God grant me patience--and make it fast!
The thing I hate most about writing is the waiting. I can handle the times when a story won't work its way out of my head--I plow through it or go on to some other project. I can handle critiques--they either make me a better writer or aren't worth my attention. I can even handle rejection--I whine for a few minutes, maybe have some chocolate, then I brush it off and go on. But waiting!
Waiting to a Catholic writer is like getting an early glimpse of Purgatory.
I handle waiting in two ways. The easiest is selective amnesia. Despite messages on my calendar, saved e-mails, and notes made on the folders, I've probably forgotten about half the query letters, stories and essays I've sent out. Once in a long while, I go back over my files. I could make a TV show: The Untold Stories Behind the Untold Stories. Tonight's Episode: "The 'Must Sell.'"
SCENE: Late night. Our author, with wild hair and pajamas, hunches over her desk. She's sitting away from the desk and must reach to write on it. A baby lays face down across her lap.
VOICEOVER: NARRATOR: September 2000: It was 1 AM on a Thursday night. The baby had been nursed to sleep for the second time, and writer Karina Fabian had finished a story. The printer hums as she fills out the envelope.
VOICEOVER: KARINA: It was definitely my best work, and I was determined to get it published. I'd researched the markets and made a list. As always, I made two envelopes that night. One would go off right away. The other would wait in case the first one was rejected.
SCENE: Flipping calendar, children growing, dust collecting on the story.
SCENE: Different house, full of the sound of playing and sometimes bickering kids. Our author, now with wrinkles and wild hair, but no pajamas, sneaks into her office, closes the door on the sound, and sighs. She opens the drawer, pulls out a file. There's still one envelope in it. She pulls out the manuscript, puzzled.
VOICEOVER: KARINA, TEARFUL: I don’t know what happened. There were children, and other stories, a new book…I became confused. I neglected it. I should have followed up. I blame myself, but--why, why didn't I get a letter?!
VOICEOVER: NARRATOR: Why, indeed. Today, the investigative reporters of The Untold Stories will follow that story to its bitter end. Did it find its way to the editor? Did the editor see it? Did he have big plans for it, but was suddenly killed when a 300-pound manuscript written in pencil fell from his "reject with malice" pile? Or did he shred her story in a case of mistaken identity and caffeine-induced fury? Was there a rejection letter? What about follow-ups--were they sent? Received? Find out after these words from "Writing Success in 30 Days or Less."
Sometimes, I get a terrific surprise--like when I got a $40 check for a story that I had written for a magazine six years before and heard nothing more about. It was one of my first stories, written specifically for that magazine, so I'd pretty much given it up for unpublishable. Other times, I'll look at a forgotten story and think, "Whew! Hope it was lost in the mail!"
With novels, however, I obsess. How long do I wait until I follow-up? E-mail? Call? I've been known to have days where the fate of a manuscript comes to my mind and I can't concentrate all day. I pace, edgy and restless as a lioness in her cage, debating. It's been 3 months since my last e-mail? Do I follow up? The guidelines say… Maybe I should give it one more week… No, no. Call him. Be friendly. Just gotta know, just gotta know…
This is what's happening with my fantasy trilogy. It's at my dream publisher, waiting. Waiting. I wrote, got encouraging words, even a request for book II. Sent the book. Waited. Wrote again. After a year, I called. Every quarter, I call, get encouraging words and a request for patience. I wait, look for an agent. (Waiting there, too.)
I fill my time with other projects. I have a terrific anthology out, Infinite Space, Infinite God--another long awaited dream--and I've got stories and series and novels to write.
I try not to imagine myself as some desperate teenager waiting by the phone while the guy who said he'd call me is out cavorting with other girls with flashier covers and popular names like "Mercedes"…
I wonder if God isn't holding this back until I'm more ready. Right now, my kids are at the laughing, playing, bickering stage. My life is full with their raising, loving and learning. Do I really need more?
YES!! I NEED ANSWERS, MISTER!
I know the publishing world is swamped, and with books as good as mine, but I so hate waiting!