Chapter 2: Master of Time or Victim of Patience?

Today I’ve been thinking over the biggest misconception of becoming an author: the post-writing stage.  There’s probably two possible reactions to hearing those words: (1) You’re confused.  You weren’t aware that there was much work to be done once the novel’s finished.   (2)  Your skin’s crawling, and you just completely lost your appetite.  Yes, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I think it’s safe to say every author’s pet peeve is someone trying to read your first draft.  As my writing’s developed, my first drafts have gotten better relative to one another, but they’re still complete trash when compared to the final product.  Most of creating a book is actually rewriting.  Some aspiring authors come in with the misconception that they’ll write their book in one go and it’ll come out a masterpiece.

Personally, I go through at least four drafts before I even let my beta readers take a look.  (Quick side note: if you don’t have any beta readers to give you a fresh set of eyes, find one or more ASAP.)  I have three, so there adds even more drafts.  Then, I take a step back for a bit before delving into the story one last time.  The first novel I completed took roughly nine months to complete – appropriate since I considered it my baby.

Once you’re completely happy with your novel, you’re still far from the end of the road.  This is the part that all authors dread.  In the story of our lives, it’s the chapter we wish we could skip, but is sadly so terribly crucial.

I would always suggest to aspiring authors to first try the traditional route of publishing.  First and foremost, agents are a blessing.  Get one.  (I have to add in a disclaimer that you should check their legitimacy.  A good rule of thumb is that if they charge you money for submission, it’s a scam.)  You want someone who not only has shown strong success in the past, but also who shares the same vision.  Having an agent isn’t a guarantee of publishing, but it’s definitely a hugely beneficial asset to have.

Now the elephant in the room: how do you get an agent?  Here’s the word that’ll send dread to your very core: querying.  Writing a query is possibly the most annoying but important step when marketing your book.  I’ll go more into tips and suggestions in a later blog, but right now I just want to emphasize: don’t summarize your book.  That’s a rejection waiting to happen.  Think of the themes and emotions in your story, and use that to drive the query.

The final step that I’ve found myself at is the waiting period.  Agents already have clients and have a lot on their plate in addition to looking for new authors.  What does that mean for us?  We’re at the back of the list.  We have no “author resume,” so we have to prove ourselves entirely on quality of work.  I always waited about one hundred days, with some exceptions.

If you’re like me, you’re going to be checking your email on your phone every five minutes for the first couple weeks.  In order to not torture myself, I started putting a reminder in my phone around the time that the agent is known to respond on average.  Querytracker.net is an excellent source to plan out how you’re going to go about it.  I personally liked to send my queries out in clumps of 4 or 5 agents at a time.

Right now, though, here’s the message I want to really hit home.  I was heavily guilty of ranting in this post, and you know why?  Because, it’s a lengthy process.  Each step becomes its own monster on your To-Do List.  A lot of it involves sitting around with the jitters, impatiently waiting to hear back so that you know what you can do next.

So, here’s my advice: don’t rush.  Word count goals are fine; a common one is 2,000 words a day.  For me, that doesn’t work, but that’s not to say I don’t think it’s a good idea.  I have to schedule my oh-so-very-busy schedule around it, but you do have to make the time.  “Free time” is a nice idea, but so rarely exists in reality.  You have to account for it in your planner.   Don’t be afraid for your draft count to go into the double digits.  This might seem silly, but let the novel fully mature into the masterpiece that it has the potential to become.  Take time with your query; you want it to provoke emotion and curiosity when the agent reads it.  Finally, patience is a virtue you need to work on developing.  And, the best way to wait for a reply?  Write some more.