19 June, 2013

The Waiting Game

Being a writer requires a lot of patience. This is not a revelation. If you are a writer or have ever met a writer, then you know this already. It's been a while since I gave an update on my own writing, chiefly because it can be summed up as: Trying to be Patient. So what has Operation TryPat involved?

It's been seven months since I signed with a literary agent for my novel The Art of Letting Go. I'd only been trying to get an agent for a few weeks when I got some interest (this time round, anyway - with a previous book, I'd been through the months of disappointment that are part of writer's training), so it all seemed like a joyous whirlwind of activity. For a couple of months I did a combination of re-write my novel, put together a publishing proposal with my agent and plan my next novel under the working title Derailed.

In early March The Art of Letting Go was taken out of my hands and sent off to publishers. This was the beginning of TryPat.

Of course, any writer will tell you that Patience doesn't equate to Idleness. There are always more stories to be written. In the last few months I've written a couple of pieces of flash fiction - most recently a ridiculous and flippant piece on the end of conspiracy theories - and I've spent some time editing old stories with the hope of entering them into competitions or submitting them to publications.

My main project however, has been working on Derailed. I'm just about to start the second draft. Concentrating on a new set of characters has been a great way to distract myself from TryPat. The distance it has created between my old characters and me has eased the pain of rejections coming from publishers. And, oh, there has been rejection.

I've written about rejection before. Twice in fact. So there's no need for me to go into another lament here. But you understand how it is. Every time I go on Twitter there seems to be another writer winning a publishing deal just a couple of months after signing with an agent. Virtual champagne corks are popping in every direction. I'm happy for those writers of course (and at least one writer I know wrote a blog post about how his book took a long-ish time to find a publisher), and I know how getting an agent alone makes me extrememly fortunate, but it's hard sometimes to continue Being Patient.

Rejections from publishers, I've found, are different from agent rejections. Most publishers seem to give a reason for their rejection, which is helpful and often encouraging. The curious thing to me has been knowing an agent is discussing me with a publisher. There are two people out there discussing my work as part of their professional jobs. I remind myself of that when I'm feeling dispirited. Not that I feel too dispirited - somehow I'm finding it easy enough not to take rejections personally so far, perhaps because some of them have been complimentary. My rejections, tend to fit into three categories:

  1. The ones that make me wince. Not exactly rude or brutal, but fairly unforgiving. I've only had two of these I think (unless I'm psychologically blocking the others out!)
  2. The thanks but no thanks. These are usually charming but don't tell me much. At least with the painful ones, I know what they didn't like and can add it to my 'potential edits' list. These ones liked the book, but didn't like it enough, leaving me with nothing more to add to the list than "make book more likeable".
  3. The enthusiastic no. I have had several complimentary rejections so far. These both make my day (who doesn't like being told their writing is beautiful or confident, that their main character is vivid, or the book is well-plotted?) and frustrate me. Close but no cigar.

So, three to four months into submissions and there's a lot to be encouraged by - editors seem to see something in my book - but still no guarantee of publication. And so, like all writers stuck in the middle of TryPat, all I can do is sit down at my desk each day with a bunch or characters and try to answer the question: What happens next?

How do you deal with Trying to be Patient?


  1. It's interesting, but probably not that surprisingly, that whatever stage we're at we go through similar experiences. We look towards those ahead of us on the trail, and rarely behind us.

    I'm the same, striving to match (in my own way) the successes I see around me - one of which, in terms of having an agent, would be you!

    I empathise with you and in some ways it must feel worse for you. Because, having achieved that first, important stage of external validation by someone in the publishing industry, you have a clearer sense of what's possible for your work. As you rightly say, all you can do is keep writing!

    1. There is a new feeling of "so near and yet..." desperation since getting an agent, but I wouldn't say it was worse for me now :)

      Whenever I think about having to persevere, I think of you!

  2. At least the good thing about having an agent is that you are virtually guaranteed replies. In my experience it's become much more common to get no replies at all - even from publishers/magazines that say they always reply to everyone!

    Publishers are very busy, but so are most other businesses and they manage to respond to queries. The whole basis of publishing revolves around interaction between publisher and writer or potential writer, and I've never really understood why publishing considers itself so different or special that it can ignore the common courtesy of sending an e-mail - even an impersonal stock one - that would take about ten seconds and the press of a button.


    1. I've had a few missing replies over the years from magazines and I do think it's rude. Ditto replies that don't even have your name at the top. Stock replies are fine, but no need to treat writers as if they're machines!

  3. There will always be differences in rejections because everyone likes different things. The trick, or piece of luck, is to find an agent and publisher who both like what you like.

    Keep going and it WILL work out in the end.

    1. Thanks - I will keep plodding!

  4. Man it's painful! You should read Sarah Hilary's road to publication. She had an agent and it took aggggeees! Eventually, she got published on her 5th book, but now they're publishing all the others too. Go check it out. I think it will help. It can be a long haul.... but you're moving forward and that's what matters.

    1. Thanks- I might do that :) I'm not anywhere near despairing yet - 3-4 months isn't really that long on the grand scheme of things. It can just feel like it!

  5. I'm curious if you've made many/any changes from the comments of editors, of if you stick with it as is.

    So can you tell us a little about Derailed? Just the generalities if you're not ready to share anything about the story yet?

  6. I haven't yet, in case someone wants to take it on as it is. But once we've heard back from all editors - if they all reject it - I'll re-write it taking into account those comments that came up more than once.

    I will tell you more about Derailed once I've worked out the massive structural/plot changes it needs for the next draft!


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