I loathe waiting. I have no patience. And this isn’t a new development.
All my life, I’ve tried to hurry the milestones … but after more than four decades of rushing, I’ve finally realized that the hurried thing never turns out as well as the one that comes along in its proper time.
Hurry the cupcakes?
You’d better like cupcake soup. (But it sounds kind of nasty.)
Hurry a coral? It isn’t going to grow.
Hurrying the calendar is about as effective as teaching stones to sing.
(My church has a “rock choir” – but can’t for the life of me figure out how they trained them.)
But if I have to pick the worst result I’ve ever had from refusing to wait, I’d have to say … publication. Or, more properly, the lack thereof.
The first draft of my first manuscript placed in the finals of a major writing contest. I hadn’t revised it because I was in a hurry, and I thought my “instant success” bespoke far greater talent than it really did. Multiple agents asked for the full … and every one turned me down.
But instead of revising, rewriting, and learning … I wrote another book.
I revised that second manuscript twice – that’s three full drafts! I was proud. I was finished. I sent it out. And again, I received rejections.
Batter up! I wrote manuscript #3. This time I revised four times. Four drafts! Hooray! – and I also found a peer editor to help me improve my prose. Once again I queried.
Once again, I jumped too soon.
By the fourth time around, I’d learned my lesson. I waited. I polished. I studied. Draft 6 went to peer editors, draft 8 to agents. Still rejections, but this time most of my queries received requests for partials or fulls.
But during the process of writing that fourth one, I figured out something even more important than how to put words on a page, or even how to put them in proper order: I learned my voice wasn’t right for historical fiction – I was a mystery author who needed to play to her strengths.
But for the wait, and the years of effort, I wouldn’t have found my voice.
I don’t like waiting any more than anyone else – and I tolerate waiting far worse than most people do. Yet when it comes to writing, I welcome the time, the work, and even the wait – because I now understand that the waiting has made me better than I was before.
What lessons have you learned from waiting? Has a wait ever made you better, despite your impatience?
4 Replies to “Deb Susan Begrudgingly Admits She Needs to Wait.”
I made the same impatient mistakes with submitting work before it had been through a gazillion drafts. I totally know of what you speak. Also? I’m so glad you ended up writing Claws of the Cat because it is AWESOME.
Thanks Kerry 🙂 I’m really glad you liked it. I’m also very glad I finally learned the lesson about rushing (at least where my writing’s concerned). Sometimes the long, painful lessons end up teaching us the most after all!
I’ve got the same lessons when it comes to submitting too quickly. The thing about it is that when we’re learning our craft, we often can’t tell that we still have more to learn. I’ve seen this with some friends who are younger writers than I am. When I’ve finally gotten a chance to read their chapters, I understand why they’re getting rejected. They just don’t know what they don’t know…
It’s quite the catch-22 at times!
Your line about not having the voice for historical fiction is interesting to me…I’ll have to think about that when it comes to my voice and mystery fiction…My natural voice is quiet and character-driven…Could that be my “problem?”
It’s so true that it takes time to learn … and that includes learning that we need to learn in the first place! When I was early in the process (and for me, that means the first three full manuscripts) I didn’t realize how much farther I still needed to progress. Now, looking back, I see it clearly but then I couldn’t see it at all. I thought I was ready – as you said, I didn’t know what it was that I didn’t know.
I think mystery can be quiet and character-driven. I’ve read some very good mysteries in that kind of voice, and I enjoy a thoughtful detective. I think it depends in large part on the nature of your setting and protagonist. My writing tends to be very active (and a bit on the sardonic side…no doubt the language imitating its creator) so a ninja detective is a good fit for me. My early novels focused more on history and less on action, and it took me a long time to realize I could play entirely to my strengths if I shifted genres and found a protagonist who fit my style, instead of shoehorning my work into another mold.
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