Blogger: Michelle Ule
Location: Books & Such main office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the publishing life is all the waiting around you have to do. Over on my personal blog, I recently wrote about the positives of waiting: Hurry up and Wait!
The day after writing my proposal for The Dogtrot Christmas, I returned to my computer to write more on a novel that was a finalist in the ACFW Genesis contest.
But the story of a young woman moving to Texas with her widowed brother and infant nephew kept tugging at my heart, and I wanted to work on the Barbour novella. What was the situation between Mexicans and Americans in 1836 Texas anyway? I was eager to dig deeper into my research.
No, I had to finish my novel. I steeled myself from the siren call of stirring imagination, back to my novel’s setting, present day Santa Monica. But then I had to go downstairs for something, and that’s where we keep all my genealogy notebooks. Since I wasn’t in a real hurry, I rechecked the family story. No surprises, I had all the facts correct.
When I visited the library several days later, I figured I might as well do a little background work, just in case. I looked at James Michener’s Texas, the Time-Life series about frontier life, and even the prequels to the Little House on the Prairie books for insights into Scottish Christmas traditions.
My husband and I watched a couple of movies that were in my novella’s time period, I spent time cruising the Internet for details on how to make log cabins, and tried not to let the story overwhelm my imagination. At one point I told Janet the story was haunting me–particularly the rich early chapters where tragedy struck in my initial proposal. She told me not to worry about it. If the novella didn’t work, I certainly had plenty to write a novel.
She was right. And I had plenty of other things to work on.
This is one of the keys to the writing life. You can’t put all your eggs in one basket; you have to be continually looking ahead to the next project, the next idea, and moving forward. I asked writer Lauraine Snelling once about the writing life, and she told me you needed to have seven projects in various contracting stages before you could count on making a living as a writer. Seven? The number seemed enormous, and yet a professional doesn’t stay in one place; she keeps moving forward.
Another key: Just because a project doesn’t sell to one publisher doesn’t mean it won’t sell somewhere else. Or, if it doesn’t work in one setting, you can recast it for another. You’re the writer, you have the imagination, let it rip!
So what do you do while you’re waiting? How can you profitably fill the time between sending out queries and getting answers? Got any tricks for focusing your mind and getting to work when another story is calling your name?
Tomorrow: Cake and champagne.