Saturday, June 26, 2010

There is no Down Time

Waiting for something? That call from and agent or editor? The go-ahead from a publisher? Are you waiting to hear from a writing client? Waiting. No one likes waiting.

Here is a secret: You should never truly be waiting for anyone. You should be writing.

I hate waiting. I'm very good at it, being forced into it so many times, I've learned to deal. But I still hate it. I hate the feeling that someone else is in control of my choices - of my future yes or no. That I have to wait for an answer before I know if I can move ahead or not. Then I realized I had it all wrong. I shouldn't be waiting. I should be writing.

Publishing revolves around careful decision making. Your brilliant novel (and mine) is no exception. This takes time. Barrels of time. Which leaves you and me - waiting.

So, what's a writer to do with all this built in down time awaiting decision? The answer of course, is WRITE.

Well, says the skeptical writer to herself. Why should I write and write and later find out that my project has been rejected? Or that they are asking for substantial changes? I will have wasted all that time and effort.

Not so. Writing "blind" without expressed direction from an agent, publisher, or editor, is the best way to perfect your voice, craft, and writing vision. You won't get tangled up in another persons suggestions. You'll be blazing your own trail. This is a time to push yourself, challenge yourself to reach the next step. Improve your novel. Tighten your prose. Study novel structure. Take a class on writing. Revise your work. Take a stab at substantive edits. Rethink your ending. You're not waiting - you're working. You're readying yourself. You're improving.

And, when the call comes with all its shock and awe, all its giddy WOO HOOs! and all its provisos, you'll be ready. More ready than you were when you submitted your project.

And what if that call is a no? You're ready for that, too. Because you'll know you've become a better writer, you'll feel only slightly the sting of rejection, and it won't stop you. Not for one minute.

I bid you good writing.


Koala Bear Writer said...

Excellent advice. Joshua Harris said his mother used to tell him to "hustle while you wait" - meaning, keep busy even when you are waiting for something else to happen. I like that idea (since I'm not good at waiting either).

Shakespeare said...

I TOTALLY agree! Sometimes a return can take months--and those are months wasted (and interminable) if one isn't working on something else.

I wish I had the time to devote full-time to writing... but I get in what I can, and waiting just makes me cringe, so I don't.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Laura Davis said...

Thank you Bonnie. I needed that. I've been waiting on an answer to a question. That's all! Now it does have to with something I've submitted but, I can't go forward with the rest of my project until I get my answer. Aak! It's very frustrating. So thank you for reminding me that I don't have one project on the go. It's time to move on to the next one.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I couldn't agree with you more. And for me the added bonus of jumping right into my next book is I forget about the one I'm waiting to hear about. Believe it or not, a publisher hung onto one of my books for eight years. Now that was also my fault for not following up, but I had forgotten about the book. By the way, I eventually did sell that book and it's coming out next spring. ;)

Bonnie Grove said...

Koala: Yes, keep busy! And ensuring that busy-ness will make you into a better writer puts everything into perspective.

Shakespeare: It's amazing how long a return can take! Publishing is so much about timing and taste. A book can make many rounds and go-arounds before the publisher, editor, or agent is able to get back with a definitive word. Great to hear from you!

Laura: In an industry as fluctuating as publishing, even a single answer can hinge on various factors. It helps to have more projects in mind to work on while waiting!

Kathi: Eight years!? Wow - I wonder if that's a record of some kind? Amazing! But congrats on your sale and your book coming out this spring!!

Sharon A. Lavy said...

Good motivational advice. Thanks Bonnie!

Judith Lawrence said...

I am so late posting a comment on your post about waiting but I want to tell you how much it has helped me. I self-published my last three books but the manuscript I have just completed I have sent to a publisher and, yes, I feel out of control. After the first week of waiting I regretted my decision to send it to a publisher though I had done so after a lot of prayer and thought. Your words have helped me to get back to my other manuscript that I have in progress and not worry so much about the one that is already in the hands of a publisher. Thanks.