Nathan Bransford, Author

Monday, September 15, 2008

Don't Get Caught Up in the Rush

Anyone who has had even a passing acquaintance with the publishing industry knows one inescapable fact: things don't move quickly.

Part of this institutional/traditional, part of this just inevitable due to the fact that it takes a long time to read a book, and in order for a book to be published a whole lot of people have to read it along the way.

But for an aspiring author, there is an even greater danger than getting trapped in the vortex of publishing time. And that danger is impatience.

Impatience is perhaps the single most significant obstacle you will face on the path to publication, and it can pollute your experience in a vast variety of ways. It sneaks in, grows, and then injects its tentacles and poisons you with a toxic brew of frustration and short-sightedness. It feels no pain and can't be reasoned with.

Impatience sits on your shoulder and messes with you at every stage of the publishing process.

Writing: "You're totally finished!"
Revising: "Who needs revisions, it's perfect!"
Research: "I'll just call an agent to ask how to write a query letter."
Querying: "E-mail blast!!!!!!!"
Following up: "Two weeks to read a partial??? Time for an angry e-mail!"

But perhaps the most dangerous period where impatience can affect your judgment comes when you are offered representation and are trying to decide on a course of action.

By the time an author is offered representation, chances are they've been working at it for years and have been dreaming about it for longer. Every cell in their body will be shouting, "Take it! Take it!!!"

But here's the flip side. I have read submissions from authors who had told me they had an offer of representation on the table. I read the work, kept my own impatient instincts in check, and let them know that while I saw a great deal to like in the material, I didn't think the work was ready, and suggested the outlines of some revisions that I hoped they would work with me on. In each of these instances the authors agreed with my revisions, but when faced with an offer of representation from an agent who wanted to submit immediately, they went with the other agent. I wished them the best.

But now twice in the past month authors have come back to me after an unsuccessful submission with the unrevised manuscript, wishing they had taken the time to revise. But at that point I can't really help them -- it's already been seen at the major houses.

Now, who knows what would have happened had I helped them revise -- I'm not trying to say I would have necessarily sold these books had they worked with me, nor do I necessarily blame them for taking the bird in the hand. At the same time, these authors ended up regretting their impatience. Their gut was telling them to take the time to revise, but impatience overruled.

Successful published authors tend to have the patience of saints when it comes to writing and revising -- they've learned that there is no greater danger than putting something out before it's ready.


Margaret Yang said...

This is where beta readers come in handy too. Even Stephen King has five or six people read his manuscripts before he sends them to his editor. Yes, it takes longer and geez, if anyone could send his stuff directly to an editor it would be SK. But he takes that extra step. If Stephen King doesn't skip that step, then I won't either. I am lucky to have great betas.

Elyssa Papa said...

I'm lucky, too to have great beta readers. And great CPs.

It is hard to resist the offer, and I honestly don't know what I would do. I hope I would do the right thing and listen to what my gut was telling me. It's so hard, like choosing between LC and Heidi. The agony!

All joking aside, great blog and something my friend and I were talking about today.

Dan said...

Chapter 6 of my book, EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT PUBLISHING I LEARNED FROM SPORTS, perfectly highlights this point.

In an NBA game - one doesn't want to rush his shot unless he wants to develop a reputation as a 'me-first' player (which will end up with him on the bench - or an embarrassing exit from International Competition a la Team USA).

If the team passes the ball around a little, waits for the open look, the odds of 'SWISH' go up dramatically.

But even Kobe misses the occasional gimme despite all his practice.

Luc2 said...

Hah! you're a King's fan. Of course you know patience.

It's hard, though, every once in a while. In this world of instant gratification, it's cruel being stuck with a passion that moves like Brad Miller on the fast break.

Michelle Moran said...

I can say from personal experience that the bird in that hand can end up crapping on your fingers (which is rather inconvenient when you need to type).

When I was really young, I signed with a reputable agent who had never represented historical fiction. While that in itself shouldn't necessarily have been a warning (agents have to start somewhere when they're looking at repping a new genre), I never took the time to talk with the agent's other clients or even ask him important questions about our future together. After all, I had been querying for several years and at last, this seemed to be my moment! Two years later, however, I found myself bitterly regretting that decision and we parted ways.

