Writers write, is what I always say. And as a practitioner of the art, I not only completed one novel recently, but just last week I finished revising another one that had been cooling in my hard drive for a couple of years now. I did this just after closing out what is commonly known in English academia as The Living Hell That Is the Final Essay End-of-Semester Clusterfuck. (Don’t get me wrong–I love my students. But there’s just something mind-scrambling about spending every living, breathing, waking moment with a red pen in my hand.) After that I thought I’d I’ll give my brain a few weeks to chill, maybe get ambitious for that mile-high to-be-read stack of books on my end table, or scrape off that pile of unidentifiable goo bridging the gap between the leg of my desk and the wall. Or I can continue on with that new series I’ve been tossing around for awhile now. And I would, if I wasn’t fretting out those two literary babies I just sent out into the world while I molder here in Submission Limbo.
If you’ve submitted, whether query, proposal or full ms. to an editor or agent, then you know what I’m talking about. Because the result is you get to wait and wonder how it’ll ultimately turn out, while going half off your nut obsessing about it. From a query: will they ask for a proposal? From a proposal: will they ask for a full? And after they do, oh Christ, that’s when the real quivering commences, as your hopes get so high you start cruising the Tesla site and actually saying things like, “Hell yeah the Makers Mark’s on me!” And it doesn’t matter if you’ve sold before, and it doesn’t matter if you have an agent. Selling before only makes you feel worse, as an agent may get your foot in the door quicker, but it also makes it slam even faster. So what’s a writer to do?
Two things, actually: cultivate a nice, cushy mental block, and keep writing. Send something out, and then turn around and get to work on the next project. My agent and I have an agreement: she only contacts me if she has news. By news I mean, if it’s good. This approach doesn’t work for everyone, as I know several writers who prefer to track every submission. But the way I figure, if I wanted to do that, why would I need an agent? For me it’s better to focus on the big picture (read: the Tesla). Yet…
Look, there’s really no easy way around it. Waiting blows. But I’d never get any writing done if all I did was focus on what I’ve written and not on what I’ll write. So I’ll linger in Submission Limbo and bide my time a little longer, as running with the big dogs will beat sitting on the porch any day.