The Waiting Game

So you've written your novel, you've revised it, you've received feedback, you've revised it again, you've written a query, you've revised it, you've received feedback, you've revised it again, you've queried, you've paced madly worrying about rejection, you've been asked for a partial manuscript, you've revised the partial in fear of it not being good enough, you've submitted it, you've paced madly worrying about rejection, you've checked your email obsessively, you've paced madly worrying about rejection, you've been asked for a full manuscript, you've revised the full in fear of it not being good enough, and you've submitted it.

What happens now?

You wait. And wait. And wait and wait and wait and wait.

It's a common enough topic among writing blogs. Don't wait for a response on your current work. Move on to the next one. Publishing is a lot of hurry up and wait. You'll revise your entire book over the course of a weekend to make it as perfect as you can and then nothing.

It can be hard to deal with. The closer you get, the harder the rejection is, and the harder it is not to make it back to that level again. If you come close to touching the sky, nothing short of reaching your hand up into heaven will do. It's maddening to not achieve your goal no matter how hard you try.

But wait you must. Good things come to those that wait. ...crappy things too, I can attest, but nothing good comes from something rushed (just ask my previous girlfriends).

The first time I had a full manuscript (BLACK MAGIC AND BARBECUE SAUCE), I was told to expect a twelve-week response time. I was mortified when twelve weeks passed, thirteen, fourteen. Were they JUST about to get to my manuscript? If I asked for an update when they hit delete and tell me to sod off? Was it all a test to see if I would be a low-maintenance client and not pester them a thousand times a day with inane questions?

Finally at fifteen weeks, I emailed to confirm the file had been received and asked if they needed any additional material. That's the polite way of asking, "Hey what the fuck?" They confirmed that they had received the manuscript and apologized for the delay. The assistant was super awesome and I like her a whole lot. She was never anything but professional with me.

In total I received an eventual pass 7 months after I sent the materials off. They offered feedback which was awesome. I never expect feedback on a query. I don't expect it on a partial (though it would be nice). While I don't expect it on a full, after waiting so long and having invested so much, it certainly would be nice for even a paragraph of feedback. But hey, we're not entitled and that's not a statement of how things should be. I got it on my first two manuscripts, though, and it was incredibly helpful.

I thanked the assistant and the agent for the pleasure of working with them and the feedback. I then said I had finished another novel while I was waiting and asked would they like to see it? Sure it was a dig, but only a little one. I really had finished a second novel (and not first draft, the thing was done and in the can). I queried the second one (HELP WANTED: CHOSEN ONE, NOW HIRING) and we went round and round again.

They passed and I think it was for the best. This agent wants a manuscript ready to shop as soon as it's submitted. While I hope to be able to produce such a manuscript eventually, it doesn't seem like I'm producing them yet. I'd like an agent who not only points out what (s)he thought was weak but how that could be improved.

Which brings me to the current manuscript (THE TRIAD SOCIETY). This is with a different agent, one that I think is exactly the person I would want to work with. When they asked for my full, they said to expect a turn around time of two months. This is a third less than the previous agent but nothing says it won't be another seven months. Except for my experience with this agency. I queried (twice) my first two manuscripts (for a total of four queries) and they were prompt and always beat deadline. Two months is up Saturday. Of course, that two months covered Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and the general winter holiday.

This brings us to what I'm calling Injury Time (watch soccer to get that joke). Given the number of holidays that occurred during that stretch of time, I really don't think the two-month mark hits until February 5th, three weeks later. If they replied to me within that time, I would still consider it at or less than two months.

Now like I said, that's just an estimate. Things come up, emergencies with existing clients, illness, family emergencies and the like. If it takes seven months it takes seven months. I have finished the second draft of JEHOVAH'S HITLIST and sent it to beta readers for feedback (could use a few more if you're in the mood for adult, dystopian, alternate-history science fiction). I'm also working on the first draft of THE 7TH SACRIFICE. I've got plenty to do. No resting on my laurels here.

BUT, like I said earlier, this folks have always come in before their deadline. The arrival of injury time means that it's likely I'll hear back from them soon.


You can tell yourself not to obsess, not to worry, but really, I consider all this anxiety part and parcel to my ambition. I want this and have wanted it for decades. This is my life's goal and I've taken as many steps as I can take without an agent. That's the next step. That's the next step in my publishing plan. I could query publishers directly or self-publish, but there are other blogs for that kind of thing. Here in the Inkwell, we follow the traditional mode of publishing and we plan on ruling that bitch with an iron fist!

I won't even begin to tell you how many times I've checked my email just writing this post. Granted I have a smart phone so all I have to do is glance at it and see if it's blinking at me. That only enables the obsession.

