Yesterday I received from our publisher a 'uncorrected proof' of a book I've been working on ... working on for the last seven years. Scattered Pearls is a memoir of Iranian-born Sohila Zanjani that I have co-written with her; it will be released in mid-April. The proof is effectively the final book – fully laid out and bound with the final cover. The final version for bookstores will have a glossier cover and include a handful of last-minute corrections.
To hold this book in my hands and flick through its pages is a surreal experience.
It's not the idea of a finished book that is so outlandish – I've worked on many of those now, many in the intervening seven years. It's just that this book has been such a large undertaking, so it's hard to believe that it's DONE.
As I browse the 330 pages, reading a sentence here and a paragraph there, my mind is cast back to Sohila's copious notes and diary entries that formed their basis. I recall tables and walls covered in sticky notes as I wrestled the elements of the story into an order that would work. Hours spent verifying historical facts. Long discussions in which we grappled over which scenes should make the cut and which should be left out.
Those 330 pages, of which Sohila and I are both very proud, are the distillation of all that effort – the pure spirit left over after anything unnecessary has been slowly boiled away.
Or at least that's what we hope our readers will experience.
My point in relaying all this is not to suggest that Sohila and I are legends in our own time for having finished this project. Nor is it to create the impression that writing your book will be a herculean effort.
I do want to make the point that even if it takes a long time, the effort will be worth it.
I've previously written that it is possible to finish a book in the space of a year, and that is true. But that doesn't mean that if you can't get your book done in a year, it won't happen and isn't worth doing.
If your book is worth doing – if you have something valid to say, as most people do – then don't beat yourself up if it is taking longer than you thought. The more important thing is that you keep moving forward, one baby step at a time. If that means you only get a few hundred words written each month, then so be it.
If you keep moving, you will get there eventually. And it will feel good when you do.
So keep on writing.
Scattered Pearls will be published by Simon & Schuster Australia in April 2016
As usual, if you have any questions or comments, please add a comment below or contact me.