Hurry Up and Wait: The Life of a Writer

Boy oh boy, can I relate to your post, Jeannie. After signing my contract, I waited many months for what turned out to be a very thoughtful revision-request letter from my editor about LEAGUE OF STRAYS. I dove right in and had the next version ready for her in weeks. And now I gnaw on my fingernails as I once again await her reply.

Let's face it: The writing life takes forever and a day

Like you, I used to think that the waiting part happened before one had an editor. Now I know that it doesn’t stop, and the amount of waiting for the next stage in the process doesn’t really decrease, either. Of course, I have the luxury of knowing my book’s under contract and that my editor and I are both committed to the project. And experience has shown me that a long wait from agents or editors says very little about their potential reaction to my work. All it means is that they have more on their plate than just my manuscript.

PC World says that doctors estimate over 11 million people have email addiction issues that interfere with their lives

Friday was like a holiday for me because I didn’t check my exclusive PEOPLE WHO ARE ON MY CAREER TEAM email account at all. I figured that my editor was unlikely to go into the office when the subway and bus system were inoperative due to Hurricane Irene. Okay, I lied. I checked it once. What can I say, bad habits are hard to break.

The difficult part about all this waiting is that the longer it takes, the more I begin to doubt the quality of what I sent her. You see, I wrote LEAGUE OF STRAYS ten years ago, and I’ve revised it hundreds of times since. I’m the kind of person who works on a project until it succeeds or someone pries my hands away. In this case, persistence paid off with the grand prize: a contract. But it’s also left me with an incurable condition called Reoccuring Revisionitis. Now when I make changes, it’s through a veil of blurriness because I’ve looked at these words until my eyes have crossed. Thank goodness for my razor-sharp agent, my astute editor, my careful critique group and the teen readers who’ve been the barometers for my works-in-progress during times when I’ve gotten a little too close for clarity.

Sigh...

Hold on. We interrupt this post to give me ten seconds to check my email. (Unlike Jeannie, I can’t bear to wait until the end of this post to do it.) Okay, back now.

Jeannie mentioned the antidote to all this waiting, and I agree wholeheartedly: It’s called WRITE ANOTHER BOOK. While all my friends are bemoaning the end of summer and kids going back to school, I can’t get mine shoved through the classroom door fast enough. It’s not that I don’t love them, it’s that I long to have writing time again so I can stop obsessing about this or that. It’s time for me to return to my character’s lives for awhile, if only to take a vacation from my own neurosis! I know my editor is reading my revision. And I know she wants it to be the best book it can be. And I also know that she’s following a timeline that will have my book ready when it needs to be. This means the only option for me is to chill. Then wait. And wait some more.

Take a deep breath and repeat after me: "It's coming soon. It's coming soon."

And something else I now know: while my editor is working on my manuscript, one of you out there is pulling your hair out wondering why it’s taking so long for her to get to your submission. Oh, and if, by chance, she gets back to you before me, just know I’ll track you down. It’s my turn next. Got it?

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Hurry Up and Wait: The Life of a Writer

  1. J. Anderson Coats

    People complain about the end of summer? Wow, that’s new to me. I’m with you; there’s nothing like a nice, quiet house to get some writing done. (Now, to do something about this Day Job…)

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  2. I’m an end of summer complainer, because when my kids go back to school, so do I. Summer is all about complete indulgence in the pleasure of writing (and goofing off with the kids.) The end of summer means I face the jarring return to the day job. I might feel differently if I had a year around day job, or if writing was my day job. But when I fantasize about writing becoming my full time occupation, I picture that as the paradise of eternal summer.

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  3. I’ve really appreciated these posts. Knowing that every writer’s experience with publishing entails fits and starts reassures me. As I think about it, life, in general, proceeds this way. How many people have stayed in the same school for 12 or 13 years, married the first person they went out with, chose a career and stuck with it? I don’t know why I expected the editing process to go more smoothly than the rest of my life. And, now I won’t because it can’t.

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  4. L.B. Schulman

    I think everyone’s summer differs. I have one child who can be demanding when it comes to being entertained and that coupled with my need to write uninterrupted made it too much of a challenge. I didn’t even try.

    Cynthia, you point is great. Why should writing be different than life? Have you all read Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Suess? His description of the Waiting Game is the best description of life and its pitfalls that I’ve read. It is so easy to get caught up in waiting, isn’t it? If we work on another book, then we aren’t waiting for anything, really. It’s all in the attitude.

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  5. Your post could not have been more timely for me. Earlier this week, I was driving myself to distraction, imagining all that was wrong with the revised ms I turned in. In fact, I’d typed up a totally neurotic reply to Jeannie’s post the other day. (Fortunately, in an act of mercy, the cybergods zapped it right as I was hitting the enter button.) The next day I heard back from my editor and now I’m back to work with a REAL, SOLVABLE set of critique notes, rather than the crazy, impossible criticism that was brewing in my head. We are so often our own worst enemies. Even when we know better. Why is that?

    Good luck with your waiting and writing the next book. I agree that it’s the best path. And yay for school starting next week!

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    • L.B. Schulman

      Your comment gives me hope that I am just being crazy. It wouldn’t be the first time. 😉 Glad you have something helpful to work with and I wish you the best of luck with the revision.

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