Sunday, January 17, 2010

Patience is a Virtue ...

We all remember the Heinz ketchup commercials: "Good things come to those who wait." Did I ever really expect that slogan from my childhood to apply to myself as a writer? Absolutely not. But, I'm slowly discovering that patience and writing are not mutually exclusive. I'm trying really hard to develop more patience in these areas:

The patience to put my novel aside. Stephen King, in his book On Writing recommends putting your novel in a drawer for an entire month, giving yourself some distance before you start revision. That sounds easy, right? Not for me! I wrote the damn thing, so don't I deserve to read it? Well, here's the problem. I sent my novel to a few close friends who are daring enough to give my rough version a first read. Of course, not wanting to come across as a totally incompetent writer, I did a complete run-through of my manuscript, looking for typos and errors. Despite my hard work, I received my novel back from my sister, Heather, this weekend, and lo-and-behold, she found so many typos that I completely missed! Thank you, Stephen. I have now learned my lesson, and with a resounding thud, I'm throwing my novel back in its "drawer."

The patience to postpone sending out query letters until my revision is complete. I am so excited to start the process of finding an agent that I've already done my research and found one that I feel good about. However, as clearly evidenced above, my manuscript is FAR from perfect. Now, I'm dealing with this inner struggle: when do I send a query to an agent? Finding an agent could be a long, drawn-out process of potential rejection after rejection. (I mean, come on. Even Stephenie Meyer was rejected by several agents. I'm just being realistic.) So, do I send in my first ten pages, like most agents require, and spend the two-month waiting period working on revising the rest of my novel? Or do I polish my novel first, just to make sure my novel is even agent-worthy?

The patience to wait ... and wait ... and wait. Writing is not a career full of instant gratification. It takes time to write a novel, time to complete the revision process, time to find an agent who deems you worthy of representation, time to woo a publisher, and time to get the manuscript turned into a book sitting on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. In my agent and publisher research, a common wait time is two to three months. That's two to three months waiting to see if they even want to read more than just the first ten pages. And most only want you to send a query to one agent or publisher at a time. Added up, all that time could equal years and years of patience.

So if you have any ideas on how to develop more patience, I'm waiting ... (just not very patiently).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

In the Beginning

As a novice writer, it seems appropriate to begin my blog by emulating the experts. I've noticed that the trend seems to be a twist on traditional New Year's resolutions, centering them around writing goals. To me, I've always had a love/hate relationship with writing: I struggle with the process, yet I love the sense of accomplishment I feel when I'm finished. Therefore, my writing resolutions are ways to help me kick-start myself with writing:

1. Write each day. This seems like a "duh" resolution to me. Writers need to write, right? But, it's so easy to let life get in the way. So, my goal is to write, even if it's just a little, every day, no matter what. Even with my children begging for another cup of water before bed, even with my psycho cat running up and down my desk, and even with the half-finished novel sitting on my nightstand calling my name to finish reading it.

2. Let myself write crap. I'm the kind of writer who has an inner struggle with being able to move on to the next sentence without being 100% satisfied with all that has come before. What does that do to a writer with very limited time to write? Very little gets written. Instead of continuing this habit, I'd like to embrace revision, to recognize that I'll have plenty of time later to polish what I've written.

3. Adopt an "I can do it!" attitude. For far too long, I've resisted the urge to write a novel by convincing myself that it'll just end in failure. But, you know what? I can do it. Thanks to the motivation of NaNoWriMo, I've completed a first draft of my novel. Now, I just have to remember to push back that fear and self-doubt as I attempt to find an agent. Of course, I hope this is just the beginning, that I will continue to write other novels, never giving in to my lack of confidence.

And there I'll stop. After all, I'm just a novice. Wish me luck!