Impatience can be destructive to your career not only when it comes time to decide whether or not to revise, but when it comes time to decide whether the agent who has made an offer really is the right agent for you. Because birds in the hand can sometimes be messy affairs.

Cam said...

Yippee! For once I'm feeling smart. I halted my query process three months ago so I could revise a project. Two agents had taken the time to suggest the project wasn't ready and gave ideas on revisions (another agent was intrigued and two others passed). I chose to rethink and revise based on gut feelings and on the fact that obviously the agents know the biz more than I do. This is taking immense amounts of intestinal fortitude ... ;-)

David Mosley said...

As an unpublished (ever) author (am I allowed to use that term if I've never been published?) I understand this feeling of impatience. There's an even earlier step, however, the impatience before the writing is done that says, oh just give up, it'll never get published anyway. I'm afraid that happens all too many times along with the impatience of being done, not finding an agent or publisher and giving up. There is always a temptation to just give up when you're first getting started. What advice would you give to aspiring authors who feel the impatience telling them to just give up?

Dan said...

David, there's an old Japanese proverb you might find helpful:

Fall down seven times, stand up eight.

No one makes it on sheer talent alone. It's all perspiration.

Ulysses said...

So I need to learn patience?
Sure... how long is that going to take? Do they have an accelerated course? 8)

Josephine Damian said...

I believe in "kill your darlings" (and not let somebody else do the dirty work) and developing what Hemingway called the "built-in shock-proof shit detector."

IMO, it's the writer's job to self-edit; depending on betas is a mistake - too many cooks in the broth - too many opinions that just make your head spin.

Stephen King sure needs some new betas cause I stopped reading him ages ago.

And look at Stephanie Myers - one of her betas posted her WIP to the web and killed the whole deal.

For so many reasons, writers are much better off developing the self-edit skill.

Jeanie W said...

I have become reconciled to the slow pace of the publishing industry. I'm not thrilled about it, but I want my work to shine once it's out there and I'll put in all the time necessary to make that happen. It's worth it.

Unfortunately, I have a number of non-writer friends and relatives who don't get it. They act like they think I'm not trying hard enough. They don't understand why I'm revising again and not just flooding the world with queries until I get an offer. It takes a lot of energy to counter or deflect their commentary.

But they're not the one whose name goes on the work. They're not the one attending conferences. They're not the one receiving manuscript critiques from professionals. They're not the one reading Nathan's blog. Their only frame of reference for comparison is looking for a job. It's not the same.

Margaret Yang said...

Josephine, I wish to respectfully disagree about beta readers. Yes, a writer should polish that manuscript to the best of her ability and then polish it again before betas see it. I don't let my betas see my rough drafts. But there comes a time when I need a second opinion, and I'd rather fall flat on my face with my betas than with my agent. He can be the third opinion.

L-Plate Author said...

Nathan, that's a really timely post for me. After working with an agent for two and a half years and then parting company because she wasn't right for me (but she was the first one who showed an interest), I am now working with someone else and she is looking at the full now. So patience is the virtue as I wait for her to get back to me.

I've been at it for nine years now so a little longer won't hurt me.

Great post!

Adaora A. said...

You've got to have a second and third hand looking through your stuff before you deem it ready to go out into the world. Sending out a query for a work which hasn't been propery beta'd I think can be likened to going outside without properly grooming yourself. It's dirty, it's just rolled out of bed, it's breath smells, it's just not right. It's gotta be cleaned and organized before you can start that process. I completely agree with this. Although, I will confess that the wait can be completely excruciating.

Andrea said...

I needed this post today. I'm completely new to the field, "finished" with my novel and now stuck in that research time period where I'm trying to figure out how in the heck a writer finds an audience. Thanks for the boost. Appreciated.

And now...back to work on constructing a query.

7-iron said...

Great advice, Nathan. Thanks.

My professors have also stressed that you only get one chance at a first impression.

This is tough for me, though. I'm a revisionist through and through. I'm on my third draft of a novel. In my mind, it will NEVER be finished.

Margaret, who do you use for "betas"? professionals, friends, writing group members? thanks.

Marilyn Peake said...

