Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Writer Time

My manuscript is under consideration at two publishers. It is the long awaited sequel to my debut novel.  They've had it for ten weeks.  In writer time that is 3.675 years (a mere pup).  My fellow writers understand the dark side of this business—the interminable waiting—but my non-writer friends don't have a clue.  They think the process works like it does in any other job.  Give someone a project and they do it within a reasonable amount of time.  What is reasonable?  In the real world, reasonable is measured in minutes, hours, days, weeks, months.  In the writer’s world, reasonable is measured in lunar cycles, crop seasons, presidential terms, epochs. If I tell a non-writer that I submitted a manuscript to an editor in the Jurassic Period and it was rejected in the Cretaceous Period, he would stare at me blankly. If I say the same thing to a writer friend, she would give me a been-there-done-that nod and ask, “So?  Who has it now?”

It’s not all bad, though.  This writing affliction has taught me a level of patience that a non-writers will never know.  Like the Cable Guy.  Most people express extreme agitation when the Cable Guy says, “Oh, I’ll get there in about ten days, somewhere between 8am and 6pm.”  For me, I just think about how long it took to hear back about the short story I submitted, and thank the Cable Guy for acting so promptly.  On the other hand, this distorted sense of time causes me problems at work.  When a co-worker gives me a project (yes, I have another job that provides food, shelter and a reason to go to the bank) and asks how soon can you get this project done?  I reflect on how long it took to hear back from the New Yorker about that cartoon caption I submitted, and I ask, “When is Halley’s Comet scheduled to pass by Earth?”  I’ve been written up a few times, but the expressions I get are priceless.

I think this submit-and-wait-for-like-ever is the reason why I write science fiction.  It gives me the most hope-bang for my buck.  By hope, I'm talking cryogenic freezing and time travel.  It would work something like this:  I submit a query letter, step into my trusty CF-5200 cryogenic freezer, set it for five lunar cycles, then thaw out just in time to read the email reply. If the book proposal sparks a request for the complete manuscript--then hooray, that calls for the time machine.  I would step in, set the dial for, oh—three presidential terms (plus one alfalfa season just to be safe)—then jump out and head for the corner bookstore (assuming it still exists) confident that enough time elapsed to cover acceptance, revisions, more revisions, copy edits, more copy edits, galleys, post-production snafus and publication.  If my novel isn’t on the shelf that could mean a) that a president was assassinated, b) I should've gone with soybeans, or c) that my editor left for another job and I wasn’t around to catch the tweet. 

I also know this works both ways.  Editors, overwhelmed with Olympus-sized stacks (or terabytes) of manuscripts, are frustrated with creatively blocked writers that demand unreasonable units of time to finish the final edits, or the sequel, or the stand-alone that sounded so good back when it was proposed, but that was like, six months ago, when it didn't smell like day-old fish and still glowed with the promise of crossover sales, foreign rights, and franchise movie deals.

What is the answer to this writing affliction?  I use the two “P” words:  patience and persistence.  Since we can't stop, and time never does, we may as well send stuff in.  I heard that a human can live three weeks without food, three days without water, and three minutes without hope (writers weren't factored into that data set).  So here's what I do.  I keep writing, keep submitting, and keep hoping that when someone finally creates an app that turns a smart phone into a time machine, I've sold enough books to afford it.


Sechin Tower said...

This made me laugh... and it also made me want to cry a little. So true! So true!

Jordan Dane said...

God, this is so true. Hurry up and wait time. Thanks for the chuckle, buddy.