In the spirit of full disclosure, I admit I’m not feeling very inspired to write today’s blog post. Nothing personal, loyal readers, of course I love you all. I’m just feeling antsy, and unsettled, and would rather check my inbox again. And again. And maybe once more, just in case.
You see, I’m in one of the waiting phases of becoming published. I’m waiting for my editor’s next round of feedback and requests for revisions. This is one of the things that I, in blissful naivety, thought would all be behind me once I had a book under contract. Those of you out there shopping a manuscript know what I’m talking about–that awful inability to get it out of your mind, checking the email and mailbox obsessively, hoping for good news, bracing for bad news, wishing you’d just get some news, then being afraid to actually read the news when it comes, even though you’ve been checking for it every five minutes for weeks.
Isn’t that a great feeling? And don’t you just love sarcasm?
When my manuscript was acquired by McElderry, I felt a surge of relief that, at least for this novel, I would not have to go through that again. I remember that lovely day in November of 2010 when I, in the rosy blush of my tender youth, thought to myself, “at last, my manuscript has a home! No more wondering and worrying about it’s fate!”
Now if a friend were to post those words as a Facebook status, I would reply with slightly manic wisdom, thus:
Okay, so I’m not really mean enough that I would write that comment–just mean enough to secretly want to.
Mind you, I’m not ragging on my editor. Of course I know that editors need time to read, thoughtfully consider, and comment on a manuscript, whether or not they’ve acquired it. And of course that means unavoidable episodes of waiting. I just somehow thought it would FEEL different post-contract. I thought I would feel more professional and more certain that I was doing the right things. I’d feel more confident in the merits of my work and less desperate for an editor’s approval.
The truth is, I feel pretty much the same. No Golden Mantle of Professional Wisdom has descended upon my shoulders because of that contract. Heck, I haven’t even gotten a Slightly Yellow Hankie of Basic Competency. I still wait and wonder about my novel’s fate and worry about my own skill as a writer. It really doesn’t feel all that much different. You may think that the fear of rejection has been removed from the equation; not so. The difference is that now I fear rejection from someone with whom I have a long term relationship, as opposed to rejection from a total stranger.
And as for that jealousy I used to hate myself for feeling when peers sold their manuscripts in the past? Now I hate myself for thinking “Darn that J Anderson Coats, why does SHE have a final title, while I don’t!” or “Why does Mike Jung have a cover? I don’t have a cover yet! Curse that Mike Jung!” Sorry, fellow EMU’s. With friends like me….
So yeah. It’s not much different in this greener pasture than it was in the other one, at least not yet. I’m not complaining. It is better, where I am than where I was, and I wouldn’t go back for anything. But I am still on the same journey as before; I’ve just passed a major landmark on the way.
So for myself, and for other writers out there struggling with waiting, I’ve come up with a list of
Ten Things To Do To Pass the Time Productively
1. Keep writing. Because nothing says, “I’m a real writer!” like having a second manuscript on submission and/or acquired before the first book comes out! (Not that I know this for sure, but I sure plan to make a stab at finding out.)
2. Seek advice from more knowledgeable friends in the industry, who can keep me sane with wisdom and/or commiseration. When I wonder, “should this be taking so long?” it is nice to hear a calm voice of experience answer truthfully, “It’s only been three hours since you mailed it, so yes, I think it should take this long. Maybe a little longer.” I’ve found these wise and generous writers through critique groups, listservs, retreats, and through my agency client base. (You know who you are. Thank you! I love you all and apologize for the manic laughter. )
3. Start building a positive public presence. For me, this has involved blogging, expanding my writerly presence on Facebook, getting professional photos for publicity purposes, developing (and redeveloping) my website, and introducing myself to bookstore owners and librarians.
4. Reread random sections of the manuscript and obsess about how horrifically dull and awful and predictable and unprofessional and generally abominable it is, and decide that I am doomed forever by the complete and total flop it is going to be! Okay, maybe that’s not so productive. Move quickly to #5.
5. Scrape myself off the cellar floor and revisit #2 above. (My choice of phrase here came from Victoria Hanley, a wonderful source of writerly advice!) Then proceed to #6 without revisiting #4.
6. Take my dog for a walk, cheer my son on in his athletic and musical endeavors, call my daughter at college, and remember that life away from the desk is full of many joyful things.
7. Attempt to achieve inner peace and spiritual enlightenment through the ancient principles of Buddhism.
8. Use Photoshop to scandalize friends and blogging associates, while simultaneously indulging in maniacal laughter.
9. Support fellow writers in the steps along the way in which they are engaged, because this writing life is and always will be a journey, no matter what landmark we’ve just passed, and we all need a hand from time to time.
10. Keep writing! Because after all, that’s why we’re all here to begin with.
Good luck, my friends! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go check my email.