More than ten years ago I began writing a book I’d intended to pen for decades. The premise of the book changed significantly so the one I finally wrote is less stodgy, more imaginative, and better researched. I finished it after four years, sent notices to friends and family, and kvelled at the sweet comments returned to me. Then I revised it again and again, trying to get closer to the heartbeat of my idea, making improvements at each iteration.
Reviewers noted that the beginning was weak, slow and meandering. Over and over, I rewrote the beginning – first line, first paragraph, first chapter. I swapped a chapter for another, improved an earlier version, eliminated one “first chapter” attempt, and finally settled on what seemed to be perfect.
Slogging through the traditional agent querying process, getting no-thank-you’s or no response at all tainted my belief in my book. Everything I read, even unpublished, amateur work, seemed better than mine. Doubts about my ability kept me awake with worry about the path I’d chosen. Maybe I couldn’t write after all. I stopped talking about it with every stranger stuck in lines behind me at the bank and grocery store, and began work on my second book. Less flag waving for book two. I’d learned that telling the world I was writing a book elicited questions about what section they could find it at the bookstore. But I also kept at the first book, rewriting, evaluating, deleting, working through early morning hours to make it better.