Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Patience of a Writer

I'm sure that'll replace the original, at some point in the future.

Patience is a virtue, some say. It's also an absolute 'must have' for a writer.

And so is persistence.

I remember when I was just starting out - I thought, quite honestly, that it'd take me a few months to establish myself.

What a loon! A few months??

I found out the hard way that writers need patience. It takes years, decades even, to establish a niche, a market, a presence - call it anything you like. But it doesn’t come easily. And so many good writers give up far too soon.

That's why I admire guys like Peter Watt. He plugs away for hours on end, day in, day out, to meet publisher deadlines and self-set goals. He achieves his objectives, and his hard work pays off. Just last month he released a new instalment of his Duffy and Macintosh saga. If it’s even half as good as the previous novels in the series, it’ll be a cracker of a read. My copy's sitting on my lampstand, waiting patiently to be read. (See how he puts so much of himself into his work?)

And I can’t imagine anything more satisfying than having someone read my stories, interact with the characters I’ve created, or gaze about (in their minds, of course!) at the settings I’ve crafted - and the best way to achieve that goal is to be patient and persistent.

I know it’s easy to become despondent in this business. A few weeks ago I emailed an agent I’d queried with a cover and partial a few months ago. They’d come back quite quickly, asking to see the full ms, and I sent it the same day. Months passed with no word, so I to sent them a polite ‘ahem’ asking if they’d received my full submission. Yes they had, was the speedy reply - but it had been filed in the wrong place.

Am I annoyed?

Hell, no.

I know some people who’d be livid, but I understand these things happen. We’re all human. And, I swear, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve lost a file, I’d be writing this blog from the study of my gleaming white yacht in the Whitsundays.

Do I still want that agent to represent me? Of course I do - one wee mistake doesn't change the fact that this agency ticks all the right boxes as far as maximising my manuscript's potential is concerned.

But it does lead me back to the ‘patience & persistence’ thing.

So, don’t be put off by having to wait - few things happen quickly in publishing.

Don’t stop querying - you only have to get your work in front of the right reader once.

And don’t stop entering competitions.

Yes, that last one will keep me paddling along for a while :)