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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Fatal Flaw: Impatience

Yesterday I posted about my evolution. I'm shedding layers of habit and fear to become a better writer. Sadly, this does not mark the end point of my evolution. I have more than one bad habit to shed.

My second, arguably my worst, issue when writing is impatience.

I want to be done NOW! I want it perfect NOW! I want a response NOW! I want feedback NOW NOW NOW!

If you've spent any time around publishing you know that isn't how this business works. Writing is a lengthy process. Even if all you want to do is pin a story down on paper it takes time. Editing takes more time. Going past that point, searching for a way to get your story in the hands of millions of faceless readers, is even harder.

The query process is not quick. Once an agent is secured the agent has to sell the novel. This can take years. It often involves rounds of editing, critiques, and more editing. After the novel is sold you are still facing a year or more of editing, deciding, marketing, and waiting. Ever waiting.

I know this. I've done my research. I've advised patience to others. But I don't practice what I preach.

Consider this my confession and my attempt to turn over a new leaf.

With Twisted Metal I tried something new. Yes, after this first chapter was written, I rushed to share it with my beta-readers. They all patted me on the head, said it showed promise, and then tucked me back in the corner for Genre Writers while they discussed plans to put me into comma rehab. (I know, I know, no more abusing commas. I've got it under control. Just one more, won't, hurt, will, it,,, ?)

Sitting in my corner, clutching my precious first chapter, I realized that I needed to be a greedy little author. I'm a natural story teller. I love to talk (I know, you'd never guess, right?). I want to share this fabulousawesomecoolsupergreatshiny idea with everyone. That's what storytellers do.

What authors do is horde their ideas. They take all the dross, sift it, sort it, polish it, and then only show you the most beautiful gems in their collection. You don't buy a novel and get every draft and revision with it. I've never picked up a book by Neil Gaimen or Terry Pratchett to find red pen marks across a paragraph with a note from the editor.

So I ignored every lesson learned in kindergarten and didn't share. I finished the first portion of Twisted Metal, edited it, and only after it began to shine did I entrust my story to the tender mercies of the beta-readers who will buff it, abuse it, and surgically remove all the commas my own editing missed.

Patience is a difficult lesson. It's hard for a storyteller to not share the story. But impatience kills more novels and careers than it could ever save. Wanting a project finished before the story is mature leads to frustration, and three-quarter finished stories wallowing in the pit of despair.

No more wallowing. I'm practicing patience. Making a novel perfect takes effort, time, and creativity. I have all three.

The writing desk is a collaboration between Michelle at The Innocent Flower and Amy Laurens until one of them steps up and says who actually took the photograph. The glass pen is courtesy of and copyright to Stephanie at the Spiritual Evolution of the Bean. My birthday is in August is you want to get me a pen like that. :o)


  1. Great piece! I loved it and totally identified with everything you said, especially, about, the, comma, affliction, we, seem, to, share.

    Well done!

  2. I'll just say to the impatience issue..."me too". :-)

    As for sharing early work - I do (my serial novels are first draft material). And perhaps I share it too early...I can't really explain why, but it's something I need to keep me motivated to move forward.

    Personally, I'd be fascinated to buy a book that came with a first draft copy... ;-)

  3. Patience is over-rated, but I hope you achieve your goal. Good luck

  4. Lauren - Hey, at least I'll knwo someone in rehab!

    Jamie- I'd like that book too. It'd be reassuring to see that published authors have rough drafts too.

    Elizabeth - Over-rated, but necessary. Welcome to the blog. :o)

  5. Good luck with this patience thing. :) But yes, it is something we all need, especially in the polishing and submitting stages. Rushing doesn't do us or our writing any favors.