Writer John Meils: On Patience During the Query Process


6a00e54ff9f2cf88340120a786bd73970b I finished my novel. Really, I did. It’s okay to hate me a little. If I was reading this and I hadn’t finished my novel, I’d curse me too. Here’s another reason to despise me: A well-respected agent is currently reading it.

At least I think he is.

I gave it to him two weeks ago. We know each other a little, so after he read my query he asked for the whole manuscript. I haven’t heard from him since. So about now I should panic, right? I mean, I started this thing four years ago. I wrote more drafts than I care to admit. I’m ready for my eye-popping check followed by a celebrated publication. I am fully prepared for rocket-like sales followed by another hefty advance for my yet-unwritten second novel. Oh, and a movie deal. Can’t forget Hollywood.

Am I delusional? Absolutely. Does that mean none of this will happen? No, but. I’m still checking my email too much. I’m still fishing for compliments from people who’ve read my manuscript and told me it was good. I was a book editor once. I should know better. The publication process is typically slower than a snail on holiday. When I was an editor, I made agents wait while I did frivolous things. I’ve asked authors to re-write their manuscripts wholesale months before publication. I’ve taken years to prepare a single book before releasing it to press. Yet I expect the publishing world to stop because I’m finally ready.

Maybe this is payback for past transgressions. It’s possible. I was a decent editor but by no means the best. I figure I’ll give the agent in question another week. It’s August, after all, and the publishing world practically shuts down this time of year. Or it used to anyway. I’ve debated sending the agent an email. You know, one of those “How’s it going?” missives. But that would be annoying. That would indicate I might not be the ideal author to work with and I don’t want to give this agent the slightest reason to fret signing me as a client.

So I sit and wait. Sort of. I’ve recently moved to yet-another new country, this one for a while. I’ve got stuff to do—learn a language, plan my next novel, buy sheets and towels. While I’m doing this of course I’m thinking about when I’ll check my email next. How could I not? I was impatient to finish the book (which cost me my first agent). I was impatient while plotting and re-drafting the book (which undoubtedly cost me an extra draft or two). Now that I think about it, I’ve been impatient all along.

We all are, aren’t we? This is funny, I think, or ironic. Because writing (and publishing) if anything is a game of patience. Rush your writing and it suffers. Show your work too soon and its flaws will leap off the page. We all love to write first and foremost and yet the great shiny beacon of publication is usually at odds with producing our best work.

Here’s the question: What do you do to slow yourself down when trying to produce, pitch, or otherwise get your work published?

JMHammock1 John Meils is currently finishing a first novel, tentatively titled The Warring House. He has written for Elle, Men’s Health, and MyTango.com, among others. To learn more about him, visit johnmeils.com.

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  1. Not a direct answer to your question here, but your post reminded me of a quote I once read: "I do not like to write, I like to have written."
    I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly, and can often feel myself racing for the "have written" phase of things when the "writing" part isn't really over yet.
    Gotta watch out for that.

  2. Be patient the long the wait the better the chances of getting your novel to print. Don't get upset if you don't break into print though. You can alway pay for it yourself and make it unbridged and have it the way you intentionally wrote your book. Good Luck


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