Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Hurry Up and Wait

This publishing business...well, what can I say? Everything takes for-ever, except what they expect you to do.

First, you spend years (or for some people, months) sending out queries and the first three chapters of manuscripts trying to get a nibble, a bite, or even a rejection letter addressed to you--specifically--instead of Dear Author. Even rejections take obscene amounts of time (mostly because the editors are dealing with many hundreds of authors while you're just dealing with a few editors or agents--or are hoping to deal with a few).

Then, you get a nibble, send in your complete manuscript and wait again. Maybe as long as a year. If by some miracle, they decide they are interested in your feeble attempts to write, you wait for a contract. When they finally send it to you, they expect it back like the next day. High priority.

Waiting begins again while they think about everything and tear your work to shreds. Then they ask for revisions (unless you're perfect, and some are, but then, I also think there are aliens among us who are secretly snickering at us from behind their latex, hominid masks). They ask for revisions and you've got to get the revised version right back, right away. After another period of waiting and wringing your hands, you may even get another round of revisions or just final copy edits, which have to be shipped high priority, right away back to them.

Hmmm. Okay. So anything you have to do, has to be done like yesterday, almost before you were even aware it had to be done, but anything they have to do can take weeks, months, even years. Has anyone ever heard of a reasonable timeframe, or is that reserved for those aliens in the face masks?

And folks wonder why authors feel like being a Wal-Mart greeter might really be a great job after all. In fact, that may be my new goal in life. To be a Wal-Mart greeter. Or maybe be the guy who mows the lawn along the highway. Something with no deadlines.

'Cause I'm sitting here waiting for my edits for my first novel which is due out on May 3, and it's like Feb 20, and I'm like...uh...okay, when am I going to get my first edits, because it goes: first edits, I do them and send it back, copy edits, I do them and send it back, and the book comes out. I just have this horrible feeling I'm going to get the edits and have like 24 hours to get them done, and believe it or not, I actually have a day job which consumes 40-60 hours a week, and I've got some business trips scheduled...

Okay, so my schedule isn't important, but I'm one of those crazy people who, when given an assignment, actually starts work on it immediately because... If I finish early, I can set it aside, because invariably, I think of things I need to change or add, and this gives me time to change or add those things I think of. :-) Or...if I run into difficulties, I have time to straighten them out. I do not like emergency situations foisted upon me by others simply because they could not manage their own time and give me my assignment so I have a reasonable amount of time to work on it. Their emergency should not become my emergency.

I can say that because I deal with emergencies every day, mostly created by people who didn't think before they clicked "OK" as in: OK, go ahead and delete all the user logon accounts including my boss and his boss, because I'm an idiot admin and thought I was deleting my dog's test account when in reality I was deleting the entire organizational unit containing all the really high muckety-muck's logon accounts. And even though the system asked me TWICE if I wanted to delete it and all the things (i.e. user logon accounts) it contained, I clicked "OK". So now, no one can log in and get their e-mail and my boss is complaining.

Yeah. I fix stuff like that all day for people who should know better, so you can understand why I'm a get to the editing portion of this publishing process, so that I'm not sitting up at the last minute trying to edit my manuscript after a long day of fixing idiot admin mistakes.

Here I am, sitting here, fretting. I love my editor and don't want to piss her off, because she's the first person who really got me and my writing, but I need to get those edits. If I e-mail her, will she feel like I'm bugging her? Will she hate me? She asked me to do some "pre-edits" to cut the manuscript down further since we were bumping up against the limit on number of words and I sort of didn't do such a great job and only cut about 1,500 words, but I was already down to the bone. The original manuscript was 100,000 words and I had already cut it down to 75,000 to fit the 75,000 limit. It was almost to the point of rearranging sentences to eek out one more word here and there...

So you can see, I really don't want to push her, having failed to significantly cut down the manuscript the last time she asked me to do something... But...I need those edits. It's almost the end of Feb. In March I have a week long business trip with long days, so we're talking 3 weeks left in March. Then April. That's it--it's released May 3. I have to squeeze the main editing/revisions and copy edits in March and April. WAAAAAAAAH...I'm sitting here crying, feeling an emergency slithering up on me like an alligator crawling out of the sewers...

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