I think it's important to encourage exJW writers to share their experiences. But for sure, if I had known in the beginning that it would take me 7 years to finish my book and pitch to agents/publishers, I'm sure I wouldn't have done it. When I set out to write my story, I thought it would take a year or two, at most.
If it helps any, here's some of what I learned, and the process I went through.
I was pretty comfortable with my writing skills, but after my first year, I realized that knowing how to write doesn't necessarily mean I knew how to write a book. So I hired a writing coach to help me learn. That was very productive, and not terribly expensive. But it really opened my eyes and allowed me to be much more critical when looking at my work. That led to two more years of writing....and as time went on, I came to understand how far away my book was from being finished.
In year 4, I hired an editor from New York.....that led to another year of very critical editing/change in the book evolution. She suggested I try to get excerpts from the book published in magazines/newspapers, so I submitted an excerpt to the San Francisco Chronicle, which was accepted about an hour after submission. The Chron editor asked me to write more, which led to my writing 10 stories for them and paid well enough to cover the costs of my New York editor.
In year 5, I started pitching my book to agents, and in year 6 I signed with one. After a year of frustration with her, I fired her and began pitching to smaller presses. In year 7, I was accepted by three smaller indie presses, and signed with Lethe.
If I could give any advice to other writers, it would be to accept the fact that editing and critical analysis through the eyes of a professional editor are EXTREMELY important. Having a great story to tell isn't enough to get a book published in the traditional manner. A writer has to know how to organize a book in the way that readers expect.
Secondly, I would recommend that writers have a serious heart-to-heart with themselves about why they are writing. Many writers are perfectly satisfied with selfpublishing and selling books to family and friends. My ego didn't want to go that route. I wanted to know that traditional publishers had reviewed my work and thought it good enough to take a risk on publishing.
People often remark that writing my book must have been very cathartic. It wasn't. Writing a book doesn't solve anything. It doesn't erase my JW past. But for sure, it makes me feel good to know that I have added one more nail into the JW coffin. And for that reason, I would encourage everyone who has a story to tell to find a way to do so. Writing a blog, a book, or posting in JW forums are all helpful.