and believes paradise should include thick novels, hot cocoa, a warm fire, and “Do Not Disturb” signs. Her favorite stories include Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn saga and Nadine Brandes’s Out of Time trilogy.
As those who know her will confess, Gabby is a whole lot of weirdness packed into one INFP. Sharp objects, storms, and trees are her friends, along with stubborn characters and, on occasion, actual people. When she’s not writing, she’s shooting arrows through thickets and subsequently missing her target, jamming on the piano, and pushing her cat off her keyboard. She hopes to infuse her fiction with honesty, victory, and hope, and create stories that grip readers from the first page to the last. Her other goals include saving the world and mastering a strange concept called adulthood.