Out of all the famous and clichéd phrases, one that I live the most by (or the one I think about most often) is “Patience is a Virtue.” My Aunt taught it to me when I was a young, impatient thing while we were at the bookstore and I just wanted the next book in the series she was buying me to be out (I think I was also impatient regarding the line wait time and how we had to wait at a restaurant later when my stomach was trying to eat my spleen and very vocal about it…) Needless to say, I’m not impatient now, thanks to her scolding (made more powerful by the fact that she never scolded). I actually like to think I’m a rather patient person. But sometimes, there are these cute little reminders that tell me I’m not always patient, even when I really need to be.
Particularly when I want to pitch my manuscript yet I know said manuscript needs more work. Being patient becomes especially hard after I’ve been editing it for ages and don’t particularly want to edit it any more.
I’ve edited the manuscript in question over a dozen times (and more often than not, the word count increased instead of decreased; weird how that happens). Looking at where the story is now versus where it started is such a mind-blowing transformation to me, on how much it has improved. And that isn’t me trying to be cocky or claiming I’ve written the next great American novel. That’s me recognizing where my story started and appreciating practically five years worth of work being put into it to improve it. Plus, I can’t imagine trying to get the first draft of the story published. It wasn’t near ready. I knew it then and I knew it now.
So that’s why, after trying to get the numerously-edited version represented and realizing that it still isn’t ready, makes me a bit impatient and makes me groan inside.
As I’ve started entering into more contests and queried more agents (thus, receiving more rejections), I’ve realized that despite the leaps and bounds my manuscript has taken, it still isn’t ready, for various reasons. I’m still learning about this manuscript and this story, which is both invigorating and insane, considering the work I’ve put into it. And as a recent contest popped up that I wanted to enter–and planned to–it took conscious effort to realize that I shouldn’t be entering it when I know my manuscript isn’t ready. I just didn’t want to do the work involved. So not only am I being impatient with my work, but I’m also being lazy.
Talk about a slap to the face to a project I’ve spent five years on–and I’ve slapped myself, no less!
Because here’s the thing: yeah, there are a lot of writing contests going on that I would love to enter, particularly for the communities that surround them and what I can learn from them. Yeah, I’m itching for an agent to love my story as many readers have (again, not trying to be cocky, but confident) so I can take the next step in making my dream come true. But rushing it not only hurts my manuscript and ruins a possible opportunity, but it is also disrespectful towards the work I’ve already put into it, as well as any work others have (and still are, bless them). This story is the first I’ve finished on such a scale (a trilogy!). Yes, editing is a never-ending progress, so eventually I will hit a point where it is ready “enough” and I’ll query again. But until then, I need to respect the story and respect myself enough to be patient and put in the work, to give my all to a story I love so much and to give it the best chance it can possibly have of being told. Because once it is ready–truly ready–it will get picked up. It will find representation and it will get published.
Respect yourself. Respect your work. Give it the time and attention it deserves. Listen to the feedback and the lessons and then actually incorporate them. Don’t just rush into the next set of queries or the next contest because that is more exciting or the thought of reading through that chapter again makes your head hurt. Your patience–and the work you put because of said patience–will reward you, in time. So take breaks. Let your manuscript breathe. Find critique partners to read it while you write something new, rejuvenate your mojo. And then get back to it, refreshed and energized–even if that means you spent six months doing so and will spend a few more editing, before you can enter the query trenches again. Don’t put a deadline on dreams. Instead, believe in them and believe in yourself enough to work for them, so one day, you can watch them come true.