Ahhh, patience. That does seem necessary in order to keep going as a writer. A few years ago, I accepted representation from an agency very enthusiastic about two novels I had written (including one that’s now published by a small press publisher). This agency was highly recommended by Writer’s Digest. However, it turned out the agency had a reputation for mailing so many manuscripts to publishers without ever contacting them personally, the manuscripts were just being tossed into garbage cans at the publishers’ offices without being read. By the time the agency was removed from the Writer’s Digest recommended list and warnings about them were posted on the Internet, my contracts with them had expired, but it was a very tough lesson in choosing agents carefully.

I think it’s difficult for most writers to turn down offers of representation because it’s very possible that no other offer will ever come along. Only recently, I finally stopped rushing things. After holding onto a short story I wrote and carefully researching markets, I now have a major fiction magazine seriously considering publishing it. I’ve also had a couple major literary agencies express interest in my next novel, one after I was recommended by one of their authors. It takes extreme patience to slow down and pound out the best possible stories we’re capable of writing, and doing that over and over again with no guarantee of representation or publication...ever.

I’ve heard that years ago literary agents used to take promising writers under their wing and help them develop both their talent and careers whether or not their first book was a best-seller. It seems very different today. I’ve discovered on the Internet several best-selling, famous authors from earlier decades whose new and out-of-print books are now being published by small press publishers. I wondered what your opinion might be about this.

Elyssa Papa said...

7-iron, I'm not Margaret. But I hope you won't mind me answering the question in regards to myself. My betas consist of writers---some still querying while others have landed an agent and deal---that write in the same genre as I do. Luckily for me, most of my beta readers I met online through a board I belong to and then we grouped together for a writing competition, etc.

Jeanie W said...

I use one of my cousins as a beta reader. She's good at catching grammatical errors and spotting unclear passages. She's also supportive and encouraging. I love that. But there are areas where our opinions differ. I feel no obligation to follow her advice.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, great timing, as usual, for what's going on in my (im)patient mind. A wonderful agent wants to see my ms again (the revised version), but only exclusively. He told me to be back in touch when it's free. I've sent a polite reminder to one who's had it over 3 months, and actually got a nice hello from someone who's had it for 2. At what point, if ever, should I politely tell them that someone wants it exclusively (four months?), that I'd love to work with them, but if not interested, to please let me know. What's your take on this?

Margaret Yang said...

Maybe Nathan needs to do a "you tell me," where do you find beta readers?

Personally, mine are two from my writer's group, and one from college and two that I met at writer's conferences. Conferences are good places to meet people who write in your genre. It's also trial and error. There are some whom I asked once and never again. None are my family members or my closest friends. That wouldn't work for me at all.

Also, we trade manuscripts, but it isn't a perfect one-to-one relationship. It's more about who has work ready and who has time to read and critique an entire novel.

superwench83 said...

I, too, would like to respectfully disagree with Josephine, and I think Margaret expressed the reasons why quite well. An author is too close to his work to view it objectively and catch all the things that need to be fixed. I understand what you're saying about the danger of relying too strongly on beta readers, but I think part of being a good writer is having the patience and open-mindedness to see what others have to say about your writing, evaluate their comments as objectively as possible, and then chose for yourself whether or not to follow their advice. Just as an author shouldn't send an agent her manuscript until it's as perfect as she can make it, I usually don't send anything to my beta readers until it's the best it can be. And having those fresh eyes then helps me identify ways in which the novel isn't, in fact, perfect. It's an indespensable part of the process for me.

Nathan Bransford said...


That's a tough question. I'd say that when you next follow up with the agent(s) who have it, let them know that you would appreciate a quick response as you have another agent who would like to consider exclusively. Unfortunately you can't force them to give you a quick answer, but it might speed things up a bit.

Corked Wine and Cigarettes said...

Having patience is a virtue everyone struggles to aspire to in this business. I'd like to throw in a little ad-on to the piece.

Being impatient (especially for a new author) can lead to self-doubt. Self-doubt can cripple an author. Everyone's felt it - that "I think my agent has lost that loving feeling for me" moment - especially during the beginning of the author-agent relationship.

