Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Incredible Patience of Writers

It takes a huge amount of patience to be a writer. It's a good thing, because those with less strength of commitment, less drive, simply won't finish a book in the first place, permitting a tiny window of opportunity for those of us who persevere.

But, along with the teeth-grinding, the frowning, the cursing, and the occasional weeping with sadness and joy --- the actual day-in, day-out writing -- you need patience for a whole lot more.  Finishing a book is almost easy in comparison with what's ahead.

I've already covered the research part of finding an agent. I've written dozens (a lot discarded) of queries, synopses, blurbs, and made sure I was personal enough with my emails to touch the heart of even the toughest agent. Stupidly, I now understand, I even thanked them when they sent me sharp, rote, rejections.

Getting an agent is a stupendous task. I don't care what you've read about it, that so-and-so found someone through a friend of a friend, or met someone at a writers' conference (I've never even been to one of those...), or had three frenzied agents plying a contract. In real life, in my life, it doesn't happen that way. It took me two years to find a good one.

But you plod on, try to stay optimistic, start on another book. Tell yourself that it will all come out right in the end. You have supreme patience. What choice do you have, after all?

I've heard from my agent at last. She tells me that The Place of Dreams is doing the rounds of editors as I write this. I'm grateful, of course, and a little awed by the idea, but I should be terribly excited too, shouldn't I? It's just that I've grown so used to the time involved in every aspect of this journey. I control the urge to whoop and holler about this new phase because each time I've even whispered a low 'Hurrah!" under my breath, I've had to wait so long for something else to happen. Had I been receiving a salary for the amount of hours I put in just on the agent-chase alone, I would be able to make a downpayment on a little cottage somewhere.

If an enthusiastic editor is found, the next hurdle will be the publisher's editorial board. How scary does that sound? I wonder how long they take? Finally, if they find it print-worthy, a book will be produced. I think this process could be upwards of a year or more.

I read somewhere that it takes, on average, three times the amount of time to publish a novel, as it takes to write it. My first manuscript was hanging around for a decade, but the time I spent on it -- the actual writing - was probably under two years. Therefore, if the above is true, it should take up to six years to get it published, assuming it has any sort of literary merit. Hmm. I finished the total re-write for it back in 2008. I still have another three years to go.

So, there, I've finished today's rant. I know you guys can take it. You're dedicated writers, right?

Remember that old song, 'Life Gets Tedious, Don't It?'  (The full lyrics are here. and Carson Robison sings it here. It's really, really old.)

Hound dog howling so forlorn
Laziest dawg that ever was born
He's howlin' 'cause he's settin' on a thorn
Just too tired to move over.

Well, I'm a bit like that dog. Life does get tedious, but I'm darned if I'm going to move off this painful thorn called Writing. I'll put up with it, but it's not from laziness; I simply have no choice. And I'll remain as patient as ever, even if I grumble about it from time to time.

Talk to you soon. Oh, and sorry for the forlorn howling.

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Quotes to Consider

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Well behaved women rarely make history."~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”~William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894), theologian, teacher, pastor

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." ~Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd U.S. president

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, poet, philosopher

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
~ Wayne Gretzky