October 21, 2009 at 6:31 AM | Posted in Beta Reading, Editing, Publishing, Writing | 5 Comments

Publishing, it has been said, is not for the impatient. Writing a novel can take months or years, getting an agent or publisher just as long.

Unfortunately, I am the heir to the throne of impatience (right behind my mom – yes, I blame the genes). All it takes is a well-meaning question from a friend or relative – “How are things going with the book?” – and all my suppressed nervous energy jumps to the surface. The truth is, my novel is progressing quite well – just not in any way that’s easy to measure or describe to non-writers. They don’t care how many words you’ve trimmed or how much better a storyline fits together. They just want to know when they can buy it (even if it hasn’t gone out to editors yet).

As a writer, it’s easy for me to fall into a similar trap. After finishing my latest round of revisions, I was tempted to send them off without having my beta readers look them over – despite the fact that I had made some major changes to the tone of the ending. I managed to resist the urge, but it was enough to remind me that impatience isn’t just an unpleasant state of mind. When we let impatience get the better of us – by rushing revisions, skipping beta readers, or developing carpal tunnel syndrome by pressing “refresh” on our email 40 times a minute while waiting for responses from agents or editors – the quality of our work is what suffers the most.

So how can we best avoid falling into the traps of impatience? I’m not entirely sure yet (as you can tell from this post), and I suspect different techniques will work better for different people. One thing that helps me is having another creative endeavor I can turn to when I start becoming impatient with my primary project – something that is not necessarily intended for publication and lacks the same kind of self-imposed urgency. Another is to read back through my work and remind myself of how much better it has become because of the time I have invested in revising it.

What about you? Do you suffer from writing related impatience? What do you do to avoid falling into its traps?




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  1. Patience young Padewan.

    Jeez, I feel like Mr. Miyagi (and, y’know, just as old)… It’s all very well to want a book to appear from thin air and be polished to perfection in a matter of weeks, but I have fragments of material dating back some ten-odd years. Sometimes things come out fully formed, but that is the exception to the rule – maybe one in ten thousand books are fit for public consumption right off the bat. Most are a long hard slog whose editing never seem to end.

    Everything (and I mean everything takes time. Not just novels, but those are particularly slow to form. Considering the number of problems which can crop up, impatience is right up there with procrastination as one of the big problems that people don’t seem to address quickly enough. If you feel impatient you should try to meditate, or at least sit in silence in a darkened room, for half an hour or so. Contemplate the universe. Converse with your characters.

    Slow and steady wins the race, remember. It isn’t a stupid saying, and more people would do well to think about what it means. I have spent the better part of twenty years trying to conserve the nervous energy which comes with a great idea, because I know that rushing a story can kill logic and cohesion in the narrative, and that leads to people getting annoyed with the work. Breathing excercises work. Relax and let the story percolate in your brain.

    “Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off.”

  2. Great post.

    I get impatient, too. In fact, I didn’t realize how impatient I’d been with my first book until my Beta asked if I was sending my second off. “Are you kidding?” I exclaimed. “This thing needs so much work.” Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be sending out queries for this project. But since the first, I’ve learned about the time it takes to make a story good. And knowing how much work should go into a book is controlling my impatience. I just try to remember my checklist of things I need to do to avoid jumping ahead on it.

  3. Great post.

    I’ve learned from past mistakes. Now it’s my beta readers who are growing impatient to read my new novel. When I query this novel, I’m going to make sure it really is ready to go. Fortunately the newest member of my crit group is brutally honest. Much better than the critter who tells you it’s awesome while snickering under her breath.

  4. I suffer from this, especially when I’m in the first draft stage. It’s so easy for me to start thinking about querying and agents and stuff before the novel is even written. It excites me at first, but then I start rushing, pressuring myself, forcing my story. I’ve killed a few novels this way. It’s not cool.

    I’ve developed a few rules that help me, such as, I’m not allowed to do anything but write my novel until I’m halfway through. No fantasizing. No book trailers or queries. Just writing. Also, I have to work really hard to stop reading other writing blogs or writing forums. They just suck me in. I really have to seclude myself. Instead, I read lots and lots (and LOTS) of books. This keeps me invigorated while I’m writing.


  5. DK! I miss you. <3
    Wise words… I've had so many bouts of impatience along the way, and I still have them. Usually it's because I feel I'm moving too slow, with my writing or whatever, and I guess there it's beneficial. Then again, it can be harmful too, if you get so wrapped up in what you NEED to do that you forget to DO it (aka me, haha).

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