Back in August (I think) 2007, I wrote “The End” on Houses of Cards, the first book I’d finished in totality since high school. It had many problems that would, I knew, require a rewrite. But I sent it out to beta readers for critique anyway. I was still under the delusion that I knew a lot about writing at the time. One of my beta readers did a swap with me, so while he read HOC, I read his manuscript, which was–I thought–amazing. I felt very inadequate because I was not blind to the problems of my book. He was kind in his critique, but ripped it apart. Rightly so. I knew it was coming and absolutely appreciated his efforts at being honest, so don’t mistake this for a wounded ego post. In any event, this friend submitted his manuscript to a big agent, who requested revisions. I was certain that he would be under contract by the end of that year. I was bust a gut proud of him, and really in awe of how together he seemed.
Fast forward. Since finishing HOC, I started a rewrite of it, 3 other new books and 2 novellas. I finished one of those new books, and I am well on my way to finishing the second of those novellas (despite last night’s suckitude and lack of words–I was busy decking the halls). I feel like my knowledge of craft has grown by leaps and bounds in the last two years and change. Despite some of my failures (and I do see not finishing those other books as failures of a sort), I feel like I’ve grown a great deal.
Meanwhile, my friend? He’s still working on revisions to that same book. Two years later. Part of this is that he’s had life happen with job issues, family issues, etc. Part of it is that he’s story hopped and worked on other stuff. And part of it is that his method for approaching revisions makes no logical sense and requires a great deal of rewriting. Certainly I don’t own the Grand Secret To Writing Books, but it seems to me that his current system isn’t really working for him. And while I’m still bust a gut proud of him and think he has an amazing voice, interesting and unique story–I’m a little less in awe of his togetherness. Because if he were really together on this front, he’d have finished those revisions and be moving on to some of the other amazing stories he’s come up with. I feel kind of bad for feeling better about myself because he’s still struggling with revisions.
So I guess this is really a post about how you shouldn’t compare yourself too much to other writers. Everyone has their own pace, their own methods. No one’s path to success is the same as anyone else’s. So keep that in mind next time someone seems to be so far ahead of you.