The other day I was pondering the things that do not change in the transition from an aspiring to published author. Your process doesn’t change, for one thing, though the existence of real, concrete deadlines can add another layer of anxiety. Another thing that doesn’t change is the waiting. Waiting for agents to read. Waiting for editors to read. Waiting for an offer to come in. Waiting for editorial guidance.
In fact, I would say that there is one constant in every writer’s career, one thing we all have in common: waiting. It can be deadly, because in that waiting time every demon you’ve ever encountered lurks, every single insecurity you have about yourself and your writing. Is it good enough? Will this be the one that takes me out of the unpublished masses at last? Will it convince this agent to take me on? Will this be the book that sets me apart? Will it be a bestseller? Will it be well reviewed? Will the publicity/sales/marketing department see the genius in it? Have I made the same mistakes in this one I’ve made before? Are the characters sympathetic? Are they too passive? Does the plot suck? Is it full of cliches? OMG, I’ve just realized there are six other books out there just like this one!
You name the insecurity, and I’ve felt it. I’ve reveled in it and been eaten alive by it. We all do. Writers work generally in solitude, and it’s hard to take something you love, something you’ve spent months or years on, and send it out into a cold world that may not see the beauty in it–and in fact, may not appreciate it at all.
But in the many years I’ve been in this business, I’ve only found one remedy for this. Only one thing that works consistently time and time again. That takes the sting out of waiting and alleviates the pain of rejection and failure.
Write another book.
Always be working on something else. Something better. The next great thing. If you’re busy working on another project, you don’t have all your eggs in one basket, for one thing, and for another, it allows you to handle everything else with a modicum of equilibrium. An agent doesn’t like this book? That’s okay, because the one I’m working on now–it’s so much better! The editor you really wanted rejected the manuscript? Ah, but she won’t reject this one. I’m halfway through and already it’s a masterpiece! All those mistakes I made in the last one–I’ve learned so much since then! Your newest book just didn’t sell? Oh, but wait, the next one will. It’s nearly done, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.
Always looking ahead is the key. Distraction. If you’re always working on something new, the last project isn’t carrying all the weight, and there’s always something better ahead, always the promise of greatness, riches and fame. Waiting doesn’t have to be fatal, and it doesn’t have to open the door to all those hobgoblins. It doesn’t get rid of them, but it does tend to put them in their place a bit more quickly. Writers are so often at the mercy of so many other forces–don’t let waiting be one of them.
Megan Chance is the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of several novels. The Best Reviews has said she writes “Fascinating historical fiction.” Her books have been chosen for the Borders Original Voices program and IndiBound’s Booksense. A former television news photographer with a BA from Western Washington University, Megan Chance lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters. Find her at: http://www.MeganChance.com.