Timing is Everything
by Erin Brown
For everything there is a season....
A time to be born, and a time to die....
A time to weep, and a time to laugh....
A time to write, and a time to read;
A time to submit, and a time to receive rejections;
A time to publish, and a time to move on to other projects until
that stupid editor decides to buy your masterpiece and in the
meantime there’s a time to go to the store and buy some groceries
while you’re waiting.
—Ecclesiastes (with some help from Erin Brown)
Timing is everything when it comes to publishing and writing. I was
pondering the other day that time is one of those things that you
can both control and is completely and totally out of your hands. So
I wanted to discuss the importance of timing in our world of
writing—what we can control and what we must leave to the fates.
It’s essential to embrace and manage what you can as a writer and
throw up your hands at the rest.
My favorite thing about writing that I have a complete say over is
when I write. Make sure and choose a time of day that
inspires you creatively. Personally, I can’t write after 5 p.m. My
creative juices come to a complete and utter halt. Besides, The
Office and The Real Housewives of Orange County are on at
night (did I just admit to that?). So I welcome the writing time
that I can control completely—usually from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
These are my peak hours. Some people can write all day, every day
without stopping. Kudos to you (jerks!). For the rest of us, find
your creative window and take full advantage of this aspect of
timing that you can manage. Carve out time every day if you can and
stick to a dependable schedule. Your brain will adapt to this chosen
time and those creative juices will start flowing.
Another piece of time that I (and you) can control is when in
your life to write. In your teens and twenties, you might
have the creativity, but most of the time (there’s that word
again!), with maturity comes stronger and more colorful life
experiences and therefore, better writing. This is especially true
when it comes to memoirs. Of course, there are exceptions to every
rule—penned at the age of twelve, my fifty-page romantic suspense
novel set at my seventh grade Valentines’ Day dance was pretty damn
good. But on the whole, make sure that your writing has matured
along with your laugh lines.
Some other things you can control in terms of time—when to
submit to agents. I always advise not to send out
your work before any major holidays. The summer is also very slow as
well, as most publishing peeps are off in the Hamptons or sitting
alone in the office while the big wig decision makers are off in the
Hamptons. But beyond these times, you can choose when your
manuscript is ready—when you are ready—to submit. You
control that timing. Never, ever submit a manuscript until it’s the
Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2010
best it can be. You only get one shot. On that note, you decide
the time that your work is finished. Well, unless you’re
signed to a contract already and then your publisher tells you when
you’re done. But for unpublished writers, embrace the creative time
you can control—perfect that manuscript and submit it on your own
you’re ready, when it’s ready. So perfect your timing.
Attending conferences is under your control. There are
definite start and end times. You can learn the craft, network, and
travel to cool places—and it’s all according to a perfectly
So now the bad news. Timing is also everything in regards to what
you can’t control. Bummer, huh? Such is life. The market, you
cannot control. What’s that, you say? Last fall, you finally
finished that non-fiction guide to strong and healthy marriages
using Tiger Woods as the main role model? Mmmmm...maybe not. Readers
aren’t buying historical pirate/romance swashbucklers anymore and
you’ve written a 500-page novel about Captain O’Malley Hook Kidd and
his affect on bosom-heaving women on the high seas? Sorry. You can’t
control the market and what sells.
And what a house is buying? Can’t control the timing of that. The
publisher just bought three books that are exactly like
yours, so even though he adores your writing, he has to pass? What
can you do? Nothing. Sucks, but it’s timing.
Same goes for the economy. Who knew? Well, okay, we won’t get
political. But we all know that book sales have gone down, along
with sales of almost everything else, besides McDonalds’ burgers
(it’s true! People drown their sorrows with fast food!).
Another facet of time you can’t control? Agent and editor response
time. Oh....my.....gosh. Seriously, does it take them six months to
get back to you? Yes, it often does. I know I’ve mentioned my
infamous, six-foot-tall teetering pile of manuscripts more than
once. So patience is key. Don’t harass, don’t stalk. You cannot
control this timing, so don’t try and drive everyone involved crazy
trying to do so.
As you can see, timing is everything when it comes to writing and
publishing. My advice is to accept and welcome the timing you can
control and try to be very Zen about those things you can’t. Breathe
and release your work to the powers that be—the fates that be—and
enjoy your time as a writer. And remember the most important
quotation about time: “Time spent with cats is never wasted."
And with that, have a good day or a good night (or whatever time it
is when you’re reading this).
Erin Brown worked as an editor in New York City for
over eight years. She recently left Manhattan to start her own
freelance editorial business. To learn more about Erin, visit her
website at www.erinedits.com