Take a step back. Breath. Realise the agent chose you, and find something to occupy your time. Preferably, write something. You are after all, a writer. Be patient with your agent. Agents are very, very busy. And they still love you.

But having self-doubt because you haven't heard from your agent(or publisher) in a week or two will only lead to you doing something 1) stupid, 2) regrettable, or 3) just plain unhelpful to furthering your career.

Patience, padawan.

DCS said...

I'm an unpublished rookie. The book is now nine months post conception and as much as I would like to get going with the query process and send out partials, I don't think it's ready. People reading chapters are my friends and colleagues, not professionals. Of course they think it's great, but I need unvarnished criticism from time to time. The longer it takes, the easier it is for me to look objectively at the work and get out the pruning shears. This was made evident when I submitted my opening hook to Ray Rhames on his Flogging the Quill website. I didn't like the fact that Ray and two thirds of the commenters weren't hooked by my prose. But dammit, when I made the changes he suggested and read it, I could see he was right.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much, Nathan. That's tentatively what I was planning to do next month. Really apreciate your blog and your instant advice!

Kylie said...


If offered representation and another agent like yourself suggests some specific re-writes, how would the writer go about telling the other agent they were re-writing it? Should they just decline that representation for the "Maybe, let's rewrite and see" deal, or should they show that agent offering immediate representation the rewrites, too???

Michelle said...

Here's a silly question:
Would you say a writer querying with an MFA gets priority attention compared to one who does not?

Gyspsy K said...

Impatience is a huge pitfall. Thankfully my asipring authoress self has no offers and there fore LOADS of time to revise ( or you know, FINISH) my work. Wonderful blog, I enjoy very much. The literacy is refreshing!

Gypsy K

Wesley Allison said...

One more thing to consider on the subject of beta readers. They can be helpful with revision or not, based upon their own writing skill. They are very helpful though with straight editing. The more you read your own writing, the more you pass over typos, unintentional homophones and other erros, simply because you know the material so well, you are not reading every word. Beta readers can really help you find those and fix them.

This was a great topic for all of us who have sent out queries.

Kristan said...

Good post, good comments. I have to say, I agreed completely with jeanie w's first comment about people accusing you (me) of not moving quickly enough, of being an over-perfectionist, of hiding behind the slowness of the process as an excuse for never succeeding. Now, at 22, I'm not too concerned about those accusations, but I can see how they might contribute to someone taking the first opportunity they get.

AND I can see why the accusations come. I think there ARE probably a lot of people who do just that.

So those of us who are serious just have to learn to brush it off, I suppose, because someday we will be vindicated. And those who aren't serious... well, they're not serious, are they? :P

Caleb Mannan said...

Great post on readers/impatience.
My old Jr. High English teacher used to say: 'Dont put your hard hat on. I am giving you constructive criticism.'
This came in handy when she was critiquing a highly personal action story that involved a WW2 special ops soldier downed behind enemy lines, chased by Nazis, attack dogs, and a checkered past.
As for impatience:
Humility is the key to patience, and professionalism( I think). Your work is not the best thing since sliced bread. The sooner you learn that, the more open you are to taking advice on revisions, ect.

Put that hard hat away. I was giving you constructive criticism.

ORION said...

I really notice this when writers ask me for advice and I give it to them- Let your work sit and then start something else.
And take your time...
Recently one of them decided that the process was too slow and opted to skip the revision process and self publish.
Two things are critical in publishing IMHO:
Perseverance and Patience

Ken said...

So, I go into my head and make up a bunch of stuff, and when I finish my third revision and my family doesn't murder me, maybe it's a polished turd, and maybe it's sheer brilliance, or something in between. But I like it enough to try.

I carefully select the best agent for me and I catch lightning in my bare hands: he requests a full! Then, here he comes, a person who reads hundreds of manuscripts every hour, and never sleeps, and he selects amongst those manuscripts for the microscopic few that meet current market interests, and makes deals happen despite all the monkey hate out there, and for chrissake actually makes a living doing that. And this person shares with me some insights about revision strategies.

I ask myself: Self, do I know more than this professional agent about the market and what could sell the fastest, best, and pray to the saints: the most? Oi! If I had HIS talent I'd be AN AGENT.

But maybe I just don't like his tone, so I move on....

