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 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 time, when 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 coordinated schedule.
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." (Sigmund Freud)
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