Wednesday, October 27, 2010

16 WOW Wednesday: V.E. Schwab on Short Paths & Long Roads

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.


August 2, 2011


  1. Great post and nice to meet you, Victoria. Your youthful wisdom shines in the post. Perception is everything, sometimes. It really is all in the way you look at it. Best of luck to you.

  2. As a 25-year-old, I still find it weird that you're considered "young." I'm here going, I feel like I've been doing this forever, it'll be about time! so definitely understand what you're saying about a hidden long road.

    Comparison never works for writers because every writer is apples to oranges, and every book even by one writer is apples or oranges. What good would a comparison do? None.

  3. Nice to meet you Victoria. I look forward to getting to know you better. Your wisdom shines through here. We all have different road to follow. Some long, others short. It's important that we keep moving forward and not get discouraged by other people's journey's.

  4. Great post. You are right. We shouldn't compare our progress to others. Even though we do. Good luck with your book.

  5. YAY Victoria! This post is spot-on! I love that that's your background--so much to draw from. Cannot wait to read your book (and LOVE the cover too)!

  6. Thanks, Victoria! Love your excerpt on your blog, too, nice writing style. Will definitely have to read your book when it comes out! Really enjoyed the long and short of it here, too; what struck me is that it's not always a given when you sign with an agent, and the time frame can still really vary even after signing. Interesting! So it's best to relax and just keep writing--which is what it sounds like you did. Congrats!

  7. "It has always been on of my greatest weaknesses, comparison."

    I hear that! It can be maddening to compare your journey to other people's. We all do it, I'm sure, but the trick is to focus on those comparisons as little as possible and think, instead, about your writing! :-)

  8. I love this post! Because it's so true. You never fully know an author's story, and it's dangerous to compare yourself to someone else's journey. Great post, Victoria!

  9. So true! It's easy to compare ourselves to others, but in the end, it mostly makes us feel inadequate. I agree that we should focus on our own path, however long or short it is. If we enjoy the journey, it won't matter how long it takes us to get "there."

  10. Loved the long path/short path angles. Thanks for sharing, Victoria. :D

  11. Great post! It's so hard to try to live up to the expectations we THINK are out there :)

  12. Victoria, you hit this one out of the park! I think trying to figure out the rhyme and reason to this business at any given second, is a sure fire road to insanity.

  13. Thank you so much for having me on the blog, and I'm glad that this made sense to someone other than myself (I'm never sure it will :p).


  14. I am reminded of the quote “It takes twenty years to become an overnight success”. Great post, and congratulations on your success, Victoria!

  15. Victoria,

    Thanks for your great post! You are so right about what's considered "long" and "short." Ten months is long compared to two months, but ten months for a revision would be fast for me and many writers I know. Compared to 23 months, though, 10 is fast. It's all relative, as you point out.

    Even more important is your point about comparison. It's so tempting but such a destructive path. I'm not immune from it, but when I find myself wishing that I had what someone else had or--eeek!--thinking I've got it so tough and they've got it easy, I try to change that mindset right away. It doesn't help me reach my goals. In fact, it hurts me.

    It's exciting to see where you're at at your age, and to imagine where you might be down the road. Thanks for a great reminder, and good luck with your book!


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