I’ve been away from the blog for a couple weeks as I was working on another blog/website that reviews YA romances. The experience of reading so many newly released books in such quick succession reinforced something that I have suspected for a long time: it is better to not rush a book, no matter how impatient you are to get it out into the world. So, with this revelation in mind, I am going to devote September’s posts to a plea for patience in writing and publishing.
PART ONE: THE WRITER AS CROCK POT
I’ve said it before: for better or worse, I am a child of the Seventies. I know from crock pots. As moms went to work in those heady days of the Women’s Movement, crock pots allowed them to stick some meat and veggies and sauce stuff into the pot as they left in the morning and then come home in the evening to a kitchen that smelled like they’d been toiling in it for hours (instead of toiling somewhere else). And your book (and your brain) are kind of like a crock pot.
Your story/novel/poem needs to marinate in its own juices, as it were, for a good long time, and you, the writer, are the crock pot in which all that juiciness simmers into something tasty. But you’re not really a crock pot, of course, and there is no such magical appliance that will make your story/novel/poem marinate to glorious fruition while you go do something else. You have to do the writing. But you also have to give it time. And sometimes that means walking away from your manuscript and coming back to it weeks or even a month later to see it with fresh eyes. An undercooked book is as unsatisfying as an undercooked meal.
I’ll talk next week about the signs of a book that needed more time in the creative crock pot. For now, I’ll talk about patience and why it is a virtue in publishing as in all other walks of life.
A few years ago, when I was drafting and drafting and drafting, I heard a joke-story about a guy who’s at dinner with his in-laws. He tells them he wants to be a writer and the imperious father-in-law says something like, “Ah, you want to have written!” And that made sense to me. The actual writing part, much as I love it, is not always all that fun. It can be very frustrating an make you want to go
But being published! We all imagine that that would feel like
So many people I know who are just starting out as writers are focused on being published, not on writing. They think about finding an agent and making a book trailer or making cover art more than they do about writing (and rewriting, and rewriting, and rewriting again). They’re not focused on the actual book.
I also know a few people who rushed into self -publishing because they were convinced that their book was ready and didn’t want to go through the query-and-wait process. I have enormous respect for self-publishing but recently I have read enough self-published books that certainly would have benefited from not just an editor but from a third or fourth or fifth revision. And those revisions take time.
No one likes to wait. And no one likes rejection. Those two factors make querying your work as painful and drawn-out a process as performing a root canal on yourself with a pair of pliers. But so often rejection comes from an editor or an agent because the book is just not ready. Unfortunately, they won’t always tell you that. They get so many queries that often they don’t even respond. But when they do send comments, they can often be summed up by the phrase “this manuscript is not ready yet.” The characters’ motivation may not be clear yet. Plot points may be confusing. The writing may need more polish. Scenes need to be cut that delight the writer but don’t further the plot. It will hurt when you receive these comments but you’ll get over it and get back to work, producing a better book for having learned its faults and corrected them.
As a child of the Seventies, I remember those commercials for Ernest and Julio Gallo wine. I think Orson Welles was their spokesman, and he would intone in his deep, important Orson Wellesian way:
We will sell no wine before its time.
This is sound advice from a man known for his meticulous attention to his craft (okay, at the time he was shilling discount wine, but still. The man was an auteur and he’s not wrong about this.) So my advice, to be read in a deep important Orson Wellesian way:
Don’t put something out there just so you can say you have something out there.
Take your time. Let the ideas, sentences, scenes marinate in the crock pot of your brain and time and your book will be the better for it.
Next week I’ll cover the signs of a Rushed Book (and how to avoid putting one out there yourself) and the following week will be dedicated to the Rushed Romance. Please check back and weigh in with the comments! Cheers.