goals and patience

Writers are known for making goals, but not all of us are known for our patience, especially with the query process. While writers often decry the waiting and the subjectivity of the whole process, I think we’re all missing the root of the issue.

When we send off a partial or full manuscript, there is a period of time when someone else, an utter stranger, has complete control over our future. Worse still, the decision that individual makes will be, in some ways, subjective.

Giving up control is hard. Trust me, I know, especially now that I’m involved in the submission process. Patience is a virtue I endure with grinding teeth and sleepless nights. It’s just my nature; I’m this way with everything. One way I prevent myself from feeling helpless is by managing the factors I can control. Here’s how I’m getting through it:

  • I remind myself constantly that a literary agent’s first responsibility is to their existing clients. If a literary agent represents six or more clients, his or her week is going to be full without the additional reading of queries, partials, and fulls.
  • Literary agents have families too. I know there are occasions when my family will take up part of my workday, and I’m sure that happens to literary agents as well.
  • When I am reading a friend’s chapter on OWW or if someone I know sends me something to read, it takes me anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour (depending on the length) to give the material my full attention. Imagine doing that for over 200 emails a day.
  • Reading for approximately an hour and a half to two hours an evening, it takes me anywhere from a week to two weeks to read a novel. Of course, that’s when I give the novel my full attention.

When I start adding up the reading time, how long it takes to write good correspondence, and all the pesky daily interruptions that can add up in a day or week, I realize that an agent’s turnaround time is actually quite speedy. The best thing writers can do for themselves is stay busy. Here are a few things I’m doing:

  • I’ve started my next novel. I would like to have a first draft finished by the time I have interested a literary agent in the novel I have on submission. It’s possible no agent will be interested in my current novel, and if that’s the case, I want something different to market next time.
  • I’ve joined the Publishers Marketplace so I can see which literary agents are selling works in my genre and also see what types of books are selling. (P.S. You won’t find me there in a search, because I’ve chosen not to add a webpage. I had one up on Friday, but it looked so dinky, I took it down.)
  • I’m building a list of agents to query, checking out their submission guidelines and adding them to my address book along with links to their websites.
  • In some cases, I’m reworking my query letter to meet the different submission guidelines.
  • I continue to find topics to write about for my blog, not because I’m an expert on anything, but simply because writing my blog keeps me focused and helps me to better my craft.

Of course, there is my own job, family, and a list of priorities ten miles long in my own tiny corner of the world. Giving up control is hard, being patient is harder, but I’m hanging in there. How about you? If you’re published, what did you do to get through the long waiting period of your submission process? If you’re unpublished, what are you doing to get through the submission process, and finally, if you don’t have anything on submission, are you making plans?

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About T. Frohock

Please visit my web site at: www.tfrohock.com
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27 Responses to goals and patience

  1. jaekaebee says:

    Great post, preshus! I agree – it’s very important to not forget the patience!

  2. Jonathan says:

    We’ve always got to be moving forward, writing, preparing. And the prospect of being able to move on to something new and fresh is always exciting. Good luck with your queries!

  3. erikamarks says:

    Hi Teresa, talk about a constant in our lives–especially as writers! When I’ve been waiting to hear back about queries, I kept busy with a new project, always a new project–or sending out more queries (I think that’s why I always subscribed to batches of five at a time so when there was a lull in responses, I could send more seeds into the wind.)

    But the waiting certainly doesn’t end with the contract. Of course, it’s a wait I am very grateful for, but I am amazed how quickly I have returned to that place of impatience in waiting for the wheels to turn in the new phases of this journey. That desire to keep moving forward doesn’t go away which is of course a GOOD thing–we want to stay inspired to move forward, to climb the next hill, and the next.

    It always helps to remind ourselves, as in when we’re waiting on that job interview, that our project is our whole world, but for agents and editors, it is only one of a ton in theirs. I sometimes wonder if email, for all its glorious instant gratification, has made me MORE impatient than not. While I was still impatient 20 years ago, I think I had an easier time waiting, knowing that the snail mail system required a given amount of time. No same day responses back then!

    • Hi, Erika, thanks for pointing out that the wait continues, even after after signing with an agent. I also think you hit the nail on the head about instant gratification and e-mail. I think because so much is at our fingertips, we expect all responses from other people to fly in at the speed of light. I kind of miss those old snail mail days sometimes.

  4. Christine Fonseca says:

    Great post! And yeah, the waiting game can be hard. I love your tips – for me, writing the next novel is key. Good luck.

  5. Too right! An excellent perspective jolt post, thanks for it. Consider it bookmarked, as my turn is just around the corner.

    Take care,

    • Oh Jess! I’m so excited for you. Good luck with your submissions, and don’t worry, the urge to check your e-mail 1,206 times a day fades somewhere around week two. 😉

  6. When I was in medicine, I became paralyzed whenever I had a woman in labour. Intellectually I might understand it could be 12 plus hours before she’d need my services, but a crisis would errupt just often enough to keep my on my toes. It took me about five years of doing deliveries before I could take my kids to the park, get groceries, carry on with life while in limbo. Please don’t tell me it’ll be that long in the sub process. 0.0

    Seriously, the only solution I’ve found is what you suggest. Keep busy. Keep engaged in life. Trust you’ve done your best for this one thing and work on another.

    • Hi Jan, I hadn’t thought of comparing it with being in labour, but you’re right, it’s the same long gestation period followed by “it’s happening now, now, NOWNOWNOWNOW!” 😉

  7. Lindsay says:

    I’m trying to work myself up to start querying. I imagine the best way to pass the time is just to get immersed in another project. Having something new to work on helps you develop a little detachment for the last project, too, so maybe those rejections won’t feel so personal!

