After nearly two years, I typed The End on my manuscript. Pop a cork, throw some confetti and say a cheer!
The book is my first mainstream novel and represents a major career shift. The story – about a 1965 Greenwhich Village clique – took a while to gel. It wasn’t until the fourth or fifth iteration that I finally found my footing. Storylines were tossed out. Characters were erased. The process wasn’t pretty, but I’m pretty proud of the final product.
Now comes the hard part.
I don’t mean revisions – the oh-so-fun work of cutting, rewriting, and polishing that happens after we write the book – although those are hard. No, the hard part I’m talking about is having patience.
Having spent two years on this project, I am eager to get this baby into the hands of agents and editors. When I was under contract, I relied on my editor for revision notes. She would tell me what worked or what didn’t, and I’d make the changes accordingly. The partnership provided a comfort zone. I knew that eventually the book would be accepted.
Submitting to agents doesn’t come with a comfort zone. Your book is either accepted or not. going to send it back with notes. Therefore, you need to send your very best work. This is where patience can make or break you.
It would be soooo tempting to polish the first fifty pages, submit them, and hope for the best. The problem with that is assuming the remaining 350 pages don’t need major changes or that there are story structure issues that should be addressed prior to writing the synopsis.
I’ve rushed submissions before. Each time I did, my impatience came to bite me in the butt. I can safely say that had I slowed down, I’d have had a much different career trajectory. (And probably sold to a major publisher a lot sooner.)
Every author struggles with patience. I’ve seen good authors pitch books that weren’t complete, seen authors accept bad contracts, and self-publish unpolished stories, all because they were impatient for success.
In 1978, Orson Welles famously said (in an ad for Paul Masson) “We will sell no wine before its time.” People made fun of those ads, but the line is a great metaphor for the submission process. One we all should take to heart.
Submit no book before its time.
I think I’m going to write that on my white board as a reminder when I start getting antsy. Feel free to write it on yours as well.