Sometimes you just have to wait.
One of the biggest mistakes I see authors make when they seek traditional publication is not having enough patience. It’s completely understandable—they’ve spent YEARS working on their manuscript, and this might be just one in a long line of manuscripts. If they’ve worked with HYPHEN, they’ve made a financial commitment in addition to the huge investment of their time, energy, and heart.
But publishing moves at its own pace, and that pace is often glacial.
If you don’t have patience at the writing and querying stage, it’s less likely you’ll find an agent. You might not take the time to revise fully or give up on querying before you’ve exhausted all your options. And it’s important to develop patience early on because you’ll keep having to draw on it throughout your career—as you wait for your agent to send notes, for an editor to read your manuscript, for your book to come out, and so on.
It is important to know when to give up—you’ll see some people say that you should NEVER do that (as an agent, I had a few writers send me the same manuscript over and over hoping my response would change…it did not), but the reality is that you may reach a point at which you’ve queried every agent who might be interested in your work, you’ve gotten as many eyes on your manuscript as possible, and you can’t find a single comma to move. That’s the time when you should tuck that work in the proverbial drawer and move on to your next project.
But there are far more moments when you just need to sit still or to work on something else while you wait for things to happen.
The idea of patience has been on my mind a lot lately, in part because of what I’ve observed with writers, but more because it’s a virtue I’ve been forced to practice this year.
2018 did not go to plan. I had so many ideas for ways to expand HYPHEN and help more writers, but between two month-long illnesses and a cross-country move, it was all I could do to keep up with the regular workload. And now, here we are at the end of the year, and I’ve been pushing myself (and those around me) to finish this year’s to-do list and get ready to start off running in 2019.
But as the deadline looms, I’ve had to accept that I can’t push past the 24-hour limitations of a day or the 8-9 hours of sleep my body obnoxiously demands every night, and I can’t make other people do things they aren’t willing to do. I have a long list of house projects carrying over to the new year. (The maintenance person for my building works about as quickly as your average literary agent.) I haven’t even had time to watch all the Christmas movies on my DVR.
All I can do is keep moving forward when I can and try to relax in the moments when I can’t. It’s good to have goals and plans to achieve them, but sometimes life gets in the way. I’ve done a lot of hopeless flailing about in 2018, trying to make things move FASTER, when that really only made things worse. Patience. It’s not just a virtue; it’s a survival skill.
As I did my usual looking back on the year, though, I realized that 2018 wasn’t such a waste after all. Even with all the upheaval, I still managed to help a lot of writers and read a lot of books. Here’s a snapshot:
I find it useful to quantify the year: it helps me take pride in what I’ve done and consider what I might like to do differently next year. It’s been a great year for reading. A few of my favorites this year were The Great Alone, Look Alive Out There, God Save Texas, Circe, Love and Ruin, Luck of the Draw, and The Summer of Jordi Perez. I don’t like to put too many restrictions on my reading because it’s already partially work, but it would be good to read a bit more nonfiction, especially craft books, and dive into one or two of the classics I missed—starting with The Age of Innocence before I see the film in late January.
My reading also informs the genres I’d like to work on more. I love the women’s fiction specialty I’ve developed, but I’d really like to edit more young adult fiction and a lot more contemporary romance as well. I also have space for one or two more long-term coaching clients as I’ve finished up work on a revision with one recently.
I’ve shifted my big goals for 2018 on to 2019, and I sat down today and made a plan of attack for January. I hope you’ll see some exciting and helpful developments from HYPHEN this year.
But when things go awry, as they inevitably will, when I have to shift part of January’s attack plan over to February, I hope I’ll respond with patience—for the process and for myself.
Any favorite reads from 2018? Hopes for 2019? Feel free to share in the comments!