The Slow Telling of a Story

It’s very hard to be patient when you’re trying to get your first book published. At least that’s been my experience. People often ask me, “How’s your book coming along?” And my answer is usually a shrug, and something mumbled about, “I’m waiting at this point.” I’ll tell you, it has been a long process so far, so long that I’ve come so close to just giving up on it more times than I’d like to admit.

My manuscript (I’m hesitant to call it a “book” yet — that feels premature) was completed in September 2018. I started submitting it to various publishers right away. A few of them responded quickly. A few of them responded s-l-o-w-l-y. A few of them never responded at all. I understand that that’s just part of the game.

I sent out submissions one or two at a time. Perhaps I could have shortened this time by sending them all out at the beginning, but I had this idea that the book would be picked up quickly, and why bother sending so many? Besides, every publisher has their own particular requirements, their own particular way they want the submission to be. Some of them were significant work, and I didn’t want to do all that work if I didn’t have to.

I submitted the manuscript to Boyle & Dalton Publishing in May 2019. By this point I was getting increasingly discouraged, feeling like nobody was interested. One publisher had told me that the concept of my book was very interesting, but that they had published something on a similar topic only a year earlier. I had begun to notice that many publishers refused to consider memoirs. I wondered if I should look for an agent, if perhaps I was going about this all wrong.

Two months after submitting to Boyle & Dalton, I heard from them. They were interested! I honestly had no idea how to react when I read the email. I had gotten myself so excited over the previous ten months, and I had been so deeply disappointed over and over again. There was no commitment, just a request for more information. I sent them what they asked for — the first 1000 words of the manuscript. A week later they asked for the full manuscript. I wasn’t letting myself get excited about this. Just because we were moving further than I had with any other publishers didn’t mean anything.

A month passed, and I heard nothing.

Two months passed, and I finally received another email from Boyle & Dalton — they were interested in publishing Darkwater. Reading that email, I was numb. I couldn’t even take it in. I felt nothing — no excitement, no anxiety, nothing. I just looked at it, and said, “Ah.” I didn’t even know how to tell my family and closest friends. All I could do was show them the email. It took me several weeks until I could really process what this meant to me. I had psyched myself out so much in over a year, and I just couldn’t take it in. I was so used to disappointment, I couldn’t deal with this news.

But eventually I did. I signed a contract, and I had a few more emails back and forth. The publisher even announced Darkwater on their Facebook page, so I have evidence that it isn’t just a dream anymore.

But it’s still slow. I was told that the first step in the process is getting in the queue for developmental editing, which will be followed by other steps like line editing, proofreading, cover design, and so forth. I waited for a while to hear where I was in the editing queue. I finally heard in December that an editor is ready to work with me on the manuscript, and I’m expecting to hear back from that person at some point with notes. I’m anxious about this part of the process — will the editor’s suggestions be minor or major? Are there entire chapters I’ll be asked to excise, or new chapters to write? What am I willing to compromise on, and what needs to stay in order to preserve the manuscipt’s integrity? I don’t know the answers to these yet, and I won’t even be able to properly frame the questions until I hear more.

Writing all of this out shows me that there has been progress all the way through, and it’s been steady and consistent. Just consistently slower than I’d expected, slower than I’d hoped. It reminds me of what it’s like to work on God’s timeline. Every time I’ve discerned that God has had a plan for me, it’s taken so very much longer than I expected. And in the midst of it, it never feels like anything’s happening at all. But it is moving.

The story that Darkwater tells is roughly my life story, up until the spring of 2017. By the time the book is published, the end of the story will already be more than three years in the past. But I never knew, not until months after the story’s end, that it could or would even be a story. For all I know, the past three years have been the beginning of the next story. For all I know, the past three years have in fact been the next story. Hell, maybe this very post will be one of the chapters.

We never know what story we’re living while we’re living it. It’s only in retrospect that we can discern the structure, the patterns, the punctuation. I’ve lived the story of Darkwater already. Now I’m living the discernment. Maybe the discernment is the next story. Sounds beautifully self-referential. I’ve just got to keep writing.

Featured image by Jonathan Reichel from Pixabay.

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