Ruthie In The Sky said...

"Beta Readers"?? Oh, don't worry, literature-to-loot geniuses, I'm not in a big rush to do anything. Least of all, to adopt such a stone cold books-to-bucks attitude that I refer to people in CATEGORIES! It just amazes me how writers depend on a "puh-rop-er" formula these days to get their precious books sold.
It makes me wonder how anything that was published 100 years ago ever got anybody!
But then...what do I know?
I hitchhike for a living.

Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

My problem is that I never really think the MS is finished.

Heather said...

Well-timed post. I'm currently struggling with revisions taking much longer than hoped. It's so tempting to rush ahead sometimes. Thank you for the reminder!

Chris said...

I have a quote in my classroom that reads, "Good writing is rewriting. I am positive of this," from Roald Dahl, children's author.

As we all know dissecting our precious characters, settings, and plots can make us as squeamish as that frog in high school biology class (I made my lab partner do that while I agreed to write the lab report. A fair arrangement, I think). Rewriting takes patience, but it so pays off in the end.

If you haven't already, buy a copy of Renni Browne and Dave King's SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS if you write novels. It will rock your world and give you something to do while you're trying so desperately to be patient.


Chatty Kelly said...

I'm discovering that in life I should use the phrase "Let me sleep on it" for just about everything! Especially submitting stuff.

Everyone agrees, except Meatloaf of course. (baby, baby, let me sleep on it).

Bethanne said...

Sometimes, reading your blog is like hearing a voice...from way up the PA system. I know too, too, too many writers who are subbing like mad...

Maybe it's partly cold feet that instigates this unusual occurence of patience in myself. :D But, I do have a great CP and a yahoogroup to help me see the crap amidst all the rich, dark giving soil. *snort*

Scott said...

What's the quote, "Creative endeavors are never finished, only abandoned"? Something like that.

Personally, I have the other problem. I'm done when I'm done. I know what I'm setting out to achieve to a large enough degree to know when mission is accomplished. Revisions are to get the sentences and paragraphs to flow better and to get rid of stupid mistakes.

I also like to go against the grain; it's what gets me excited about writing. If the genre zigs, I like to find a way to zag. I'm hopeless in this regard. So when I query, I expect absolutely nothing and so far I've not been disappointed. :D

Truth is I get lots of positive feedback, but I don't scream "marketable". Not yet, anyway.

In fact, I'm comfortable with the knowledge that I may never land that fish, and yet, I also know that if I do it will be a dream catch.

I will write until it's time to discover "the big secret". And deep down inside I feel that someday someone will get what I'm on about and we can have some fun together. But impatience is just not a problem.

Hmm...maybe I'm afraid of success.

It has been suggested. :)

ChrisEldin said...

LOL at email blast!

lotusloq said...

Great post! It reminds us all what we are striving for (at least the writers amongst us): the right person to be our agent not just the first person who likes our work.

I worry that impatience may doom me to working with someone who will not really care that my novel be the best it can be just because they like it and flatter me with their approval.

Fear, insignificance, rejection, inexperience, etc., all work against us in this business. I hope I will have the strength to step back, take a deep breath, and think clearly if and when an offer ever comes to make sure that it is the right way to go.

I've read where Orson Scott Card said that once you get an offer you have to fight the urge to accept immediately. He said you should step back and take a couple weeks making sure that it is the right fit before you sign on with an agent.

As for beta readers, I think they're great and each person has to go with what works for them. I have a slew of nieces (and by slew, I mean a veritable cornucopia: 19--ages 10-27). I know, I know, family and all that jazz. But it works for me. Some of them are gentle readers (which is nice to start with), some of them are downright ruthless (better for later when getting closer to submission), but since YA girls are my target audience that's who I have read for me and of course my daughters.

rholsen2 said...

If some kindly agent suggested revisions I think that I would only feel gratitude. I suppose I always know my work can be made better, but sometimes I'm just too weary of it to go back one more time on my own. If someone whose judgment I trusted gave me specific suggestions, I think impatience would simply not enter into the equation.

Deborah Blake said...

I like to say, "Patience is a virtue. It's the only one I have left--so I might as well use it."

