My first book took eight months to write. I finished it in 2008. It went nowhere.
My second book took ten days to write. I finished it for NaNoWriMo 2008. It ended up attracting an agent two years later.
Spurred on by my victory, I tried NaNoWriMo again in 2009, and crashed and burned.
By now, I’ve written over ten books. The process for each book has been wildly different: some done in record time, finished at NaNoWriMo speeds even if not written during November, and others taking months and months.
My debut Otherbound: written in a single month.
My second book On the Edge of Gone: the bulk written during NaNoWriMo 2013, and the final quarter of the book dragging out another six months after that.
My next book Guardians of the Galaxy: Collect Them All: written in two months.
Sometimes, while writing a draft, you feel on top of the world. The prose flows, the characters shine, the plot surprises, and you think, This is the one. It’s the book that will get you an agent, or a book deal, or that will hit the bestseller lists or rake in the awards. The book of your heart. The book you will be remembered by, decades from now.
Sometimes, you’re right.
And sometimes, that book goes nowhere. You might finish the draft and never look at it again, whether it’s because you’re too intimidated to get back to it and it’ll never live up to your expectations, or because another book idea—newer and shinier—has caught your attention.
Other times, when a book feels like it will never end, when you fail at NaNoWriMo and you’re still miserably cranking out words in December, and then January, and then February, and all your self-imposed deadlines go up in smoke, and you’re sure the book is a waste of time and all your enthusiasm and motivation have gone out the window—
It might be the best book you’ve ever written.
Our author brains are good at making up scenarios: that’s why we’re authors. That can work against us, though, when our imagination gets carried away and we imagine all kinds of doom-and-gloom scenarios that end up demotivating us, or when we imagine dream scenarios that end up intimidating or disappointing us. We’ll try to look for proof:
But the words drag; that’s not a good sign.
It’s been taking me months; that’s not a good sign.
I hate what I’m writing; that’s not a good sign.
Almost always, a book will look different when you’re done with it. As much as possible, try to shut off any voices that you know are slowing you down, whether they’re fears or hopes or doubts. If it isn’t propelling you forward, you don’t need to listen to it. Cheerfully ignore the part of your brain that’s constantly analyzing your own process and trying to predict what it means, because in the end, the book is what matters.
The end result matters. Not how you got there.
Focus on what you love about the book, what motivated you to write it in the first place, and get it done. In the end, whether the road is smooth or bumpy, straightforward or crooked, the book will always, always end up taking you by surprise.
You don’t know where you’re going.
So don’t let it derail you. Keep moving forward, enjoy the sights, and let yourself discover the destination.