Patience and the Writing Life

Writers know all about waiting. ALL about it.

We write a story and submit it. We accumulate rejections. Finally, our agent sells a story and then another. We wait through the edits and the design and the production. A year.

We become marketers of that book (those books), but we’re supposed to work on the next…and then the next.

Lots of Books!
Lots of Books!

We query again and discover that this next doesn’t quite fit with the publisher’s plans. He wants a shorter book. Ah. Shorter. Right.

We smile. One must, of course. And we wonder what this means, this latest wall we’ve hit. So we hire an editor–you know, someone who doesn’t love us already. Someone other than our critique partners.

And while we wait to get the story back from Old Eagle Eyes, we ponder. And we read. (And, of course, we begin–or finish–another story. One does.)

But what exactly will we do when we get the manuscript back? We’ve been thinking. Watching other writers take the step from here to there, from traditional to (YIKES) self-published.

If we do find a home at a publishing house, we’ll have that year to wait. Oh, and wasn’t that the sweetest letter we received from a reader who wonders when she’ll have our next book? Oh, and there’s another one. Begging. Will they lose interest if they don’t see a new book from us for yet another year?

We cast about for the right answer. We look over our shoulder–and over the fence–and wonder what if?


Other writers do it. At a recent conference we heard from authors who first published traditionally and now…yikes, should we say it?…publish on their own. And. Make. Money. And. Find. Readers. And. Have. Fun.

Oh, my.

The riskiness of it. The courage it must take.

Publish on my own? Me? Moi-meme? Io? Yours truly?

Well, who knows? But I’m reading Catherine Ryan Howard’s hilarious Self-Printed, The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing. And I’m learning. I’ve been playing with a fantastic cover design program called KD Cover Kit, which uses PhotoShop Cloud. I’m relearning Scrivener.

What do you think? Would you read a self-published book? Would you read one of mine if I released it myself? Or would you shy away because there’s no publishing house with its name on the cover? Does self-publishing have the same stigma it used to?

Talk to me, please. I’d like to know.


Any Truly Satisfied Writers Out There?

Put on your author hat and help me out here, would you?

Your agent has submitted your story. Rejection letters accumulate even as contest judges continue to give that baby accolades and at least one win. (You want to hug those judges–or at least send them some Godiva truffles.) You rewrite for the zillionth time. One more tweak, or two or ten. Surely, another rewrite will do the trick.

And then–glory, hallelujah–the phone rings. It’s your agent. Your knees begin to buckle. Three editors have shown interest, but here’s one offering a contract. You sign on the dotted line and wander the house, beaming, because finally, finally . . . FINALLY . . . you know you’ll have a book in hand. Your book. In your hand. (And, you pray, in many others’ hands, though that bit seems even harder to imagine than finally achieving a contract.)


The editor at the publishing house has yet to send you his or her suggestions. Meanwhile, you’ve still got a day job editing for others and three manuscripts in various stages of readiness. You plod along, tweaking, editing, rewriting, editing, reading, reading, and then you wake up one morning, quaking because once that final edit goes out on that contracted book, you won’t be able to tweak it again. Your name will be irrevocably tied to that bound copy or that downloaded ebook.

I’m posing this question to published authors.

How do you finally decide that good enough is actually good enough? How do you finally say, “Okay, I will lay down that piece and move on to the next?” Is it when your contract deadline nears? When you’ve got to have the work back in the publisher’s hands–or someone’s going to be in trouble?

Because, I don’t know about you, but I’m always rewriting. I love to rewrite. And each of my stories has improved with age. So, where do I quit?

If you’ve held your book in your hands, are you satisfied? Do you wish you could have a do-over on any part of it? Or do you worry that one of your story layers will topple? Do you ever worry that one of those stones–a relationship or a conflict or a theme, or even merely a moment or scene–might have worked better if nestled with just a bit more care?

I’d really like to know.


Becalmed No Longer

Tadie Longworth wouldn’t stop poking at me. She was tired of her quiet, monochromatic life and all those breezeless days. I could sympathize. After all, we’re both sailors.

I finally have good news for her and her Beaufort friends. My agent, Terry Burns, forwarded a contract yesterday that will let Tadie kick up her heels and see a little color in her life.

I’ve tweaked my stories, slashed and dashed, set one aside to write another. From keyboard to floppy discs and later onto one hard drive after another, characters have lived with me and begged for breathing room. Some only told me a bit about themselves, a paragraph or two, a chapter, and so they waited. Or I waited, until their clamoring forced me to people their world and let them into mine.

Now, the first of my Beaufort stories has found a home. Tadie, who loves to sail to Cape Lookout in a sharpie much like mine, will find her way into print at a fitting home: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Can you imagine a more perfect name for a publisher of my sailing stories? Jilly must be doing a little happy dance, her bright orange pigtails bouncing as she peeks out from the companionway steps at the brilliant color of the sunrise. “Wake up, daddy! We’ve got things to do and people to meet!”

Becalmed is becalmed no longer. Keep a look out for more news of Tadie and the Beaufort crew as it becomes available.