I write nonfiction (published) and fiction (not yet published). And I have an agent who really wants to rep the NF, but isn't right for the fiction. I've been struggling with the "bird in the hand" issue...but I think I'll hold out for the agent who wants them both. Patience, patience, patience. Sigh.

Maris Bosquet said...

As a script supervisor for an indie film company, I saw many novice scriptwriters pull their work because they didn't understand not only the collaborative nature of film writing, but the simple fact that nobody turns the first version of a screenplay into a movie.

Novice screenwriters can watch DVD extras and listen to DVD commentaries to see how the industry works. But most writers of books have to learn on their own, largely by reading blogs by authors or industry professionals like Nathan.

Aside from that, we definitely need all the fresh eyes and minds we can get to catch the holes, inconsistencies, oddities, typos and other literary miscreants that sabotage our WIPs.

Which reminds me: I really have got to get cracking with Writing on Coattails. Darn, but I flopped onto a grand error of fact...

sally apokedak said...

What a great post.


GeekyQuill said...

Dumb question, but is a beta reader friend/family, or somebody you pay?

I'm totally completely new to the writingwiththeintenttopublish world.

Laura D said...

Josephine has it totally right on this one. Shakespear would never have been able to create the word assassination if his stuff had been edited to the point of uselessness. I wondered why Stephen King had lost his edge in my opinion. Now I know!

Belletristic Bloggette said...

Hi Nathan,
I'm a newbie. :) Great post, but what happened to the pop quiz on Monday? I was all studied up.

"Meanwhile, agent (and former book publicist) Colleen Lindsay over at Fine Print has been blogging up a storm with a series of fantastic posts on book publicity. She has posted on the different publicity/marketing departments, how to work with your publicist and a publicity timeline, the economics behind galleys, and some additional Q&As. Must read, people. Pop quiz on Monday."

The Crystal Faerie said...

This is cool. Personally, I would rather tell my impatience to shut the hell up and get the revisions done so I can submit my top job to whomever else I end up being able to submit to.
And I agree with Madame Yang. If Stephen King does it, why shouldn't I? I'm certianly not better than he is!
Thanks, Mr. Bransford, for the advice, though. It helps to know that someone else thinks being patient is good.

Catherine said...

I am new to your blog, but I feel like I just stumbled across a wonderful gem! Thanks for the great advice!

Lady Glamis said...

After 12 years of learning how to write. . . I've learned a little patience. Now that I've finished my first novel, I'm being even more patient and letting 24 people read it to let me know what they feel could be better. And I've done that three times through three drafts . . .

Just want to make sure it's the best I can do at the moment before I query.

Personally, I would greatly appreciate an agent telling me that my work could be better. Sure wouldn't want my first published work to be an embarrassing display.

I would count the opportunity to revise as a chance to grow as a writer - because criticism itself is a lesson in elegant patience.

Amalia said...

Thanks for a well done blog, Nathan. Having had a few rejection slips for my MS submissions, I think I sensed in your 9/12 blog post some good pointers... I shall continue to submit and see where it leads me.

Dwacon® said...

I polish and polish and re-write like crazy... and then submit to peer review before final polish and... well, you know.

Mrs. Tomacina Wuthrich said...

I liked the sage advice on your blog. I have a son who is an aspiring author and I sent him the link to your blog. His name is Crystin Wuthrich. Thank you.

Whirlochre said...

Why has it taken you so long to write this post? Why has it?

But, hey — that's novel writing for you. Procrastination at the start, impatience at the end, steroid injections in the middle.

J.E. said...

Patience is good but sometimes the publishing companies and editors stretch the friendship. I hade a picture book text with a publisher (600 words) They stated to allow six months for consideration. I gave then ten before I queried (no rejection is good news) Their reply was "We like the story and would like you to make a few changes for us..." Brilliant. Six months later and still no news. After another query and another month I received a very brief "Not for us rejection"

This publishing company does not accept simultaneous submissions so my book has been out of action for over 18 months with nothing to show for it.

There is Rush but there are editors who take advantage of the patience rule.


Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

j.e. -

Your story is quite scary - sorry you got the reject at the end of it all.

18 months out of commission on a picture book - painful.

