The Waiting Game

Being a writer is a hurry-up-and-wait business. Either you set deadlines for yourself, or, because you’re under contract, you have deadlines set for you. So you push yourself so you make those deadlines, and then you send the story off . . . and you wait. You wait for the agent or editor to say yea or nay. And while you wait, you’re supposed to start something new . . . stay busy. And that’s a good idea, but even while working on something new or staying busy, a part of you is waiting. Waiting and worrying.

I usually start out certain what I sent was wonderful, but within a few days of not hearing anything back the self-doubts arise. Was the plot unique enough? Was the pacing fast enough? Too fast? Should I have developed the characters more? Will the story be turned down because it doesn’t have enough depth?

The self-talk also begins. I tell myself it’s too early for a response, to relax and be patient. I tell myself if this agent (or editor) doesn’t like the story, someone else might. (Will.) I remind myself that I have sold other stories (27 so far), that there are readers who like my style of writing, and editors and agents who have liked my work in the past. I tell myself to put that story aside and concentrate on another story.

But I can’t completely ignore those nagging self-doubts.

I’ve always told myself writers are in a better position than actors. With a writer it’s the story that may be rejected; with an actor, it’s the person who is rejected. “Sorry, hopeful star, you’re too tall, too fat, too old, too ugly…”

Nevertheless, when a story is rejected, it’s like being told your child is too ugly. It still hurts.

It’s been a week since A KILLER PAST was sent off. I won’t tell you if it’s rejected. I’ll simply pour myself a glass of wine and sit down with a box of tissues, and I’ll mope for a day or two. But then I’ll send it out again, because that’s what writers have to do. To succeed we can’t let the rejections hold us back. If the rejection included suggestions, I’ll consider them, and if I feel they’re valid, I’ll make changes. And before sending it out
again, I may read through the story one more time, to make sure I don’t see areas that could be improved, but otherwise, off it will go…and I’ll remind myself how many times Harry Potter was rejected.

On the other hand, if the story ever makes it to contract, you’ll hear about it, loud and clear…and I’ll probably say I never had any doubts. (Ha!)

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12 Responses to The Waiting Game

  1. vicki batman says:

    I have two out now and so hope my child isn’t ugly. 🙂

  2. Alexa Bourne says:

    OMG, you are so right! I think, for me, the waiting is even harder than the rejection. At least with the rejection you know where you stand. I also have 2 out on submission. For one it’s been 10 months. (UGH, it’s KILLING me!) The other is 7 weeks. But of course I’m busy with new projects so I have no time to think about waiting….. 😛

  3. Amen, sister! No matter how many we’ve sold, the wait-and-worry game never changes. :-}

  4. Okay, I’ll try again. First post disappeared.

    Your words of truth are spot on, Maris. The nail-biting begins with submissions and never stops. Even when a contract comes and the book finally reaches publication, we worry that no one will buy our baby. And then, there’s the reviews… and more nail-biting.
    So what do we do? We write another book and start all over again! Ha! Writers!

  5. Annette says:

    Hi Maris,
    Though I’ve never sold a full-length novel yet (knocking on wood and anything else in arm’s reach), I’ve sent off articles and short stories to be considered. The waiting is just as you describe–torture. Always good to have a seasoned and successful author affirm that what we are going through is normal–and survivable.

    All the best with your newest submission. Annette

  6. The waiting game is probably one of the reasons I’m reluctant to submit to print publishers. E-books are so much faster! We’ll be waiting for your announcement, ready to cheer you on!

  7. It is so good to hear that others play the same waiting game I do! I even play it after release day! Then it’s the same old waiting to hear that people hate the book…but when you hear they love it…ah, such a sweet feeling. It justifies all we do as writers. But the waiting game never changes. Good luck!!!

  8. The waiting game! I play it the same way you do. LOL!

  9. The waiting is probably the hardest part of the writing process. I’m waiting right now, and like you, the doubts set in if I let them. I’m participating in the April boot camp. That’s keeping me busy and from thinking about the possible outcomes.

  10. Diane Burton says:

    Good post. I can totally relate. Waiting is definitely the hardest part of this business.

  11. Brooke says:

    It’s like you’re in my mind! And I too always remind myself of the J K Rowling multitude-of-rejections-to-major-success tale to keep myself moving forward and keep faith in the process and my work, and above all, stay persistant! Thanks for the reminder that I am not alone!