Happiness is largely based on one’s expectations. How wonderful does it feel to accomplish more than you set out in a day? How disappointing is it when another day ends and your to-do list is longer, rather than shorter than it was when the sun rose?
You can’t effectively meet an expectation before it is properly set. Setting one’s expectations depends largely on one’s own process, motivation, and determination. A certain amount of industry knowledge doesn’t hurt, either.
I was working at my editorial desk at Simon & Schuster when the phone line dedicated to one of the children’s divisions’ imprints rang. The person on the other line had written a book and was interested in general information about submissions and publication.
“If your book is sold,” I told the caller, “the publication date will likely be about two years out.”
“Two years?!” he answered.
Yup, two years. Once a book is sold, there’s a whole lot to do, in terms of content editing, copyedting, marketing, design, production, sales . . . the list goes on. A traditionally published book has many sets of eyes look at it many, many times to make sure it’s the strongest it can be and has the greatest shot at success when it finally goes out into the world.
And the first time the publication date is set, it’s not in stone. Missed deadlines, changes in the market, and myriad other happenings can move a pub date forward or back—more likely, back.
The theory is no different for those writing material to submit to agents and then publishers. Unless the topic is only immediately relevant, time is one of the most important ingredients in a polished manuscript. And in my experience, even with seemingly realistic planning, writing and editing almost always takes longer than I think they will. Too many times, I have planned to accomplish a certain page- or word-count, only to have the hours of my writing session fly by, with only a fraction of my goal met. I am an optimistic person, and often think, “I only have so many pages to go!” Until I get to a certain page, of course, I’ll forget about that whole scene that needs to be added or the dialogue that a reader suggested be rewritten.
If writing is a fluid process, so is the planning that goes into it. Like any endeavor in which one wants to succeed, it takes constant reflection and evaluation. And in all that, don’t be surprised if it takes longer than you think.