Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hurry up and wait

This writing business is hell sometimes. No, not the writing writing, but the waiting that never ends. We wait for agents to get back to us. Agent in the bag, we wait for editors to get back to them. Then we wait for the agent to get back to us with the editors' verdicts.

We wait for the sale. For the galleys. For the advance check. For the release. For reviews, royalty statements, sales stats... It all adds up to years of waiting. During this time we obsess. We wonder if the agent/editor ever received the script, and are convinced that if they did they're using it as a footstool to reach the toner on the high shelf of the office supplies cabinet. No matter what stage of the business you're at, it seems, the waiting just never, ever ends. I've read of writers going through this same waiting, wondering and despairing hell with their thirteenth book.

What's a writer to do? Apart from going crazy checking the inbox 40 times a day, and the Amazon stats 60, that is? Here is a by no means exhaustive list of the things I do in my waiting time:

Twiddle thumbs.
Read blogs.
Compare search rankings for novel #1.
Fiddle with widgets.
Shop online catalogs.
Work, albeit distractedly, at the day job.
Fantasize about the perfect writing life - the one where writing pays the bills.
Create wish lists for every category of consumer item.
Drink wine.
Engage in text message flirty war of words with favorite ex.
Eat chocolate.
Eat almond crunch cookies.
Just eat.
Apply to MFA writing program I swore I'd never start.
Sink hours on social media sites. (Don't look at me like that - at least I don't tweet!)
Paint the bedroom.
Paint the living room.
Paint my nails.
Stare into space.
Wonder, often, whether writing for publication is a form of insanity.

Yes, I'm a neophyte. But what do the real writers advise? They tell you to write, that writing keeps your mind off the waiting. I'm ready to begin listening. Today, for the first time in many moons, I completed almost 2,000 words of a brand new novel in one sitting. It felt good to watch the demons crawl off and lick their wounds for a few hours.

The pros are right. Getting deeply involved in a new world and new characters is the only answer.

So, how do you manage the waiting game? Come on, let's have it, the good and the bad.


Maria Zannini said...

Love the graphic you used. LOL!

I HATE waiting, and for that reason I have to give myself all sorts of other tasks to occupy my time. But sometimes (and I know this is sacrilege to other writers) --but sometimes I have to do something other than writing.

I'm outdoors, gardening, tending animals, repairing, painting and building. Anything but writing.

It clears my head and gives me more perspective for the next book.

KeVin K. said...

A few weeks ago I was surprised by a cheque. Had to do a bit of research to discover that it was for a story published in November of 2008. The contract said payment was due "90 days after publication."
November, 2008 + 90 days = January, 2010. Yep, that's about right.

Liane, you know what I do while waiting for cheques or editorial notes or rejection letters or contracts: I write. It has taken me years to learn not to watch the mailbox.
I don't actually forget about what I've sent out -- I use a grade book left over from my teaching days to keep track of where things are -- but I do not think about them.
Time's too valuable to kill. Use it to write the next thing.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts on this subject can be summed up here. The best thing to do while you wait, probably, is to start racking up some more ideas and stories.

ChrisH said...

I spent the best part of two years waiting for verdicts after initially very favourable comments from two different parties and you sum it up exactly. I felt just like that picture. Yes to nearly everything on your check list... except, er, I, er, Tweet, too! (Don't start - it's horribly addictive!).

Liane Spicer said...

Maria, your method makes a lot of sense to me. The problem is, months pass by while I'm focused on other things, and then the ideas start flowing again and I begin writing almost involuntarily.

But. I'm constantly conflicted because almost every professional writer says to write every day, or at least most days. I'm giving their way a try right now.

Liane Spicer said...

KeVin, yikes! I thought I held the record for longest wait for a check from a publisher, but you're wayyyyyy ahead of me. I'm learning that when anyone in publishing gives you a time frame you should multiply it by 6.

I'll have you know you're one of those pros I'm trying to emulate. Learning not to watch the mailbox is a WIP in progress for me, and a hard one too. I'll get there. And I'll make 'Time's too valuable to kill' my new mantra.

Liane Spicer said...

Captain Black, you've put your finger on one of my pet peeves with that distinction between response and results. We're constantly told that publishing is a business and business protocols apply, yet I can't think of any other business where the people who provide the 'product' are treated so shabbily.

Since the supply so far exceeds the demand, tilting the balance of power overwhelmingly in the publishers' (and agents') favor, I can't see this changing any time soon.

Liane Spicer said...

ChrisH, I'm not even tempted to tweet. Trust me. My goal right now is to not let the waiting time turn into wasting time. Ref KeVin in comment above.

Marissa Monteilh said...

Very funny, LOL funny, and soooo true. And I might add that I pick up the manuscript that was sent, only to glance at any old page and suddenly, the error that eluded me and my 2nd pair of eyes is suddenly laughing out loud as well. Oh the horror of it! :-)

Jewel Amethyst said...

love the graphic! Good thing I have a day job to concentrate on while waiting. I usually have several manuscripts going at one time while waiting. I think Terence (or was it KeVin?)classified it as a harem with one main wife (your WIP) and several secondary wives.

Then there are the blogs and navigating the blogosphere promoting your existing work.

At least they keep me from twiddling my thumbs

Liane Spicer said...

Marissa, the horror, the horror! I was quite smug about my perfect manuscript that passed not two but FOUR pairs of eyes - only to have a friend point out a glaring typo in the actual book. :-/

Jewel, is there a word for the male version of a harem? You know, one with a main husband and a bunch of secondary ones. I'm liking the idea a lot! As an analogy for my WIPs, that is. :D

Genella deGrey said...

I just keep writing, writing, writing . . .