The slow march of time is felt no more keenly than when you’re waiting to hear back from a publisher… or an agent… or your beta group.
In 2016, we don’t like dead time. Our society drives us to move and achieve. Standing still is what losers do. It’s gotten to the point where we feel we need to take classes or employ coaches to help us to stop and breathe.
None of this helps when you’re waiting to hear back on your manuscript.
Back in August/September, I was privileged to get to the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Nashville. It was an amazing experience – talking to other authors, sharing in their creativity and soaking in an environment with “my tribe”.
At this conference, my first manuscript was a finalist in the Genesis Awards. But the main reason for going was to pitch the manuscript “The god of reality TV” to the industry.
I got two bites: a publisher in London and an agent in the US. The pitches went as well as they could, and the novel has worked its way through the processes of that UK publisher. My novel is still alive.
The agent was polite in turning down my manuscript, but was keen to see what else I could do. So in that time since Nashville, I’ve written a second novel (a fresh story, not a Book 2 or anything) and it’s sitting in front of him.
And I haven’t heard back from either of them in weeks. Time marches on. Agonizing step after agonizing step.
If you’ve ever submitted anything you’ve written to a publisher or agent, you’ll know what happens next. The assault of doubt that no-one will be interested in your story. That silence is effectively a no. That the email didn’t make it through and was swallowed by a black hole on the internet. That you can’t write and the non-response is somehow trying to soften the blow on telling you about your complete lack of talent.
None of which may be true. I hope.
So, instead of succumbing to the doubt, I’ve been convicted to be positive about the situation. So what do you do in the meantime?
- Don’t obsess about it. You’ve done your best and it’s now in someone else’s hands. This is a challenge; hitting the “get email” button around the clock just in case the agent, editor or publisher’s email is bursting to jump into your inbox. I spent a day doing that before realizing they aren’t.
- Trust in your story. You’ve spent months – or even years – writing this story. You’ve poured your heart, background, life lessons and experience into this story and it’s the best you can do. Believe in it.
- Trust in the God that gave you the story. This is an extension of the previous point. God has a timing for your story and you sitting there worrying about it isn’t going to speed Him up. After writing that, it feels trite, because I struggle with this one. Big time.
- Work on something else. I’ve just headed into a first draft of my third novel (again, a fresh story), just to focus on something else for a while but knowing that it strengthens my argument that I’m a writer if I’ve got a body of work behind me.
- Don’t presume the best or the worst. It is what it is. It’s a process that is longer than most in business.
- Set a timeframe in mind when a follow-up will hit that perfect sweet spot between cyberharrassment and leaving it too long.
- Prepare for the best answer, prepare for the worst answer. Not to prepare for one and ignore the other, but to have a Plan B. What happens next? If you’re accepted, you’ve now got a mountain of work to do – are you ready for it? If you’re turned away – what’s your next step? Sometimes great stories are turned down because of timing or other publishing machinations.
So that’s how I fill this gap in time. What do you do?