Monday, March 23, 2015

It's About Time!

Okay, readers, take out a clean sheet of paper and a pencil. It's pop quiz time. (Has your stomach sunk to your ankles yet?)

All right then, can you tell me which of the following is the hardest part of being a writer?

1.  Coming up with story ideas
2.  Plotting
3.  Researching
4.  Writing
5.  Editing
6.  Writing and editing the proposal
7.  All of the above
Sometimes sleepy turtles on a wobbly log are faster than
the time it takes to get news on our babies... er, books.
Time's up. Pencils down. And the answer is... ready? None of the above! Yep, the hardest part of being a writer is the waiting. (I know, I know. I cheated by not giving you that option, but hey...) Back to my thoughts.

Waiting, as any writer will tell you, is without a doubt the hardest part of our profession, and it doesn't matter if the wait is twenty seconds or two years. Time slows down when you wait. (That's a scientific fact I just made up.) It also speeds up at the most inopportune times, but that's a topic for another day.

Time crawls like a dead snake when you're waiting for your agent to tell you if your proposal and manuscript are ready (and worthy) to send out to prospective publishers. It might be seven seconds since you sent that email to him, but it feels like seven months. He might get back with you in ten minutes, but to you, it might as well be ten years because that's how much you've aged.

Time flows like frozen yogurt in Antarctica when you're waiting to hear if This Is the One Publishing House wants the full manuscript, or if it made it to this or that committee, or if they think it would make a great series.

Perhaps worse, though, is that time screeches to a whiplash-inducing halt when you're waiting for the contract to arrive before someone at the publishing house decides they really don't like your plot/characters/writing style/pacing/humor/hair color/or homemade tomato soup after all, yells, "stop the presses!" (if anyone ever says that anymore), and the whole thing goes down the drain.

But all that zips by at warp speed compared to waiting for your book to be... published. Yes, when that happens, when we finally have a contract signed and we know for certain our baby will see the light of day, somehow time is altered so that a day is like a thousand years.

Sound familiar? I don't think that's what Peter meant when he wrote, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." (2 Peter 3:8), and he almost certainly wasn't talking about me waiting for my book to show up in the mail. Still, we can take comfort in knowing that even in Biblical days, time had a way of twisting around and driving us nuts.

It's nobody's fault and no one is prolonging the wait just to make us writhe in agony while we wait for that one special email with our edits or cover art. No, they're working just as hard to get our books published as we did to get them written. And I know this is hard to swallow--I know it is for me--but there are other authors out there whose books deserve the attention of the staff at This Is the One Publishing House just as much as ours do. Yes, that's right. Odd, I know. You mean the publishing world didn't come to a screeching halt when my manuscript arrived? (No, Deb, it didn't.)

For them, however, time flows much more quickly than they desire. There aren't enough hours in the day for the emails, phone calls, meetings, decisions, conferences, reading, and whatever else editors and their staff members do to make our dreams come true. They want to see our book in print smelling all bookish and inky paper-like, with its pretty cover with our name splashed across it, and the glorious back cover copy, and those compelling words we wrote inside those covers just as much as we do.  After all, their salaries (and the future of the publishing house) depend on how much that book and hundreds and thousands like it can bring in. They are every bit as invested in our books as we are.

But as with all good things, they do happen eventually. (Thought I was going to say, "come to an end," didn't you?) They happen and we're thrilled and the editor and staff are thrilled and our agent's thrilled and the hard work of the marketing gets kicked up yet another notch and we're so darned excited and yes, thrilled, and happy and so are all the others and then... it dawns on us that we need to write another one (which we should've been doing all along between checking our email seventeen times an hour). Because there's no reason why we can't writhe in agony and write the next best seller at the same time. It's what we do, folks.

When you really think about it, no matter how long it seems to take to see our book in print, it takes only as long as God allows. It's all in His timing, His perfect timing. We can writhe and wring our hands and moan and groan and second-guess ourselves and our value as writers and check our email all we want, but if it's not in God's perfect timing that our book be published on that particular day or week or month in time, then it's just...not...time.
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