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Writing is one of those professions where everything takes much longer. The writing, the publishing, just everything.

Those who are setting out to write their first book usually expect it to be done within a few months or a year at the most. After all how hard can it be? They start airily, telling all their friends, promising copies by the new year.

Five years later they have either given up and the book has receded into prehistory, or they are still struggling and moving forward inch by inch. I am, of course talking of fiction, where the learning curve is very steep, very long and sometimes desperate.

To learn to write fiction well, like any other craft, takes ten years or more. Mastery of any kind takes ten years or more. And no, there are no short cuts.

Beginning writers won’t want to hear that. But I have read so many books, what else do I need? How hard can it get? Hard does not even begin to describe it.

In nonfiction, its comparatively simple work. Research. Write. You can tell more or less how long it will take and make promises to agents and publishers. Fiction has its own seasons and can stump you completely. Some days it flows like honey. Other days you think you are moving rocks.

After you have written a bit of fiction you will have some idea of how long it will take. Then the delay comes from elsewhere. You have some control over the writing deadlines, but, unless you are self-publishing, you have no control over the publishing schedules at all.

Everything takes a very long time, finding an agent, finding a publisher, submitting work and waiting for that momentous acceptance or rejection. Even when you find a publisher it will take at least a year, if you are lucky, before you hold the book in your hands.

Everything takes far longer than you expect – and that is the fact.

Long – yes, tough – yes, but, in the end extremely satisfying. Why else would we still be writing when all the odds are stacked in Himalayan peaks against us?

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