Monday, May 01, 2006

The Waiting Game; or, I Make Stuff Up

Well, the Alias manuscript went off to the editor, and the YA I was revising went off to my agent. Now I get to play The Waiting Game.

Let me admit, right up front, that I should simply be writing something else, and not even thinking about this stuff. And that is pretty much what I am doing. But The Waiting Game is a part of the dirty underbelly of writing, and something we all have to learn to live with.

When a new writer finishes a story, or a novel, or a poem, or whatever, you send it out into the world. You mail your story to an editor or agent. You know that it's going into the slush pile, and it may be months before you hear anything back. But this happens even when you aren't a new writer.

The book I just turned in (see cover below) will be my sixth published novel. Now, that might sound impressive - unless you want to compare it to some of the writers I know, who have 50 or 60 or 80 books to their credit. But comparing careers is apples and oranges (a rant for another time), and I try not to do it.

I suspect most people think once you have an editor, or an agent, that you don't have to wait. Want to know a deep, dark secret? It ain't so! Oh, maybe if your name is Stephen King, or John Grisham. Writers at that level are earning a lot of money for their agents and publishers, and thereby earning fast responses. Writers at my level, well, not so much.

But here's the problem. As a writer, it's my job to make shit up. And when I'm playing The Waiting Game, the temptation sneaks in to make up some shit that explains why I am waiting. Being - like so many writers - terminally insecure, I seem to make up some pretty awful shit.

Like, the editor hates the book, no matter how enthusiastic she was about the proposal. She has decided the book is hopeless, I'm hopeless, and she is looking for someone to fix the horrible mess that landed on her desk.

Like, my agent hates me. She has read my revisions, and thinks I destroyed the promising start she saw in the first draft. She had no hope of selling the steaming pile that this manuscript has become, and she despairs of what to say about it.

Now, because I have been doing this for a few years, I recognize that this is ridiculous. The truth is probably a lot closer to something like: The editor has five other books to put into production this week, six more slots that must be assigned before the first of the month, three rewrites to read. Four licensors have finally released approvals on pending projects, and she has to get them into contracts, her assistant just quit to move to North Dakota, the mail room lost two contracts, and yesterday's lunch sat too long in the delivery cart, and she is now sicker than a dog. (And really, how sick is a dog? What does that actually mean?)

The agent is training a new assistant (her previous one is in North Dakota, waiting for the editor's assistant to join him), her biggest client just got a six-book deal with staggered delivery dates, twenty-four payment dates, and a publicity tour, all of which have to be negotiated before the contract can be signed, another client is months late, and she is doing damage control with the publisher, she agreed to read submissions from eight potential clients, including two who have offers on the table, and her boss is on maternity leave.

See? I just made up all that shit. I have no idea whether any of it is true. But I do know that any one of those items is much more likely than the first bunch. My editor does not hate me. My agent has not given up hope that I will ever write anything salable. (Given that I have six published novels, that one is just plain silly. Doesn't mean it won't cross my mind!) No disasters are looming.

But, because I am a trained professional maker-up-of-shit, this is what I do, when I am playing The Waiting Game.

Now it's time for me to stop griping, and go do some productive making-shit-up. That is, time to get back to writing!


Askinstoo said...
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Chris said...
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