Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Patience, Young Padawan: Or, Why It Pays for This Writer to Hold Her Horses

Everything doesn’t have to happen “right now.” I try to remind myself of that, and it’s especially important to remember when hoping to break into the publishing industry where everything moves at someone else’s speed. But, dagnabit! Instant gratification is just so… well, INSTANTLY GRATIFYING! Also, it’s hard to fight against the mentality of the times. We’re living in an age where technology brings everything to you at the speed of, “Hey, you wanna watch an episode of that awesome late-80’s sitcom that most of the world has forgotten about? BAM! Here is!”

(Yeah, this show is even more amazing than I remembered!)

But here’s the thing. Sometimes, waiting is a good idea. As I write this, my must-have-now brain is imploding while crying, “Does not compute! Does not compute!” but I have some solid examples of instances when not rushing into things would have fallen into the category of good idea:

I finished my first manuscript at around 5am on Sept. 8, 2009. I sent out my first query letter at about 7am on Sept. 8, 2009. ‘Nuff said, I think.

At the time that I reached out to that first agent, I’d done what I know now was only preliminary research on writing the all important query. If I’d waited until I was (at least) a month or two further along in my research, I could have avoided including some just plain awful mistakes. Hell, if I’d waiting until I'd gotten a few hours of sleep, I could have avoided this jewel alone: “Besides all that, writing fiction is about the only thing I’m good for and yet the student loan people still expect me to pay that huge amount I promised to repay when I graduated. So no pressure or anything, but do I ever need an agent, and soon!” (from actual first query). Time would have allowed me to sit back, consider that sentence, and say, “Hmm. Maybe a query letter isn’t the best place for my bad humor.”

In the year since I initially submitted my second manuscript (which I completed a month after I finished my first), I’ve drafted about – I don’t know – a million or so rewrites of that particular novel. Any of which would have made for better sample pages than what actually went out. Especially considering that the subsequent drafts cut the word count from 126,000 to little over 100,000.

Which brings me to November 2010, when I must ask myself, “Considering your history with rushing into things, why are you in such a hurry to fall into the same trap?

The dilemma: After a year of revisions, I’m very eager to get my query out into the waiting hands of soon-to-be-adoring agents (Hey! Don’t rain on my fantasy! I needs it!). The problem is I’ve come across the advice more than once that submitting to agents during the holidays is generally not the best idea. There are varying opinions on the matter, as highlighted in this Guide to Literary Agents Article, but my instincts are to err on the side of caution. To quote writer Nancy Parish who quotes agent Janet Reid “You can query too soon. You can never query too late.”

I was hoping to get my queries out by the beginning of November while crossing my fingers that I was wasn’t cutting it too close to Thanksgiving. I managed to send out three. (Received two insta-rejects and one no-word-from-as-of-yet). Then I had a stroke of inspiration and re-wrote my query with the hopes of getting it out no later than mid-November.

Oops! Wait! There’s that paying gig that will occupy a significant chunk of my free time. Oh well, gives me another chance to consider my query and make some worthwhile changes.

Oh, snap! My query is freakin’ awesome now! But dagnabit! How’d it get to be the Tuesday before Thanksgiving (which for many is a time of ditching work early in the week in favor of traveling plans)?

But that’s still two whole days before Thanksgiving! What do I do? What do I do!?! WHAT. DO. I. DOOOOO!?!

When in doubt, make a list.

The Pros of Waiting Until After the Holidays:

- Gives me more than a month to research agents so I can choose the absolute best for matches me and better personalize each of their letters.

- More time to polish my query, synopsis and sample pages

- I wouldn’t have to compete with the holidays (and their nasty habit of bringing families together) for agents’ attention.

- I do have some writing to catch up on.

- My query will be less likely to get lost in the initial deluge of submissions from trigger-happy (hey, I've been there, man. I understand) NaWriMo participants. Apparently, this is something agents are inundated with after November. So this is more of a specific case for not submitting in December.

The Cons of Waiting Until After the Holidays:

- January 2nd is like FOREVER away from now.

- Will agents be backed up-slash-playing catch up when they come back from their holiday vacations in January?

- Does that mean I have to wait even longer?

- But the middle-to-end-of-January-slash-beginning-of-February is even FURTHER away from now.

I’ve decided to go with that “You can query too soon. You can never query too late” thing. (Thanks, Ms. Reid. That really is a good one.) I’m sure my synopsis can use some work because I haven’t looked at that thing in a while, and wasn’t especially impressed by it the last time I did. Why rush to submit subpar work?

I’m not happy about having to wait. As a matter of fact, I growled in anger and shook my fist at the heavens several times when I came to the decision that I wasn’t going to do any more querying before January (Grrrrrr!! *shaking fist*) See! Just thinking about it makes me fist-shaking angry!

But the good news is that if I can do it, so can you! If there is something that is better off not being rushed into, hold off on the rushing. Chances are, in the end you’ll be happier for it –if for no other reason than it gives you a chance to get your ish together.

*Sigh* At least I have this upcoming challenge to distract me whilst I get my wait on.


  1. *grin* This is great. (Here via Charles Tan)

    And yes, I agree--it pays to wait. (Hard as that is. DAMN is it hard.) Be strong! Jan will be here soon.

    (Love the ST pic as well. A perfect choice!)

  2. Maybe I'll just hibernate for the month of December, mercwriter. The bears are on to something.