There are so many articles out there documenting the trials and tribulations of the publishing industry. And for good reason. The journey from first draft to published book is a loooonggg one—often filled with crushing blows. And it can be hard to shout out about the highlights. Not only because it can feel cocky, but also because—until your book actually gets released—no one really understands what the big deal is.

But, our topic this month here on the Debutante Ball is all about milestones … so sit back and relax and read on to learn about the milestones I passed along the way.

Finishing the first draft. It sounds incredibly basic, and it is! But you would be so surprised to find out how many aspiring writers never actually make it to ‘the end.’ They languish in the middle of the book, forever circling back to earlier scenes tweaking and finagling until they find themselves in perfectionist hell. And quit. Want a bit of unsolicited advice? If this is your problem, remember: first drafts are supposed to suck. So keep pushing forward—treat every month like NaNoWriMo and keep moving. Editing your novel can (and will) come later… but your novel won’t ever be, you know, a novel until you finish it.

Diving into the query trenches. It’s perhaps the most nail-biting part of the entire publishing journey. You’ve spent many months (if not years) editing and editing and editing your book until it absolutely sparkles. And just when you think you love your perfect little baby, you toss it to the sharks… I mean literary agents. It can be hard to feel like reaching this stage is a milestone, because many projects don’t pass this point. But it is a milestone. Getting to this point proves you have the grit to see a project through. Celebrate it. Celebrate that first sent query letter. (and then start working on something else, lol)

I’m not scared. You’re scared.

Getting your agent! Yay!!! This is one of the most visible parts of publishing—at least to an aspiring writer. While it isn’t the end of the journey by any means, it is something your parents, and your forever-disapproving aunties can (kind of) understand. Suddenly, you aren’t just a crazy person scribbling in notebooks. Your and artist! Savor this moment, my friend. The work is yet to come.

Signing a publishing contract. Wait. You mean having an agent doesn’t mean your book is getting published? Haha. No. Sorry. But no. You’ll likely spend a few months (or more) polishing your book to a high sheen before your agent begins pitch your book to editors. It can be a long process—I’ve had friends who have been on sub for years. And if your write SFF, there is a finite number of editors looking, so it was an especially nail-biting period for me. Because even if you do find an editor who loves your book, the whole project can still get shot down at acquisitions. Ouch. But once that contract comes through, it’s like no other feeling in the world. Because even though yet more edits are in your future, you book is on its way!

Debut day!! This one still hasn’t hit me yet. My debut, The Frozen Crown was released on January 12th of this year. There was no launch party, no book signing, no nation-wide tour. We were in the middle of a pandemic after all (and I was days—hours?—away from having my second child) but it was still one of the most amazing, most surreal days of my life. Going into a store and seeing my book baby in the flesh brought tears to my eyes and it still does. But that’s the wonderful thing about realizing a life-long goal. It completes you in ways you can never expect.

And drives you to dream bigger.

Author: Greta Kelly

Greta Kelly is (probably) not a witch, death or otherwise, but she can still be summoned with offerings of too-beautiful-to-use journals and Butterfingers candy. Though she has travelled across the world, including brief stints living in Germany and Japan, life always kept bringing her back home to the Midwest. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her husband EJ, daughter Lorelei and a cat who may, or may not, control the weather. Her debut novel, The Frozen Crown, is forthcoming from Harper Voyager.