Let me start by saying patience isn’t one of my strongest attributes. I’m all about instant gratification… or at least, I was. I have been working hard to develop the attitude within myself and some days I’m even moderately successful.
I hope you also note that this post is a few hours later than most of my Wednesday offerings. I wanted a subtle irony to be present; you the reader need to practice what I’m preaching :).
Too subtle? I thought it might be since it almost escaped me and I was the one planning it. That’s why I explained it. Now I know.
But why is patience important to a writer? Oh there are so many reasons!
First, let’s look at the actual craft of writing itself. As a writer, you can probably sit down with a topic firmly in mind and start pounding out the prose. But is that always the best way to do it? Sometimes the writing requires outlining and/or research. Maybe you need to do some world-building or character-development before you actually start the story. Perhaps the plot needs some work.
All these things slow down the process.
You might have this great, gee-whiz idea in your head that you must get down on paper but you know there are other elements that need to be addressed too. That’s where the patience comes in. Definitely get the ideas down as soon as they arrive, but be prepared to step back and do some of the preparatory work too.
But, wait! You’ve already done that and you’ve got this 100,000 word story that needs, nay MUST be written. Except, there are only 24-hours in the day. How could you possibly get it done as fast as you want to?
Slow and steady (or fast and steady… it’s the steady that is important), that’s the ticket. Good writing takes time and great writing even more so. You’ve got to be fair to yourself and take the time necessary to write something good.
It’s not over once you type “The End” either. You have a first draft in your hand. Now you have to edit it; mold it, shape it and polish it. Make it the best it can be. This is a tough step for me because I’m still pretty close to my work and I really want to get it out to publishers. I also have a dozen other story ideas I’m aching to write. I don’t want to “waste” my time editing.
Except, editing is a crucial step. Unless you write perfect prose the first time (and I’ve never heard of that happening with anyone), you need to take that time to clean it up. That means taking a deep breath (for me anyway) and doing the edits and (perhaps) waiting before starting a new story.
Let’s do a quick recap… you’ve plotted, outlined and generally developed your story, then written a first draft and now you have done the initial edits on it. Time to send it to a publisher, right?
Could be or you might want to get the opinions of your first readers. This has been an extremely difficult thing for me because the only first readers I had were my immediate family. It also means further delay before getting the stories out to publishers. You also need to get the right kind of feedback.
So, for my latest project, my family read the story and put their comments into it. Unfortunately, most of the comments (not all, mind you) took the form of editorial comments. These are great for typos and such, but not so good for things like story development, flow, plot, character-believability, etc. For that, I need other first readers apparently. This is where my problem has always been.
I’ve had LOTS and LOTS of trouble finding anyone willing and able to act as first readers. There are good reasons for this too. Primarily, the problem is one of time. It takes lots of time to read a story and spend the necessary time to write a critique that will actually help the writer. The second problem is familiarity. Most first readers want to feel comfortable within the story’s genre. Consequently, I’ve had people offer to be first readers and then not deliver useful feedback because of time constraints and even more often I’ve had people decline the invitation.
That was in the past. As of yesterday, I have two authors willing to take a look at the story. One is already published and the other is in the same boat as me (I believe). The only downside is neither is available until mid to late August to help out. I had wanted my book out in circulation by the end of July.
So what will I do? I’ve decided to err on the side of quality. I really believe this story can be a success so I want to give it as much of a chance as I can. That means I wait for the feedback which means I wait for my first readers to come back from holidays. Perhaps I should have a little patience? (Didn’t see that coming, did you?) I also expect there to be some back and forth to clarify comments and act upon them. That also adds time to the project.
When all of this is done, I still have a couple more hurdles to overcome. The first (and in my mind, biggest) is to actually find a publisher who is willing to buy the story. In my limited experience I already know that some publishers will respond quickly (less than two weeks) and some will be slower (over two months). Assuming the first publisher doesn’t buy the story (a very safe bet), it could be a year or two before I actually get a contract. Then, when I do get a contract, there will be edits requested by the publisher.
Even after the manuscript has been edited and signed off, it will be months before you see a finished product. And you mustn’t forget all the promotional work you need to prepare for and deliver.
Sounds pretty daunting, doesn’t it? Now you understand why a lack of patience is such a problem for me and why I’m working hard to overcome the lack.
What makes it easier for me is the realization that thousands of books are published every year. People who have worked hard, done their homework and kept the faith are finding success. They have shown patience and that other big “p”-word, perseverance. That means I have a pretty good shot at succeeding too. I just have to have patience.