Today's guest post is by Victoria Schwab, another of those talented young writers who seem to be setting the book world on fire. Which is exactly what she wants to talk about. She's the product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a southern upbringing. Because of this, she's been known to say "tom-ah-toes", "like", and "y'all." Her first book, THE NEAR WITCH, will be out next summer. You can catch her on her website or on her blog.
On Short Paths and Long Roads
by Victoria Schwab
People say I had a short path to publication. Others say I had a long road. I think it depends greatly on how you look at it, and how much you know.
I’m 23. My book sold when I was 22. I signed with an agent at 21. I wrote my first novel at 19. But I’d been writing in other forms since I was 16.
I signed with an agent 7 days after querying, on a book called The Shadow Mile. Now, THAT is in fact a short path. But The Shadow Mile went on submission for more than 9 months, and didn’t sell. It got close, again and again and again, but no sale. That is a pretty long road.
Toward the end of that time, I started writing The Near Witch. I wrote that book in under two months. That is a short path. It went on submission, and sold in under two months. That is a short path. But, revisions on that book took TEN MONTHS. That is a long road. The Near Witch’s window from sale to shelf: TWENTY-THREE MONTHS. That is a long road.
There’s a reason I’m saying all this. There is almost never a short path. Even when you THINK something is a short path, it’s most likely not. I know of an author who wrote a book, and the book sold within days, at auction, HUGE deal. Dream scenario. Everyone said, “That was so fast!!” and they didn’t say it in the kindest way. But what wasn’t publicized about this deal was that the author had written almost a dozen books before it.
We become preoccupied by the journeys of those around us. We see how easy it is for some (we think) but the fact is, we never, ever know the full road. Just as no two books and no two writers are the same, no two paths will ever be. It’s easiest for us to endow this industry with a sense of random chance, to attribute someone’s deal to luck, than to face the fact that we are never allowed the full picture.
It has always been on of my greatest weaknesses, comparison. The want to look around and gauge my own progress by that of others, to lay my path side by side with another’s. But it’s not worth it. We all have had long paths and short roads. Rather than concern ourselves with the journeys of others, we must try, for the sake of our productivity and sanity, to focus on our own, and not just to look down at the stretches of road ahead and behind, but to keep our eyes on the place we want to reach. If we are constantly looking down, preoccupied by how long the road is, we might lose ourselves there and never look up again.
THE NEAR WITCH
August 2, 2011