When I first started writing, I was in a big hurry. My dream was to be published—to be able to go into a bookstore and find my book on its hallowed shelves.
In order to achieve this goal, I constantly pushed myself to finish at least one chapter per week, to finish editing my manuscript by a given date, to send out a certain amount of query letters, whatever it might be.
It felt like if I slowed down at all, I would be standing in the way of my dream.
I remember specifically worrying that by taking too long 1. There wouldn’t be any agents or editors accepting submissions and 2. The subject matter of my novel would be out of fashion by the time I finished.
Since then, I’ve learned this: there’s no rush.
There will always be fabulous agents and editors excited to discover new work, and, worst case scenario, if your novel happens to be about a vampire/werewolf love triangle or girls on trains, put it in a drawer and wait for the trend to come round again. Someday that thing will sell!
But the most important thing I’ve learned is that the publishing industry moves very slowly.
Writing a manuscript can take years (I’m a slow writer), querying literary agents can take months if not years, working with said agent to revise a manuscript can take months, querying editors on that project can take months if not years, and then editing that project and releasing it into the wild can take months if not years.
And let me just say that waiting is the hardest part. There’s nothing quite like picturing an editor from your favorite press considering whether or not to take on your title, i.e., make your wildest dream come true.
The point is, every step of the way takes time. There’s no reason to rush through your manuscript when the rest of the process is going to take a while. It’s better to take the time necessary to make a novel shine—let it marinate for an extra month (or six!) before hopping into revisions, spend an extra week polishing one pesky scene, take a couple hours to ensure the voice is just right in a single paragraph.
Most writers are familiar with the advice to write every day. I don’t necessarily agree with this. Yes, continue making forward progress, but cut yourself a little bit of slack.
If you work hard and stick with it, your manuscript will be finished eventually, and it will be all the better for relaxing and taking extra time. Besides, writing is supposed to be fun!