02 Dec 2014

The Waiting Game

Waiting.  When people talk about the skills you need as a writer, the ability to wait well is never mentioned.

I HATE waiting.  Like really hate it.  There aren’t many things in life I hate.  Liquorice is the only other one that comes to mind. *shudder*

Waiting in queues is a particular nightmare.  I can feel my life slipping away when I’m standing there.  And I have an uncanny ability to always choose the wrong one.  I may analyse them all and choose the shortest, but you can guarantee it will be populated with people who have an issue that takes ages to resolve or is staffed by the slowest server in the world.  It’s got to the point where I feel like warning anyone who joins behind me that they’ll be better off in any other queue than the one I’m in!  It won’t surprise you to learn that I go through the self-service checkouts whenever I can, will it?!

It’s been a long time since I had to do any waiting in relation to writing.  A year ago, in fact, when I sent my middle grade kids’ book (B4) to three agents.  I’m in a similar place again and I’d forgotten how excruciating it is.

CAF is finally edited to the point that it’s ready to go to the editor who expressed an interest in seeing it at the Winchester Writers’ Festival.  As it’s been 5 months, rather than just send it to her, I thought it would be more polite to email and ask if she still wants to see it.  I sent that email yesterday after lunch.

Half an hour later, I’m checking my inbox.  Why hasn’t she responded?  It’s been half an hour!  Then after two hours, after six, after nine.  Doesn’t she work evenings?  Where’s her dedication?! 

From stalking following her on Twitter (hurray for Twitter!) I can see that she had a busy working weekend and seems to have had unusually quiet tweeting days yesterday and today.  Now obviously I am a big fan of holidays and I appreciate that everyone needs and deserves them, but I’m so hoping that she’s only taken a couple of days off to recover and isn’t now on a week-long break (or even two or three weeks, God forbid!).

I need to get a grip on this quickly, not just coz I already sound like I’m nuts, but because waiting is an integral part of the publishing business.  And this is only a first tiny step.

Waiting is especially tough for someone like me.  When I’ve decided to do something then I want to do it NOW.  When a writer feels like their book is ready then they want it published NOW.  If only.  There are too many cogs that need to turn, involving agents, editors and publishing houses.  Each step can take weeks/months/years.  Even when a book deal is struck it can still be about 18 months before it gets onto the shop shelves.

According to the great philosophers at Guinness:

“Good things come to those who wait.”

So, what's the best way to play the waiting game? 

Remembering to breath is a helpful first step.  It’s easy to find yourself holding it, in hopeful anticipation of a positive response from this editor.  You will die if you don’t conquer this step…and quickly.

Remembering to live is the other key!  I could sit and wait for agents, editors and publishers to get back to me and end up behaving like this guy:

“People ask me what I do in Winter when there’s no baseball.  I’ll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for Spring.” Rogers Hornsby.

Fortunately my ADD need for stimulation makes that sort of waiting an impossibility, without quickly descending into madness anyway.  However, not all activity is productive and beneficial.  I could find myself filling the wait with:

  • daytime TV
  • lots of cake
  • daily clothes shopping
  • sleeping
  • copious amount of alcohol

Or alternatively I could:

  • spend time with friends I’ve neglected while writing obsessively
  • prepare for Christmas – knitting presents and filling the freezer with yummy things
  • read lots and fill my creative stores again
  • walk in the gorgeous nearby countryside and get refreshed (it’s very “refreshing” out today!)
  • get on with writing CAF Book Two while characters and plot development ideas are still uppermost in my mind
  • do some more work on the CBBC style drama I started earlier this year as part of the Writing Drama course

Suddenly waiting doesn’t sound so bad! 

Much as I love the first four items on the list, I need a strong sense of purpose and challenge so I’ll quickly and predominantly get into the last two.  Writers want to write.  In the whole publishing process it’s the only thing we have control over.  The more I write the better I get, so even if I still have to edit CAF multiple times, any  writing I do in the meantime will ultimately bring about a better end product. 

The discipline of screenwriting definitely helps shape my novel writing too and I WILL tell you more about that next week! 



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