Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Waiting – a user’s guide



Everyone who has ever written something and asked another person to read it – whether it be husband, friend, agent or publisher – knows that the worst thing about writing is not the lardy bum from too much sitting, or the neck and back ache. It’s not even the writer’s block.

It’s the waiting.

Writerly waiting is a whole other ballgame from waiting, say, in a bank queue, or for the gas engineer who said he’d be there between 8am and 6pm and it’s now 10pm. I’m not saying these irritations aren’t enough in themselves to make you want to claw your own eyes out if you’re naturally impatient, as I am.

But when you’re waiting in a bus queue, your only concern is that your time is being wasted. When you’re waiting to hear an important decision about your writing, your entire ego and self worth are being suspended by gossamer threads over a tank of sharks. You might say I’m exaggerating here. I say, you haven’t met me and are therefore not aware of the fragility of my ego and ludicrous emptiness of my self worth tank.

I’ve just handed in my revised manuscript to the editor who, astonishingly, wants to publish it. I’ve gone through many agonising waits over the last seven years, including with two other books, although never before at this level. Having been turned from a fairly good natured sort of woman into a snarling hag by the process in the past, I know something needs to be done this time. I’m not expecting the verdict to come quickly and am therefore determined not to go insane. Here then, is my cut out and keep guide on How to Wait.

Step one
1. Go offline. Maybe, like me, you have tried to limit the number of times you check your email in a day. Some people even disconnect their cable or disable their broadband in order to stop the temptation. This is nowhere near enough.
You actually have to put your PC in the car, along with all laptops [even if they belong to your partner or children] and drive them to a remote Scottish island. If you already live on a remote Scottish island, you must drive to Land's End.
Then you have to leave them there for a month. My job requires me to use my computer but penury is the price that must be paid for sanity.

2. Go out of the house as much as possible. You’ve probably spent too many hours hunched over a keyboard drinking coffee and occasionally laughing out loud at your own jokes. Go look at some scenery or visit that exhibition you read about. Just make sure you avoid internet cafes on the way.

3. Enter a state of denial. Every time your brain swerves towards the question, ‘I wonder if she’s read it yet..’ put up a mental STOP sign. Do not allow the thought to take root because it’s just a short hop from there to getting in the car and reclaiming your computer.

4. Try and remember what it was you thought about before you were a writer. [No, me neither]

5. Make notes for a new project. Buy a very pleasing notebook and start to sketch out what shape the story might take. Before you know it, you will have the basis for a book.*

So there you have it. How to wait in five easy steps. Now I must dash because I have a long car journey ahead of me...

*This tip actually works.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to make the point, though, that waiting is better than not waiting, ie than nudging an agent too early and getting an immediate rejection as a result! (i speak from experience).

Some good tips there though, Caroline! Hope you aren't kept waiting too long this time.

Sam

Phillipa said...

Oh, Caroline, this is SO true. Thanks for putting it all so agonisingly well.

"When you’re waiting to hear an important decision about your writing, your entire ego and self worth are being suspended by gossamer threads over a tank of sharks."

I have to use the web all day for my job too so can't turn it off but I am getting out of the house today. But there's always the phone with free browsing while I'm out...

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Lovely, Caroline. And, along with Sam, I'd like to add that waiting can be a really good thing as well as a frustrating one - at least you are waiting for SOMETHING, IFSWIM! I find I feel better when something's out there, even though it means a long wait (and usually one that ends in rejection). All the very, very best with your book.
Susiex

Roderic Vincent said...

Hi Caroline, it sounds hideous. I'm lucky enough to have convinced myself that anything I send out for publication, etc, has zero chance of acceptance. I can even forget that I've submitted stuff. The difference, I suppose, is that you live in hope.

Luisa Plaja said...

This is brilliant, and so true. I love it!

Caroline Green said...

Ah yes, hope...hope can be such a bugger.

Thanks all for your comments.

Sam, I'm never convinced by the idea that agents might be more likely to reject after being nudged. Hmm...I don;'t know. What do others think about that? I'd love to know what an agent thinks about that and maybe we should include it as a question next time we interview one for the blog!

Emily Gale said...

I think the best place for your laptop, Caroline, would be the Australian bush. Pop it in a jiffy bag, send it to me, and I'll make sure it gets there. I'll send mine at the same time! Knowing how you feel about spiders, I'm pretty sure you won't try to retrieve it. (Hm, but how much would it be worth for me to retrieve it for you?? *plots*)

Great post!

Caroline Green said...

Hmm, I think this may be the ultimate solution. Cover my PC in spiders.

Anonymous said...

Please do include it as a question, Caroline! I have had several instances of nudging and getting rejected, and am never sure whether i'm partly to blame.
I should learn my lesson really. But i certainly never ever wait longer than 3 months.

Sam

Paul said...

Yep, step 5 is the best choice. And why not? It creates a new, eventual opportunity to experience the pangs of waiting all over again.

Caroline Green said...

Ha ha, yes and the cycle continues!

Sam, I once waited a year...but that's another story.

Geraldine Ryan said...

Great post, Caroline. All I can say is I'm sure the answer will come when you are least expecting it. This always seems to be the way with me. I too have been waiting - only for 3 days so far!!! - to hear about something I subbed and I can tell you the wait is killing me and no matter how often in a year I go through this process it doesn't seem to get any easier. Off out now - to a place where there are no internet cafes or even, as far as I know, any internet connection at all.

Emma Darwin said...

Caroline, I clicked 'send' on the email containing my WIP, and came over here... and now I'm laughing painfully. Thank you for putting words to the agony!

Helen Black said...

Oh waiting is hideous - and even when it's over, you know it's only a matter of time before you're bloody waiting again.
I'm currently actioning a few ideas/comments/observations my new ed made on the ms for book four. Then it will go back to her and again I will wait.
HB x

Caroline Green said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. May all your waits be short and ending in good things.

Jane Steen said...

Great advice, although driving to a remote Scottish island from Chicago would be very interesting. I think our equivalent is northern Wisconsin.

Karen said...

I'm need to become better at waiting. At the moment I'm still waiting to hear whether or not a UK publisher wants to buy my novel, and I had no idea it be so tiring. Waiting seems to drain my creative energy, so I'm doing far less writing than normal. At the end of each day I feel both elated (no bad news) and deflated (no news.) So weird.

I've found myself going out a LOT just to get away from the phone/computer, which does help a bit!

Michael LaRocca said...

Oh Caroline, now I'm going to wonder what the heck I did think about before I was a writer...