(Disclaimer: All quoted material is not verbatim but a fair, possibly humorous, representation.)
About 3 ½ years ago I wrote a blog post about why it was good that I wasn’t writing blog posts, and since then I have been successful at not writing about further not writing. I don’t really mean not writing but different writing. Or maybe not not writing not different writing. Back then, I was blogging regularly because I wasn’t writing. I know blogging is writing, but writing isn’t always blogging. Sheesh. This is going not well. Lemme start over.
According to the legend, when Satan tested Jesus with food as he hungrily walked through the wilderness, Jesus turned it down due to the prospect of delayed versus immediate gratification. So that’s kind of what I’m going for here. While I don’t really grasp everything there is to know about Jesus, I’m pretty much down with the gratification part, and it’s working out okay so far.
When I was blogging several times a week with book and film reviews, short stories, and social commentary, I was “writing” but not the writing I really wanted to write. It was immediate gratification, but it was dragging down progress on my novel(s). Then, 3 ½ years ago, I switched that up. I cut back on the blogging and dug deeper into what was – for me, but not for everyone – the real writing. That included finishing outlines, first drafts, edits, and revisions. It also meant the dreaded querying. Heavy on the dread, but also heavy on the necessity.
Fast forward 3 years to the last week of this past June, when I had the query polished well enough to pester agents with it. I did what many writers do: send 10 queries, wait for the rejections, then send 10 more. There were 3 rejections rather quickly, 3 never replied at all, and 3 sent rejections weeks and months later. Mixed in there was one agent who, after reading the first 25 pages, wanted to see the rest, then added, “Give me about 6 weeks and I’ll get back to you with some feedback. Also, send me a blurb about anything else you’re working on.”
Nice. (More about the agent at the end)
So from the first week in July to the first week in September, I waited nervously to be told, “Thanks, but no thanks” so I could then send the next batch of 10 queries. It’s not good business to continue querying when someone is interested. I think it’s called “exclusivity” or something like that.
When it reached 8 weeks, I couldn’t resist poking the agent with a, “Hey, just wondering how it’s going” email. I was very nervous about being annoying, but I felt it would be okay if I was polite. The reply was, “Yeah, just been really busy, but I’ll get to it.” Still nice. However, another 8 weeks would go by without a word. Ugh. What had started in early July was carrying on just before Thanksgiving.
Re-poke: “Hey, just thought maybe you didn’t like it as much as you first thought, but…”
Re-ply: “It’s the next thing I’m going to read, right on top of my pile.”
Then, not even a week later, “Hey, this is great writing. Needs a little work, but I think you got something here. Also, those other things you’re working on all sound like the kind of stuff I like. Let’s talk about that too, especially that ghost story.”
Which brings us to today. According to the math, 3.5 years + delayed gratification = progress. I have an agent who is highly interested. Not committed, not signed and sealed, but highly interested. I have a few things to change, but it’s manageable and not at all difficult.
The point of all this is not to pat myself on the back because I haven’t yet done anything worth patting about. However, I’m constantly trying to tell other writers that writing is work. Getting published is work. But it will be – should it happen – completely well worth it compared to settling for self-publishing. Please, I can’t stress it enough, self-publishing sometimes is the result of a fear of failure. I know because I’ve done it. And after having done it, I felt more failure than I would have if I had pursued traditional publishing and failed, which I’ve also done of previous projects.
But that’s not what this post is about. This post is just about explaining where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. I stopped writing so I could focus on writing, and it look like it might work out okay.
About the agent: because of my pessimism and paranoia, I’m not naming the agent. Not even his gender. The gender. 😉 There are many fly-by-night agents out there, but this one is solid. Someone I know has had multiples titles published through the same agent, at least one title with St. Martin’s Press. That’s reputable enough for me.