Tom Petty Was Right

The waiting is the hardest part. And we spend so much of our time waiting, don’t we? Waiting to get our driver’s license, waiting to finish school, waiting on a better job, waiting on the inevitable. This is the point where I should write: waiting is a waste of time, time better spent being in the moment, but…that’d be a waste of time (insert rim shot here).

I suppose there are two types of waiting, the anxious waiting for something good or exciting to happen, and waiting on something unpleasant to happen, like dreading a dentist appointment.

At this point, if you’re hoping for some sage advice on how to assuage the dreadful waiting, well, I could tell you about my “fiction writer” method which consists of making up elaborate and multi-layered excuses, complete with plenty of ‘showing and not telling’ sections, to reschedule those appointments but eventually you’ll crack a tooth on a popcorn kernel and have to go anyway so, I got nothing.

I can tell you this—nobody knows tortured waiting like writers. We submit a story, poem, or essay and wait. Yes, the submission guidelines said expect a response in 4 to 6 weeks, or months, or longer, but we scour the inbox and Submittable every day. I submitted another novel manuscript I have to a contest that had an announcement deadline of September, 2017 which was rescheduled to September 2018. I’m still waiting on the announcement. Querying agents is even worse. My record is a form rejection from an agent 16 months after I queried. Many agents never respond at all.

However, after the Universe applies an intricate and unknown series of algorithms that eventually lead to a writer landing an agent—hot dang a-mighty, Margo, quit your job, I got me an agent and I’m gonna be on the New York Times Bestseller List in a month or two, tops—the waiting starts all over again, this time for the ever-elusive publishing contract.

I mentioned in my last blog post that I imaged being a writer, having a book out in the world, as a teenager, so I guess I’ve been waiting since then. And there’s a whole lot of forehead showing between this me and my teenage years. I waited a long time, and then some. But none of those—waiting on responses to story submissions, waiting to land an agent, the forty plus years waiting on a book contract—none of those were as tough as the waiting I endured after I knew I had the contract.

SFK Press (read their other authors—they’re remarkable) made the initial offer in early January of 2019. My agent and their folks worked on details until April 1st. And I could not tell anyone until we had the contract in hand. I thought I would explode. I’ve since learned this is a pretty standard length of time to expect between the offer and the final contract. My agent told me as much ahead of time, but like those little fictions I gave the dentist office, I told myself I’d be able to announce it to the world in a week or two…and unlike the dentist office, I believed it.

On the other hand, it’s been a whirlwind since the contracts were signed. There’s no time to think about waiting, anxious or dreaded, because I have too much to do (more on that in upcoming blogs). Now it’s just weird waiting. The release date, April 7th, 2020, feels like forever away and at the same time it feels like it’s next week. Deep breaths.

So, what advice might I offer other writers, especially aspiring, yet to be published writers? Fred Leebron said it best: “Writing is a game of attrition. Don’t attrish.” You’ll get there. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Keep waiting. It’ll happen.

Y’all be kind, we’ll talk again soon! ~KW