What to do when your writing project takes more time to complete than anticipated.
“Timing is everything,” a phrase repeated to so many of us throughout our lives. But what happens when you have been writing that fantastic piece of literature for a number of years? Whether you have been shamed for the amount of time it has taken for you to complete your work, or you have been hard on yourself, here are a few things you should remember as you continue down your path of creating work that will soon be catapulted into the universe.
Your Time. Your Circumstances.
A lot of nonwriters do not understand that an author’s situation or lifestyle can play a huge factor in the amount of time an individual has to devote to his or her craft. Unless you are a full-time author or retired, most writers would love to spend all day or night in a picturesque location writing that amazing book, play, or article that would make the world wonder how it ever rotated without it. But let’s be real, many writers, especially those who are starting a writing career or are not yet famous, have school, other jobs, or family obligations that limit the time and place to complete the work. Maybe you do not have the luxury of hiring a ghostwriter. Or perhaps you do not want to neglect yourself of the joy of creating and seeing a plot through. Or maybe, there is no ghostwriter on earth who can tell your story the way you can. The answer is simple. If the story is in your heart, find the time to write it. If you’re waiting for your kids to get out of ballet or sports practice, bring your writing pad or electronic device, decide which chapter or element of your piece you want to work on, and see what you can accomplish in 15, 30, or 60 minutes. The most valuable thing that everyone has access to is time. Be intentional about yours.
Stop Looking At Others.
It may seem as though some authors can publish a book every year, making you question your talent and ability. To that I would say, don’t compare yourself to others. I know, I know. It’s easier said than done. However, you may not know their backstory or situation, just as they don’t know yours. In my opinion, authors should never be placed in a Tortoise and The Hare scenario, seeing who can write the fastest and sell the most. If you have been called to be a writer, do what you can and do it with excellence. Put your blinders on and stop worrying about what authors in the next lane are doing.
Quality Takes Time.
Quality takes time. You don’t believe me? Consider the following. It took:
Mark Twain 7 years to complete Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
J.R. Tolkien 13 years to write The Lord of the Rings
Michael Crichton, 8 years to complete Jurassic Park and 20 to finish Sphere because he could not come up with an ending to fit his liking.
Authors have many reasons why it took them years to complete a book. But they finished it.
Is Your Work in Its Season?
Embarrassment used to slink its way onto my face whenever someone would ask how long it took me to complete Song of Redemption. But now I can say it (or type it) with conviction. Over 10 years. In my case, I began writing it as a short story but later felt as though I was not paying the proper respect to some of the real-life characters who inspired the book. As an author and former newspaper reporter, it was my responsibility to not diminish their experiences by condensing them and breezing through their message of perseverance, love, and forgiveness. I needed to get it right. Therefore, I needed to do the work and spend time researching, interviewing people, developing the plot, etcetera. The research took the bulk of the time, starting, and later stopping when I hit a dead end, or even parts of the book that I knew would be especially painful to write. Somewhere in between, I had written other works while venturing deeper into the marketing and communications profession, had a family, and devoted much of my time to my husband and children. Still, with the desire to complete Song of Redemption, I found pockets of time to finish the book.
What I learned was that everything happened at the right time. Not only did I need extra time to research, but I also needed time to become a mother and relate to some of the things that some of my mature characters experienced. Had I completed the novel before it was ready to be launched, I would not have had the resources, network of amazing people or the same emotion behind some of the chapters in the book.
Everything has a time and a season. Comedy relies on perfect comedic timing. A delicious dish relies on the amount of time it bakes, simmers, or sits. Gardening and agriculture have a rhythm–when to plow when to sow when to harvest. And such is true with great written works. Sometimes your work has not yet been completed or published simply because it was or is not the right time. But that does not mean that you or your work is not entering its season. Encourage yourself. Be steadfast. Enjoy the journey, and you will soon see the fruits of your labor.
Malika's Creative Lab: Sharing lessons in writing and the magic of life.
Malika J. Stevely is an author of historical fiction, African American and women's literature, and essays. She is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton where she earned dual degrees in English and Comparative Literature and Communications. She later worked as a newspaper reporter and in the field of marketing for several years. Mrs. Stevely has published a diverse array of articles and interviews with icons such as Dr. Maya Angelou.
Malika Stevely is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women's National Book Association. She holds an office position with multiple organizations that promote stewardship and leadership.
Mrs. Stevely resides in North Carolina with her husband and children and enjoys dancing and singing show tunes at the top of her lungs. She is the author of Song of Redemption: A Southern Historical Novel Inspired by True Events.