Voices from the Dark Side (Roxann)

While many people envision the writing life as glamorous, those of us who actually tackle the task of putting words on paper know the truth: It ain't pretty, honey! Any one of us could name half a dozen to a dozen or even more cons of writing. That doesn't mean there aren't pros, nor does it even mean that the cons outweigh the pros, but this month some of us are tackling the tougher aspects aka the realities. Or as Pat so aptly put it, the Dark Side.

Every job/career has its downside. Writing isn't immune to darkness.

You've worked hard on that manuscript, that baby that's kept you up at night, driven you crazy with voices in your head, and produced backaches from sitting at the computer too long. The i's are dotted and the t's are crossed. It's polished so well you need sunglasses just to glance at it. And then you summon the courage to call it "finished," sending it away and hoping for at least an encouraging word from an editor, an agent, or even a judge in a contest. And then you wait. And wait. Sometimes several months go by, and you still keep waiting. And you begin to wonder if A) It didn't reach its destination, or B) It's so bad, no one has the nerve to tell you. Neither is probably true, but that doesn't mean every possible scenario of what could go wrong doesn't enter your very active imagination.

Then there's life after The Call. Published authors, if honest, will point out that the term "deadline" incorporates a key word. DEAD. Because if you don't meet that deadline with the finished product, be it a proposal or a full manuscript, copyedits or galleys, you may be putting a nail in the coffin of your career. But it doesn't end there. Working with an editor doesn't guarantee that your latest baby will be swept into the arms of your editor the minute it arrives and admired for its beauty. More than likely it could be three months or more before you even hear a peep from the person who holds your destiny in her (or his) hands. That editor has other submissions to read. You are one among many, and your latest baby will wait in line. (See photo above for a real view of manuscripts waiting to be read.) Unless, of course, you're Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Dan Brown, John Grisham... But they went through their own rejections, testing periods, and waiting in line. But it doesn't end there. Your editor isn't the last one to approve your baby. There's often a senior editor and, in some cases, a group or panel of people that must be convinced your baby is good enough for the world to see.

It won't be long before you're back at the keyboard, hearing voices, back aching and fuzzy-brained from lack of sleep, working on that next baby.

And they say childbirth is difficult and obviously why it's called labor. But, like childbirth, the joy of that baby being brought into the world for you and others to see is worth it. :)


Joan Vincent said...

Many good points, Rox. The one most people have no clue about is the time lag between sending a query or a manuscript out and getting a reply of any kind. I put a SASE postcard asking them to send it when they receive it so I don't have to wonder if it got there. Then the WAIT begins. It can be days or months. I've found the email submissions get a much faster response.

Becky A said...

Hey Roxann,
I couldn't help but notice the quotation marks around the word finished so I have to ask; are they ever really finished? I always feel like I'm never quite done, just tired of going over and over the same story. Every time I read through I can find something to tweak and after about a gazillion times, I just stop. After they are published does the need to fix this or that finally go away?

Joan, I like your idea of the SASE postcard.

Roxann Delaney said...

Joan, you're right about both the SASE and about email submissions. I always sent SASEs. It does assure that the package has arrived at the destination. Now I send Priority Mail when mailing. It costs a little more, but I can track it online. Luckily the Harlequin editors in Toronto have gone digital, so nearly everything goes via email. Saves on paper, saves on postage for all of us, and is definitely faster!

Roxann Delaney said...

Becky, nothing ever seems finished to me. But a line has to be drawn at some point. It's always nicer to be able to put a work away for a while, before going back for a read-through, but time doesn't always allow that.

What can work really well is to have a critique partner or be a part of a critique group. We become so accustomed to our story that we don't catch the small things. Someone reading or hearing it new has a fresh eye/ear and can notice the things we don't. I've also heard that reading it aloud ourselves is a big help in catching things.

Starla Kaye said...

An excellent post about some of the realities of publishing with the bigger publishers. Years ago I attempted to go that route and two of my early books went all the way to the panel for approval to buy, and then were turned down. Actually, I was asked to omit the side characters of townspeople because one of the stories was so short. I didn't want to do that because they added depth and flavor to the stories. My choice, but I published those books in another manner and they have sold nicely enough to suit me. I've never submitted to the bigger houses again. I will never make a ton of money, but I don't like waiting so long on my writing projects to get a "no" and have to make the rounds again. Again, my choice.

I sell regularly to 3 different ebook publishers (they also do print books). The downside is that each of the editors (two in particular) constantly want new work from me. I have multiple projects that are contracted going at all times. A lot of pressure. the upside is I get to write almost everything that interests me, meaning a number of romance sub-genres. Another upside is now that I have out so many books that never go out of publication, my royalties are growing well.

Penny Rader said...

That waiting can seem to take f-o-r-e-v-e-r. A couple big pubs in NY have never responded to a couple queries/partials that I sent out a few years ago. Could've knocked me over when my query to The Wild Rose Press garnered a request for a partial, then a complete, then a sale...in just under a month. My timing must've been good (thanks, Starla!) because I've heard it's taking a bit longer now.

Penny Rader said...

Forgot to ask...Rox, whose office did you visit to see the shelves of manuscripts?