The necessary patience of a writer

If someone asked me what I thought was the main thing a writer needs, I’d firstly ask what sort of writer. If they’re using writing as a hobby or as a secondary income, I’d say discipline or determination. For those of us who crazily try to make it our main source of income, however – I’d say patience. That and believing that you have a chance even though everyone tells you it is an impossible dream. Even when the bills pile up and that income seems far away – you must have faith and you have to be patient.

Writing is a long, dragged out process. Let me paint you a picture of what it could look like. (It all depends on if you have an agent, you’re publishing with a big house publisher, a small publisher or if you self-publish. So this is just an example.)

You write a first draft. Say you write 1000 words a day (I tend to write 2000 but 1000 is easier to calculate with.) In that case, it will take you about two months to have a first draft of 60.000 words (the smallest amount people tend to expect of a general novel. If you are talking genres like Sci-Fi or Fantasy, I’d say you’re looking at a minimum of 90.000)

Then you re-write that first draft into the second draft. Depending on how much work you have to do on that, you might have another couple of months ticking by. Do you then need a third draft? If so, add additional weeks or months. Then comes the developmental edits (assuming you have already found an editor and they have time right away.) That can take anywhere from weeks to a month. Then it comes back and you re-write again. That could take a sturdy chunk of time. Then it’s back to an editor for copy editing/line editing. And after that, you get it back and must accept or reject any changes your editor has made. Do you need to re-write something at this late stage? Boy, I hope not! Then it’s time to send it off for proofreading. Aaaand then you have to accept or reject those changes.

Throughout all of this, you have a cover to be made, layout to be planned and marketing to set up. Not to mention if you write a book that needs a map or a glossary. Do you want arc reviewers? What platforms will you publish on? Will there be a book launch? Can you reach your audience? What is your audience anyway? Will the book even be profitable or is your audience too small? Did you remember to eat and sleep at all? Where’s the cat?

I won’t bore you with more details. Or line up all the ways the process above can differ and actually take a lot longer. You get my point. Patience. You write a story and then you wait for a painfully long time until it is in the hands of the readers. And people, naturally, don’t realise this. My friends and family know I write my as… um… behind… off. But they also know that I only have one book out to show for it. So, I tell people I’m a writer and then have to explain that I have a new book out this autumn and two others ones out this winter and another one I’m writing now for next year. Telling people to go check out my Facebook author profile or website would be a lot more meaningful if I didn’t have to add “I have written books and they are coming soon. Honest!”

All this while waiting to see if I can make a living off this or if I have to go back into full-time employment. So yes, heaps of patience. And believing in myself and my writing, something I could never do on a good day, never mind on scary days like these.

You know what? Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it isn’t patience that new full-time writers need. Maybe it’s a hefty dose of madness?

Oh well, time to go write the next 2000 words. You’ll see them in print next year sometime.

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