    • Lindsay, I waited until I was absolutely happy with my query, my manuscript, and my synopsis before I sent the first query, so take your time, but when you’re ready, go for it. I liked what you had to say about the detachment too. I like to think of it like this: they are declining to represent my project, and that makes it less about me as well.

  8. tikiman1962 says:

    I started my querying 4-28-10. A complex novel of transgressive fiction. The process is already difficult and what do I do? Send out a query on a tough sell. Hey, if THAT goes I’m in like Flynn.
    First negative response two days later. Bummed out, right? Sort of. Like Erika pointed out, it’s like the job interview and the query is your resume. When push comes to shove, a fast rejection is better than no response.
    Bait taken by an agent. She asked for a four week exclusive on the first three chapters. We don’t go “Yahoooooo!” because we only got a nibble on the worm. Three weeks later came the negative response. The fish got away.
    So far, 39 queries and 22 responses. I’m okay with the responses; after all it is called the publishing BUSINESS. What gets me frustrated are the no responses.
    Since the beginning, I have slept, made dinner, done some landscaping with the wife (i.e. shoveling a ton of egg rock–literally a TON), got a new job, did some more writing, did some editing, had a few martinis—basically life went on. Just without an agent.
    But you know something, Teresa? This is what you want to do; this is what we all want to do. And we will keep doing it because I honestly don’t know what else to do.
    You’ve got plenty of company, plenty of brothers-in-arms (and, to be fair, sisters-in-arms). We read you here and on Facebook and just when we want to shed a tear, we smile.
    So, keep smiling.

    • Hi HB, you’re right no response at all feels like you’ve just dropped a rock in a well. Those are frustrating, but they don’t bother me so much when an agent is honest and outright states that they only respond to queries they’re interested in representing. That way I know going in that there is a strong possibility that I may not hear from them again.

      Don’t give up, though! I think Michael Hughes said it best in his guest post: “It only takes one person to say yes.” 😉

  9. Kelly Bryson says:

    Hey Teresa- Great post! And I love your new header- woerlds unseen, indeed. Great tips!

    • Hi Kelly! You’re the first person that’s said anything about the header. 😉 Thanks! I wanted to do Peter’s “deliciously creepy horror” but I couldn’t get it to fit. lol

  10. kat magendie says:

    You are wise wise! Especially on starting the new novel. That’s what I did, and now that novel is coming out this fall. It’s good to have something in the works or in the files because you “just never know” where things will take you. But, beyond that, beyond publication, it gives your writing life focus and direction and purpose – and reminds you why you live this crazy uncertain life.

    I will tell you, too, from the perspective of publishing editor of Rose & Thorn -we receive so many submissions, and to give each one our attention, it takes months to do this. If we rush through them, we may miss a gem. I had this happen to me. I was so busy on one of the issues, that I found I was rushing through the stories (another editor reads, too, but that’s beside the point) . . . I had to stop myself, take a breath, and I went back to what I’d read and read again and what do you know but I found a gem – a sparking gem among those I thought I was going to put in the “No” folder – it brought me up short. That story remains one of my favorites.

    What I just said also makes me wonder this: how many good authors/novels are passed over because the agent/publisher is just too busy, or only skims something and misses the gem, or et cetera – it’s a fickle and subjective and strange business.

    I believe in you!

    • Hi Kat, I’m so glad you talked about it from the editor’s standpoint, especially how easy it is to miss a gem. I knew an agent once who told that he read a submission and tossed it aside, because he didn’t think another glitz and glamour novel would sell — the author was Danielle Steel. Ahem. So yeah, I’m sure agents miss a gem from time to time.

      On PW, you might really benefit, because you could do an author’s page with a list of your titles. My author’s page had my query for An Autumn Tale and a checkmark in the box “seeking representation.” I looked at it and thought it looked a little desperate, so I took it down. 😉 I think if I had more published credits to place on the page it would be better, so I’m going to hang in there and wait for a bit.

  11. kat magendie says:

    PS – I haven’t joined PM – I wonder if I should?

  12. There’s also something to be said for networking. I just got back from Necon, which is a convention for horror writers held every summer in Rhode Island. After four years of attending, I now know plenty of excellent writers, editors, artists, and readers, many of whom have helped me or given me advice. The key to such conferences, again, is patience—it takes time to get to know people (and to let them get to know you) and some folks come on too strong right off the bat, hitting up agents, editors, and other writers for favors. You have to cultivate relationships and be willing to give as well as receive.

    Aside from that, as I wrote here in my guest post, hanging out with other writers will give you a good perspective on the path to publishing, as well as people to commiserate with, shoulders to cry on, and friends to pop the champagne cork when one of you has a nice sale. Community is vitally important, especially for people like us who spend an inordinate amount of time alone in front of a computer screen.

    • Thank, Michael! That’s super advice, especially about not coming on too strong at first. I’m so sorry I missed Neocon this year, but by the time I found out about it, they were booked up. I’ll get my registration in early next year, though. I would love to meet you and the other authors I’ve had the opportunity to correspond with during this past year.

  13. amanda says:

    You’ve got it — always, ALWAYS be working on the next project. I haven’t done this with books, yet, but there have been many times where one of my ideas/stories/poems has been “kindly” rejected (with a note of encouragement), and I’ve turned right around and said, “Don’t like it? Well, how about THIS one?” and it’s turned into a sale. You have a great attitude, which will most likely reap great successes!

  14. lawrenceez says:

    Hi Teresa, I find waiting hard to cope with. Really stresses me out and causes all sorts of problems. I think you offer some good advice in your post – keep writing during the waiting.

    Hope you get some good news soon.



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