I haven't heard back on a picture book text that I sent out (ahem, that perhaps I flatter myself calling it a picture book), but I thought it was just one of those "if you don't hear from us by X amount of time, we're not interested" - ??

From what I see in the news, the subject of my picture book is only going to get "more topic-er and topical" all the time...but instead of sending it out more, I've been doing artwork for it (watercolors).

I heard illustrator/writer combos are more desirable than just text alone...

Anuj said...

Wow !! an incredibly important blogger for an aspiring writer like me . Your post is nice too !!

Loren Eaton said...

"E-mail blast" -- two of the most-dreaded words in the English language.

Sophie said...

I am naively surprised by how much stress self-editing my first novel is causing me. It began as fun, and was as I saw my word count increase and the characters develop. Now its much less enjoyable. I'm expecting another baby soon and life is going to be about that for a while afterwards. What if I never have anything to show for the time I've invested over the last year? How soon will I get another opportunity to concentrate on writing ? How long can I expect people around me to put up with me?
It is good to know I'm not alone.
Strangely, I've found watching TV profiles of crime writers an antidote to discouragement and impatience to be finished. (Its not my genre but there's a series on British TV at the moment.)

ML said...

I actually don't mind how slow the industry moves. And I am a VERY impatient person. But I like the fact that waiting to hear from agents regarding your first novel while you're writing your second can: a. Raise your anger levels, thus motivating you to prove that you CAN write a good novel; and b. Make you nervous and anxious enough to use your time wisely instead of "wasting" it reading blogs.

Clearly I need more rejections! :)

david santos said...

Great. Congratulations!!!

7-iron said...

Thanks to everyone for the great feedback on beta readers. (There's a great community here.)

For me, it's been professors and fellow workshop members. While I value their opinions (a lot), they read as writers... naturally. I need someone who just reads, and reads a lot. I have family friends in mind, but it's a scary thought, handing it over to someone who knows you personally.

Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...

yeah. it's like that with screenwriters, too. people want you to read their barely-written scripts and it's all shitty and they demand opinions. But like... writing requires patience, and patience is a virtue.

Lauri Shaw said...

This is valuable advice.

The other side of the coin, though, is that it's hard for a writer to know when an agent or editor has dropped the ball because they're frightfully busy and they need a "nudge" - or if they've decided they're no longer interested and they can't be bothered to tell you.

Yes, that's unprofessional, but unfortunately it does happen, sometimes even with the most reputable agents and editors.

Having enough people blow us off at any stage in the game can make us think we're getting that treatment all the time, even when someone's just honestly busy.

I'd never fly off the handle at somebody, but I can certainly understand the frustration that drives these reactions.

The right amount of patience probably comes with experience. When you've already been down the road once or twice, it's easier to gauge what's really going on.

My Semblance of Sanity said...

Alright, I know how busy you are and most likely will be reading MSs instead of personally emailing your commenters and that is totally cool...but I just have to get this question out there and if you have a sec, great. If not, I will sit in turmoil a bit longer. (*smiles)

I have spent the last 3 years attending SCBWI conferences, participating in critique groups, polishing, editing (and trashing in some cases) and submitting many picture book manuscripts. Although I have had some interest, that is where it stopped...just an interest but no intent.

To bide the time (I am sorry this is getting so long but I am a writer, what do you expect?) and to get paid, I have spent those years freelancing for regional parenting magazines, parenting websites, a humor Mommy blog and even scored my own humor/inspirational column in a REAL newspaper.

Like one of those "forest for the trees" analogies, today it hit me...while receiving one of many calls I get telling me about how my latest column had the in stitches and made them think all at the same time, I peeked through my "fan mail" folder and it dawned on me... "I think I am trying to break into the wrong genre."

My question:
Can I base the decision to switch gears on an large internet following, fan mail and phone calls?

I just don't want to spend the next 3 years collecting rejections in just one more genre! (Speaking of impatience!)

Thanks for reading. Hope you will respond.

Kwizat Hazerat said...


I've been patiently getting a query just right for you, for the last week or so.

However when I try and email you at I keep getting bounce backs, has your email been changed or is it just down?

Please advise

Nathan Bransford said...


