Thursday, March 29, 2012

Submitting a Novel: Proof That Time Stands Still

What do you call the period of time that spans the day you submit your novel to the moment you hear back--thumbs up or down--from an agent or editor?

Back in the day (pre-email), the time between mailing a query letter (or partial or full) and getting a response could be weeks... even months. I know this from years of calendar-watching experience. These days, however, thanks to email, you can get your rejection in minutes. This I also know from personal experience.

In either case, I believe that that period of time is known as "eternity."

It doesn't get any better after you've been published. In fact, there's the added pressure that accompanies a sophomore effort. As soon as you send off the manuscript you've obsessed over for two or three years, those inner demons start happily planting the fields of negativity and uncertainty that line your neural pathways:
  • "S/he hates it; that's why you haven't heard." 
  • "They're all gathered around your manuscript, pointing and laughing."
  • "Do you really think this is better than the first one?:
  • "That was your one shot, kid. This one is going to finally expose you as the fraud, the one-hit wanna-be writer."

The best advice I've received for handling this situation came on the day I learned Bill Warrington's Last Chance would be published. I learned it from Susan Petersen Kennedy, the president of Penguin Group. "Have you started on your next one?" she asked, soon after we'd met. I mumbled something about experimenting with a few different ideas. She shook her head. "No," she said. "You need to get started on the next one right away."

She was right, of course. I did. And a few weeks ago, I finished it. And I'm starting on the next one. Right here, smack dab in the middle of eternity.

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