By Alex Peterson
In May I finished the first full draft of my book. It was rough. So very rough.
But it was finally finished (and my high school self who came up with the idea for this story gave me the biggest pat on the back). I went back through it and edited until I knew there was no way I could make it better on my own. I hired a trusted friend and professional (shout out to you Liz Moore of this very Eight Hundred Words), and together we went through my manuscript. By the end of summer I had finished up edits, reread through everything, and decided the book was done. Officially done. I told my friends about it, and I shared the news to my Instagram. I finally finished my book! Finally I could quiet my inner critic who all summer kept telling me that I was failing if I didn’t finish this book and start trying to get an agent by September. My inner critic fed me this complete lie that everyone I had told that I was still working on edits didn’t believe I would ever finish. I totally believed everything my inner critic said, and also I just really wanted to be done with my book. So I settled for the draft that I had finished in the summer. The draft that I deemed my officially finished, ready for querying novel.
And I did query it. And it did get rejected. Every time. And weirdly, I was okay with it. I mean, yes, of course, I wanted at least one agent to want it, but deep down I knew I had settled on my story.
I’d spent so much time in the past two or so years, trying to write the story of the people and places I created my sophomore year of high school, that by the time this summer ended I was completely burnt out on my book. What I needed to do was take some time away. Time I didn’t think I could take, because, ya know, I didn’t want to be a failure.
But in my time of writing query letters and getting rejected, I unintentionally took a step back from my book as a whole. I gave myself time to dive into stories, new and old, by authors that weren’t me. I even let myself play with the writing and creating of a completely new story and characters just for fun.
And in that time away from my book, I owned up to the fear that maybe it’s not done yet. I reread it again, confirming my fear, and now I’m back, deep in edits, once again. It hurts. Oh it hurts. I so badly wanted to be finished… but I’m not. And guess what?
I’m not any less of a writer because I’m still working on my book. I’m not a failure because it’s taking me more time than I thought it would. It’s not a race. I’m on nobody’s deadline. And even though this feels like a step back from where I thought I was; I know that it’s better to take my time and make my book the best it can be. Because I’d rather confidently put out a story I truly believe in, than one I just settled for because I was ready to be finished.
To you, writer, out there working on your own story— please don’t settle. You don’t have a just okay, mediocre story to tell. You have a great one. One to be proud of. So take your time, and tell it.