I've been getting e-mail, so it's not down. We have filters in place for the size of the e-mail as well as SPAM, so make sure you're not sending an attachment, and you might try it without links. If that fails, you might try and use a standard e-mail account like Gmail.

Julie Weathers said...

Patience is about as required as plot.

Personally, if someone I respected made some suggestions, and I agreed with them, I would put everything on hold right there and make the revisions. I have one shot at making a good first impression with an editor.

I also have one shot at making a good first impression with an agent. That's why my wip is going through a pretty tough crit group. I can look at the manuscript until I'm sick of it and still see what I think is there. Fresh eyes see what is actually there.

As for the end of the end of publishing, I view it much the same as complaints about the younger generation. I once read a man's thoughts about the younger generation and thought how accurate he was in many respects. Then the author quoted the reference source. It was written by a Roman in something b.c.

Books will never die. We just need to evolve with the times.

Good post, Nathan.

Scott said...

This rates up there with some of the best advice. My #1 best advice I ever received - write and then step away, breathe, read a book, do something. My personal style: write the rough draft, put it aside for a couple of weeks, do a read through, make revisions, step away, give it a couple a weeks . . . well, hopefully I painted a clear enough picture. This works for me. I normally do at least five drafts before I even consider writing the dreaded query letter. There's nothing I hate more than finding an error in published writing, e.g. 'their' instead of 'there'. The biggest error I ever found was a minor character's name. Within the first 30 pages of the book, a very minor character was named 'Steve' (not the real name). Fast forward to the last 30 pages of the book and the character was suddenly called 'Bob' (again, not real name). Holy Cow, Batman!! The flow of the reading came to an abrupt halt as I flipped back to the front of the book and scoured the pages for the character's name. Patience is definitely the name of the game in the writing process. Thanks.

Bill said...

Great post, Nathan, and thanks. It has fostered a number of replies regarding "beta readers," a new term to me but a process that also requires some patience. In addition to my wife, a great first reader, I try to find people who have some connection or skill in the category I'm writing if I want serious input.

But equally, I saw an item recently regarding a theatrical director working on a musical. It was said that such a director ought to be 100 percent willing to listen to any and all ideas -- and equally, fully ready to reject 80 percent of them.

I think there's a corollary for writers using beta readers.

My experience hasn't been quite that high, more like rejecting 60 percent of the input received from beta readers (as you point out, you might want to go higher than that when receiving professional advice!). But at that point, it is still the writer's vision and the writer should hold onto it. And yet, sometimes those outside ideas can really help with focus, accuracy, material you forgot to explain ...


Amber said...

Wow. Talk about great timing. I finished my latest rev. and the MS is out to some friends and fellow writers. I am SO impatient - I want them to call me - yesterday - tell me it's perfect and let me start querying.

Unfortunately, at the back of my head is the little voice making fun of me and telling me their all going to think it's crap.

I'm hoping it's somewhere in the middle :)

Anonymous said...

" greater danger than putting something out before it's ready."

Damn you and your well-reasoned logic!

Abi said...

Thanks for the incredibly awesome article on impatience. I actually have a couple of friends going through this right now. One who is under submission and painfully waiting responses (hopefully good), and the other who promised herself she'd take the first offer that came knocking and is now knocking herself in the head a couple of months short of a year because nothing has been done.

It is hard to have patience and wait when your baby's life is at stake. But hey, nobody ever said being a parent was easy!

botoks kremi said...

Their gut was telling them to take the time to revise, but impatience overruled.

kilo vermek said...

But at that point I can't really help them -- it's already been seen at the major houses.

ali said...

thanks for the great post :) it made me slow down and think about everything i'm doing. I will take the extra time and really make sure I'm not rushing any of the steps.

Çatlak giderici said...

I did some beta reading in the past actually. It helps the author and the publisher. Good writing.

Anonymous said...

I really liked the post. I'm a wannabe 12-yr-old YA fiction novel author whose MS is ages post-completion. I don't think that the idea on 'beta-readers' is wrong, but I don't really like the idea of it myself, since if one wanted their novel to suit everyone, such a nvoel would cease to exist completely since everyone has a different view of the world!
Still, I guess it's just another 'to each their own' situation, but Thanks A LOT for the advice!
-Skar Cullen(pseudonym)

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