The Paralysis of Waiting

snape

I’m still some weeks away from learning whether or not the publisher will make an offer on my picture book manuscript.

Friday I had to vacuum the dust off the backpack containing my laptop and WIP.

Yeah.

I have the most miserable sense of being in author’s limbo.  It’s nothing like the limbo I was told about as a child, where babies go if they die before they’re christened.  It’s more like the lowest circle of hell.  A terrible place where images of success and failure alternately flash before my eyes–the dream realized vs. the dream dashed.

My sense of identity as a writer has grown stronger over the last couple of years.  It’s no longer simply what I want to be, it’s what I am.  Lately, I find myself slipping back into that insecure place where I’m waiting for a third party to nod in my direction and bestow upon me the coveted title of published author.  Something inside my brain is telling me I have no business sitting down to write before permission is granted.

I hate myself for allowing that to happen.

I have no excuses today.  The inbox for my day job is empty.  I already did the dishes.  I have forced myself into writer mode by dropping this little note of confession to you.  I’m going, at this very moment, to grab the backpack and see where I left off.

Join me.

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Not So Fast!

Just got an email from the publisher.  I’ve made it from the slush pile and through the editorial board.  They liked the revision.  The final decision on whether or not to publish will be made at a meeting next month of their sales and marketing team.

One thing I’m learning is that the wheels of the publishing machine move rather slowly but deliberately.

Patience.

I think I’m having an out-of-body experience.

Now What?

Well, the publisher who contacted me said the acquisitions board would meet in late February/early March.

We’re coming to the end of March with no further word from the publisher, so I have to assume they decided not to publish my manuscript.

A dream-crushing experience once again.  How should I, as an author, respond?

I checked their website.  They’re open for submissions once again.  I sent another manuscript.

Stand up.  Dust yourself off.  Get back in the game.

So, This is Where Things Stand…

Four years ago, I sent a picture book manuscript to a small publishing house that was accepting submissions.  I never heard from them and eventually forgot I had submitted to them at all.

At the end of November, I received an email from one of the editors there, asking me if the manuscript were still available.  I responded in the affirmative right away and began looking for the long-abandoned ledger I had used to keep track of submissions.  There it was, January 28, 2015, via snail mail.

December and January dragged on with no further word until January 30th when another email announced that the editorial team liked the story but wanted a minor revision.  They wanted it before the acquisitions board met at the end of February/beginning of March.

Hackles up.  Paralyzing fear.  I kept my cool, though, and responded that I’d work on it and send the revision in soon.  I had a few weeks to make or break my chances of being published.  No pressure, right?

I spent the first few days frantically trying to think of a way to revise the scene in question.  It had seemed simple and elegant to me at the time and quite frankly, I didn’t see why it should be changed.  They thought it was confusing.

Breathe.  Take another bite of that reality sandwich.

I can’t self-publish the story because I can’t draw.  I also can’t afford to pay someone to do the illustrations for me.  Could I swallow my pride and do what they asked?  What if I changed the story and the acquisitions board passed on it?

A fellow writer I know had been through this song and dance.  Agent acquired.  Publisher interested.  Publisher asked for a revision.  Revision submitted.  Publisher passed.

Was I compromising my manuscript?  Would the manuscript go from being liked to being rejected?

After several false starts, I thought I had a revision I liked; but I held off sending it in.  I like to let a story stew for a few days and then go back to it.  I tweaked it.  Waited.  Tweaked it some more.  The more I worked on it, the more the panic subsided.  Finally, I felt it was ready to be resubmitted.  Off it went, accompanied by an email that sounded upbeat and confident.

I had turned it around in a little over a week.  I sent it in and then put the folder away in my desk.  If I look at it again, I’m sure I’ll find something else to change.  The revision would spiral out of control and the editor would have no time to consider it before sending it to acquisitions.  If there is another change to be made, I want time to make it.

Unless the editor wants another revision, I probably won’t hear from them again until after the acquisitions board meets in a few weeks.  I’m trying to stay positive.

I wrote a good story.  I choked down my considerable sense of pride and made the revision they asked for.  I turned it around quickly.  I behaved professionally, even though I didn’t feel particularly professional.  Will it pay off?

Stay tuned.