Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Tehachapi, CA
Weather: Breezy and beautiful
Last time I blogged, I talked about query letter dos and don’ts. Mostly the don’ts. I want to follow that up with the next step–what to do once you’ve got that book done, the queries and proposals circulating, and you are in that interminable wait. I’ve been planning the posts for a couple of weeks, but just this morning, as I sat in Lauraine Snelling’s living room, one of our writing friends read a journal entry that succinctly captured the uncertainty and vulnerability of that waiting time. Susan Lawson, who’s in the process of looking for an agent, gave me permission to share this with you:
I send off the query letter that I have wrestled to the ground in order to make it witty. I want the agent who reads it to be captivated by the letter and to pant to see my book. I know agents are mega busy, so after I send it off, what do I do while I’m waiting? If this agent passes and the next and all the other “nexts,” what do I do? I have an idea for my second book in the series, so do I start on that, even though no one wants the first? My feelings of “not good enough,” which apply not only to the book, but to me, will increase exponentially. I expect to be the receiver of understanding nods which mean, “You’re a wannabe. This is a dilettante thing.”
All the people I have interviewed to get background for my book will have wasted their time. Will I become the not-so-literary Mrs. Winchester, the woman in San Jose who believed she would never die as long as she kept adding extra rooms to her house? How ridiculous can you be, I thought after I climbed the stairs in her open-to-the–public mansion only to find they led nowhere. Is that the direction I’m heading? Am I pounding my head on a door that exposes only empty space? Will it feel good when I stop?
Most of us can identify with Susan. The longer the wait, the more time we have for self-doubt and second-guessing. That’s counter-productive. If you are serious about becoming a career writer, now is the time to be proactive. Once your book is contracted and you are on your way, you will find yourself carried along on a whirlwind. You’ll be writing the third book, doing edits for the second book, looking at the page proofs for the first book and planning a marketing push for your debut. Never again will you have this gift of time. You need to proceed with confidence and use this waiting period to set up your infrastructure, build inventory, connect with colleagues, perfect your craft and pre-market yourself. We are going to address all of those things this week.
But let’s put first things first. Use this time to continue to perfect your craft. Read every writing book you can get your hands on. Take classes and attend workshops. If you get feedback from your queries and proposals, go to work making any valid changes. Learn, learn, learn. Once you are contracted you are going to have to fight for the time to experiment and grow as a writer.
And read! Read everything important in your genre. Read the bestsellers so you know what’s happening in the industry. Nothing will help you perfect your craft more than reading. If you are reading good books, you gain techniques almost by osmosis. Good writing will become instinctual.
If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to move forward with confidence. Plan for success and use the gift of time. Henry David Thoreau said it better: “If one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
May your wait be measured in uncommon hours.