Not everyone can be a bestseller with their first manuscript.
When I wrote my first novel, I was convinced it would be published. Altogether, I spent about five years working on it, on and off. I wrote and revised and cut, sent it off to editors and submitted to agents, entered competitions and declared my intention to self-publish.
That manuscript is still sitting quietly, in my laptop’s memory, mostly unseen.
It wasn’t a total disaster. I received some positive comments from editors and was even shortlisted in a competition run by a publishing house.
And you know what; I don’t mind that the book will never be available in bookstores. I can put it behind me.
For a long time, that book stopped me from writing anything new. It kept its claws in me; I didn’t feel that I could leave it unfinished.
Since then I’ve realised something: it doesn’t matter if that book is never published, or if no one ever reads it.
What matters is that that manuscript helped me to become a better writer. It showed me that I could take the bones of an idea and turn them into a novel. I could sit at my computer for months on end, battling with a story that refused to take shape. I could persevere until I had a full draft.
And then I could cut a swathe through it, removing lines – even whole scenes – that I loved, but that added little to the plot.
I learned to take criticism and allow rejection to wash over me, without eroding my desire to write. I used it to make my work better.
My second novel was easier to write. I lost that flowery edge to my writing; it emerged onto the page much more cleanly. I made connections throughout the story: motifs, imagery, plot points, joining them up almost unconsciously in a way I never could have managed before.
Sure, this novel isn’t published. It isn’t even finished. Maybe it will be one day, maybe it won’t. But I know now that I can write a book. I know that I can keep going until I have something that might just be worth reading.
After this, I’ll write another book. Then maybe something else. Who knows where those stories will take me.
So don’t worry that your book will never be published; don’t punish yourself or complain that you’ve wasted your time and energy.
Whenever you write, you’re honing your skills into something better. And if you write enough, chances are that one day, you’ll find you have a book that you can be proud of.