I was reading The Song of Achilles a few months back and was stunned to see that the author, Madeline Miller, worked on the book for 10 years.
Most marriages don’t last that long. But if a story is just right, then for a dedicated author, the time flies by. Case in point: I thought of my book idea six years ago. I’ve worked on it non-stop for four years. And only in the past month did I start seeing the first returns on all that work—in the form of offers of representation from agents.
Why did it take so long?
Revisions. I’ve gone through 5 major drafts of my book and countless mini-drafts. I’m not a writer. I’m a reviser. An editor. A re-writer. A tinkerer. It’s how I bring my books to life. I slap a bunch of stuff down on the page, then begin to mold and massage it, usually over the course of months if not years.
Many times, I felt like I was almost done. But as soon as I’d look more closely, it turned out that, like the song says, I had a ways to go. A character who needed fleshing out. A scene that was too long. A description that was too florid.
So when am I done? When I can’t revise any more, lest I go bat-crazy? When the MS is on its way to the presses? When I’m holding the finished product in my hands?
I don’t know the answer to this. I started querying recently and, after a few weeks, landed an agent. One of our first topics of conversation after I signed with her?