Last week, I met with a friend of mine who I asked to take a look at my novel. Her dream job is to become an editor for fantasy books, so naturally, she’s gonna be someone with eyes for the page. Not to mention, she reads a lot, so she knows the market better than I do. We met up because she finally got through the entirety of my novel. To my great relief, she loved the story. She loved the plot, some of the characters, and all the twists I threw in it. She had a lot of great things to say, but she also had a lot of suggestions for improvement.
She had a couple, to start, and there were all reasonable like these two character names are too similar, more culture should be protected, and more women should be featured because of X reason. Most of it was things that I didn’t think of because I know my book, it’s characters, their background, and I can’t see it from a first time reader’s perspective. Excited and encouraged that I was excepting her feedback, my friend kept going. I ended up having a page full of notes and by the end of the night I had this heavy sigh in the back of my mind. I started to wonder if it’d ever end.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my friend’s feedback. I’ve been thinking more into it over the past week and how I can implement these changes. However, in the moment of writing down all her suggestions, I couldn’t help but wonder if the improvements would ever end. I thought my story was at a great place. I’ve been working on it since 2009! If it’s not good now, when will it ever be?! The scratches of frustration got me that night, followed by the suffocating fog that my dream is just too big. I mean, if my novel isn’t ready now, when will it ever be? Turns out the answer to that question is rather simple:
It’s ready when it’s published.
Not now, not after another round of edits, not even when you get representation. Your novel will be ready when it hits the presses. Just think about it. There’s always room for improvement. My novel still has to go through the basic grammar edits because I often use too many fragmented sentences (I’m getting better at it though). You have to keep making improvements and keep learning to really get the most out of your novel. Even when you sign with an agent, you’ll still go through a lot editing phases. The agency will suggest edits, the publisher might suggest edits, and that takes time. It’s a daunting task, but the dream won’t come true if you don’t make the effort.
After I healed from the frustration and took a deep breath out of the fog, I took a look at my novel again. I started with the easiest thing I could agree with from my friend’s feedback and went from there. And you know what? It’s reminding me about why I like writing so much. You’re in a world with your characters and working on portraying them in a way everyone would love them like you do (or hate them like you do. It depends on the character). Honestly, since I’ve been working on other stories, it’s been a while since I cracked open my novel. With a fresh set of eyes, I’ve found places that even I want to improve.
So, yeah. The improvements continue and the waiting lengthens. Frustrating and hopelessness will knock on the door of your mind, but you’ve got to be careful to not let them in. It may take me another 12 years to get my novel published, but I believe it’ll happen someday. I just have to be patient and persevere.
I’ll admit: I always considered myself a patient person, but lately, I’ve been having to learn how to handle it’s weight all over again. It’s a heavy weight sometimes, especially if you’re waiting for something you really want. Yet, with each step of perseverance, it doesn’t feel that bad. My novel may get represented next year or in 12 years, but I’ll wait however long it takes and I’ll keep improving while I do.