14 January 2013

The Waiting Game

First of all, let me make things clear. I'm not complaining. Just stating a fact. Being a writer seeking publication involves an awful lot of waiting. Waiting requires patience and if you're anything like me, patience is a virtue I have struggled to manage. (I'm Aries, right?) But, the older I get, the better I am at understanding why good things come to those who wait.

The very first pieces of writing I sent to editors: then, articles and short stories came back quite quickly with 'no' scribbled on them - or were never returned at all. (No such thing as email then.) It got better but it still took longer than my impatience would allow. I soon learned that editors were (and of course, still are) very busy people, that they didn't owe me a living and that I was not the centre of the universe. Every new writer should sit down and write that out 100 times.

The next lesson that needs learning is not to sit around waiting for a reply. In fact, it's even worse now that an email can ping into our in-boxes any minute, night or day and we don't need to peer out from behind the front room curtains half the morning waiting for the postman to call.  Keep writing, If you write short stories and features, keep on writing and submitting and submitting. Then, again rejection is tempered by the fact that you still have other stories and features there. And if in the rare case that an editor asks you what you have in the pipeline she might like, you won;t have to sound dim and mutter, 'well, nothing really.'

As I said earlier, the world does not owe you a living, no-one is obliged to publish your work and however brilliant you think you are, there are plenty more just as good if not better than you. At the slime time, you must sink into a pool of self-loathing and think you;re doomed to failure  That way you won't ever write anything worthwhile. You have to remain optimistic at the same time as being realistic. (No wonder we writers are a strange lot.)

Now, however, I rarely write short stories. And novel manuscripts, being - er - longer, require more work, more revision, more editing  take longer to read which means, therefore, more time waiting. After all, if an editor comes back with an acceptance after only having had your manuscript two days, you;d be right to be suspicious. 

But here's the rub. It is tough to turn one's mind to a totally new manuscript when the one you've just spend a year of your life writing  submitting to agents, rewriting and so on is still hovering in the wings of your consciousness. After all, you don't want to forget it. If someone sudden;y wants to 'discuss' it with you, you don't want to forget the surname of one of your major characters, do you or what the whole point of the premise is or start babbling on about your work in progress? (Yes, it happened to me.)

All this waffle is to explain where I am now. I and my agent have prepared what we believe is a publishable manuscript. We both believe in it. It has so far been sent out to around half a dozen brilliant publishers, all of which I would be delighted to be published by. (I have to kick myself to stop me dreaming of the cover design. I see a young girl in a red cloche hat and coat looking up at a war memorial over a sepia newspaper photograph of striking miners marching with banners that read, 'Not a hour on the day, Not a penny off the pay' ...

Stop it...stop it now.

But I can dream. It's January. The snows falls steadily outside my window. The land sleeps. You know the daffodils and crocuses are sitting there just beneath the frozen earth but they won't be bursting forth any time soon. Nature waits and so must we.

I would love to gush about who these publishers are and exactly what my novel is about but I'm buttoning my lip. After all, I've been at this writing lark for too many years not to know that all the editors who have it on their desk could say no - and most will. So although I am quietly optimistic and dream about a happy outcome and design books covers but know there's nothing worse than broadcasting future success when it could all so very easily turn to dust in my hands. Conversely, I also tell myself not to come up with worst-case scenarios, such as my writing is mediocre and lacks any sort of USP. Then again, negativity is just as bad. 

So.. to prevent my head from alternately filling with over-positive or over-negative thoughts, the only thing I can do is concentrate on my next manuscript. Either the current one will fail in which case I need to get the next one out there or it will succeed and someone important might just ask me, 'What are you working on now?' 

Here again I am playing my cards close to my chest for fear of killing it all stone dead, I have begun writing the first draft about a small priory of nuns in the fourteenth century and will involve a mystery. (Only 3,000 words so far.) I've al,ready done some background reading but now it's time to take the plunge into that first draft and get it written before I embark on the serious detailed research I will need. So if anyone happens to know the titles of books about nuns and/or women (not aristocrats or royalty) in fourteenth century England, please let me know. And medieval methods of farming sheep and exporting wool. Other topics I will need to study are the trade in timber and whale products in medieval Whitby. Oh and the repeated raids on Yorkshire by the Scots, There will be more. All suggestions gratefully received. Thank you. 

It's going to be a struggle to step away from the political and social situation of the early 20th century and enter a world I hardly know. But I can't forget it altogether because with luck and a following wind, I will have to stay focused on that as well. But I am excited and busy. I am not sitting around and waiting for that email.

I can feel that lurch of pride and fear the day I deposited my elder son, his teddy clutched under his arm, in the nursery and kissed him goodbye, the painful lump in my throat and my hot tears in the car before I was able to switch on the ignition and drive away.

So I wish The Lark Ascending well as it embarks on its journey. There is nothing I can do for you now. 


  1. Hi Sally I wish you lots of luck with your writing in 2013. I'm sure your novel will find a home soon.

  2. Thank you. This is a helpful post full of wise words.
    The best and most inspiring thing of all is that you are excited and busy.
    Very best of luck with the waiting and the writing.

  3. I can so identify with everything you've written in this post, and wish you good news very soon :o)

  4. Your book sounds brilliant - both the one you've just sent off into the big wide world and the one you're currently gestating. Best of luck with both of them.

  5. I, too, can identify with these types of feelings! They're both exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time... Fingers crossed for you, Sally!