This could be a cautionary tale. Or a source of inspiration. Your choice.
The long version
I didn’t know what I was doing; I kept changing my mind about whether to write in the first, second or third person; I was writing about far away places and had to do a lot of research; for a long time I had two narrators, one of whose story covered a thousand years; I developed a repetitive stress injury from trying to work full time in the software industry while writing a book on the side; I attempted to use voice recognition software to write a novel with a lot of Icelandic words (don’t try this at home); I had surgery on my arm; my lover of six years left me out of the blue; my mother – who inspired the novel, without whom I would never have even started the novel – died out of the blue; I fell in love with someone new… I’ll stop there, on a good note, a rhyme even.
The short version
Life got in the way.
An advantage of sticking it out with that tricky first novel
A lot of people flounder around for a couple of years with a first novel, then tuck it away in a drawer and start anew using everything they’ve learned and write a really strong second book that gets published and is called their first novel. It’s a perfectly reasonable and practical approach, but it was never an option for me. There was no way I could abandon Freya. I was like a dog with a bone, nothing in the world could have pried that messy novel-to-be out of my hands or mind or heart.
Instead I took everything I figured out in the early years, about point of view and story and how to keep writing no matter what, and plowed it all back into the same book.
A disadvantage of sticking it out with that tricky first novel
Everyone keeps asking if you’re finished yet.
A plea for perseverance
Of course if I’d known at the outset that it was definitely going to take eight years, I probably never would have started. Luckily we can’t cheat life by peeking into our futures.
But if you’re thinking about giving up (on your novel or any other life dream) – please, consider persevering.