P is for Patience


Today’s letter in the A to Z Blogging Challenge is P. I’m going to talk about something absolutely vital and necessary for authors, and something I don’t usually have a lot of: Patience.

Being an author takes patience and here’s why…

1. It can take months, even longer, to piece together a story idea from the where to the who to the why and when. Every story will require research of some kind and this adds to the time it takes to get through the first draft. Once you’ve got a finished first draft, you need to wait, to give the novel some breathing room before diving back in for revisions and edits. From the first word of the first draft to the last word of the final draft (this is before an agent or editor sees it) can take months even years. Rush it and you can end up with a mess of a book that doesn’t do justice to the premise.

2. Querying an agent is a painstaking process. You send out queries and then you wait… and wait… and wait some more for no responses, for form rejections, for personal rejections, and hopefully you’ll get a request for a partial. Then you send in the pages and you wait, sometimes for months. After that, you might get a request for the full and then you wait some more all the while watching as other authors sign with agents, sign book deals, celebrate release day, sign movie deals and attend the premier of their novel-film adaptation. It’s heartbraking, it’s frustrating, it’ll drive you crazy but then you get the offer of representation and it was all worth the wait.

3. Except now there’ll likely be some more revisions with your agent and more waiting while the agent reviews your revisions and puts together a pitch. Then you’ll go on submission. If you’re lucky, the editors will respond, they may even make a request for pages or the full and then you wait as the editors go about the business of deciding whether your MS is worth the time and money of publication. Your MS might languish for months unread on an editor’s desk but hurry them and you risk a swift rejection before they’ve even considered the work.

4. Finally, after months of agonizing waiting, the editor makes an offer and then you wait while the deal is put together and wait some after signing the deal before you can make an official announcement. Now you have deadlines, you might even have a release date, you just need that editorial letter so you can get started, but then you wait because your book isn’t the only one on your editor’s desk.

5. You get your editorial letter, you edit away furiously and send it back and then you wait for the verdict. If it’s a nod, you advance to line edits, copy edits and proofreading, and then you wait some more because even after all the months/years of hard work, your release date is still months/years away so you start writing something else because that’s who you are, a writer, and a masochist, because you’ve just started the excruciating process all over again.

6. Finally, your book is released and it’s on the shelf and you’re popping the champagne and who needs patience anyway because now the wait is over. But then you wait, anxiously, for sales figures, for reviews, for award announcements, for the sale of movie rights, for the director to cast your favourite actor as the hero in your book, for the premier of the film, for the Oscars, the next book deal… it never ends.

John Lennon once said that life is what happens when you’re making other plans. No, life is what happens while you’re waiting on something else. Being an author takes an unbelievable amount of patience and self-control especially given the advent of self-publishing when you could finish your book today and see it in the hands of readers tomorrow (perhaps not the best plan, but there’s no waiting required).

The biggest lesson I’ve learned since I embarked on my career odyssey of becoming an author is that you have to have patience, and dignity. That jumping up and down in frustration at your empty inbox does nothing except exhaust you. While you’re waiting, live life because it’s through living that we feel, that we meet interesting people and experience new things, which will make us that much better authors.

Do you have patience?

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