“The waiting is the hardest part.” – Tom Petty
Glaciers. Turtles. Snails. Little old ladies on the highway. These are things that move at faster speeds than the traditional publishing business.
This is a fact that has taken me a while to get used to, but only because I’ve had no other choice than to do so. I did my research into the business side of being a writer when I first started querying Straightville, U.S.A. in 2011. I knew not to be in any hurry. Finding an agent could take forever, if it happened at all. Assuming I did clear that hurdle, selling the book could take another forever. And if I got that far, putting a book on shelves could take yet another forever, like up to a year at least.
What has surprised me most is how the book itself has evolved at such a slow pace. I started writing it in December 2008. I didn’t finish what I considered a sellable draft until 2011, at which point I sent it out for representation. But it continued to evolve from there as I got agent feedback (translation: rejections) and revised before sending out the next batch of query letters. I didn’t attract agent attention with a version until the summer of 2012. But even that wasn’t enough. Despite representation backing it, feedback on the book from editors was a little mixed. Basically, it went something like this:
“I really liked A, B, C, and D about Straightville, U.S.A. But E and F could use some work. So regrettably I’m going to pass.”
After amassing a little collection of such feedback throughout 2012 and 2013, I was armed with enough comments to do yet another revision of the manuscript. But by that point, I was knee-deep in writing Blades of Grass, so switching into Straightville mode had to wait. By the time I did get freed up to focus on revising Straightville, I was drained. A large part of me was ready to move on to something brand new. But then a way to revive the project hit me. So I’ve spent the past couple months doing yet another rewrite of this now five-year-old book.
So I’m happy to say that I sent the latest revision (I think it’s number 1 gazillion) to my agent for his review last weekend. And now I’m waiting again to see what he thinks, because this is the most drastic revision of them all. And this waiting is still the same invigorating, nerve-wracking, nail-biting feeling it has always been.
The point of this is to say that, if you’re a writer considering going the traditional route, be prepared to kick your shoes off and sit a spell while waiting to get your name on the cover of a book. It’s going to take a while. A long while. Probably. And your book will likely look nothing like it did the first time you typed The End.