I started actively tweeting and blogging about my writing before I was published not only to build platform but to document how hard it is to try and achieve your dreams when you can send off a completed manuscript and not hear anything for months and months and months. When I'm the flipping Clint Eastwood of fantasy, aspiring writers will read these early posts and see all this desire and anxiety and worry and think to themselves, Clint Eastwood? Really? I would have gone with John C. Reilly.


Another List!

Elizabeth Poole loves Westerns. I love Westerns! TOP FIVE WESTERNS!

1a. "The Outlaw Josey Wales" - Aside from giving me my namesake, this movie has a lot of things going for it. It was the first Western where all the Native Americans were played by Native Americans. They were also portrayed as the threat they were to settlers rather than just people on horses who charge forward and run away. Josey Wales the character is the essence of Clint Eastwood's Western career boiled down to pure awesome. It's long and may drag a little at times, but when you see him glare and then spit, you know it's on!

1b. "Unforgiven" - Much like Rocky/Rocky Balboa, this movie allows Eastwood to add some craft to the whole creation. The case could be made that William Munny is Josey Wales as an older man. There is one scene in particular where Munny talks about how he doesn't know how he kills so well, he's just always been good at it. That's the exact opposite of Josey Wales who can read a gang of four soldiers and know who to kill and in what order. It's more an exploration of how two different men ended up in the same spot. And the end? With Ned? GOO!!!

3. "High Planes Drifter" - WOW! This one is all about atmosphere and hate and revenge and if I ever needed a movie to epitomize the Deadlands role playing game, it's "High Planes Drifter." With such big-name movies like the two above, this one is often left off of the must-see lists of Clint Eastwood movies, but if you haven't seen it, go rent it right now. I can't even tell you without spoiling it and you'll hate me if I do.

4. "The Specialist" - Yes, I said "The Specialist" and not "Rio Bravo" or any of the other myriad John Wayne movies (despite its inclusion of Dean Martin of whom I am a huge fan). John Wayne's characters had a certain style, much like Clint Eastwood's. In "The Specialist," he breaks that style and how! I would never have thought to see John Wayne play that kind of character. I expect Clint Eastwood to play that kind of character, which is probably why I like this one so much. :)

5. "Pale Rider" - Some people claim that the character from this movie and the character from "High Planes Drifter" is the same. I disagree for reasons I can't post because of spoilers. I do think the premise can be similar and that's all right because the premise is so awesome Clint is allowed to tell it twice. Any time you see a story quote Revelation about a man riding a pale horse? Yeah, a poor comparison to this movie. This is where that awesome was born. (It also has the tall guy from Happy Gilmore, and that's always interesting.)

Honorable Mention - Young Guns Emilio Estevez (Estevez), Keifer Southerland, and Lou Diamond Phillips? Nuff said.

In which I post a second time about semi- and/or unrelated topics

My wife went to Philadelphia this summer to see a men's regional Barbershop competition. (My wife is a competitive Barbershopper.) While there, she bought me some barbecue chicken seasoning. The odor was pretty strong and I was unsure if I would like it. DEAR LORD THIS STUFF IS GOOD! I only bring that up because I'm on my lunch break right now and I'm eating some barbecue chicken. I thought you all should know how delicious my chicken is and how awesome my wife is. I can't remember the name of the market she bought it at. Some place in the city, perhaps Union Station or the like. It's a vendor cart full of spices and the barbecue chicken is delicious.

My wife who loves me calls me Joe (among other personal endearments). So do most of my friends and everyone I work with. When I write, I go by Joseph L. Selby or a derivative thereof. (I picked jlselby for twitter as a means of saving character space for replies). Most people online call me Joseph because that's how they see my name. Recently, both online and at work, I've noticed an increase of people calling me Selby. Not Mr. Selby, which would be formal but acceptable, but just Selby. Now for colleagues, this may normally be appropriate. For strangers, I can't imagine referring to someone by their last name only and thinking I was doing so politely.

For me personally, whether I know someone or not, I hate being called by my last name. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I don't hate my last name. But I am one of many Selbys. I have a large family and they all have the same last name. (Granted, Joe is a common name, but I am Joe Selby and the only one of my name in my family.) So, please don't call me Selby. Especially if you don't know me. Who the hell thinks that's acceptable?

Recently, someone called me JL and that just tickled me to no end. It was on twitter, so it makes sense that they may not know my name if they only ever see me there. And of course there is the need to conserve character space. I intenionally chose jlselby for this blog URL hoping someone would do it again. It's a name I never imagined being called and I smile with amusement every time I think about it. Not that I would permanently adopt that as a professional name. That would take funny to weird, which I reserve for the second date.

Something I got called the other day that I haven't been called in years is Josey. This was my nickname for a long time. No, not Josie (the female name a la Josie and the Pussycates), but Josey (the male name a la the Outlaw Josey Wales). I was sixteen when I was first given that nickname by one of my managers at Burger King. I had a tendency to get in trouble a lot when I was younger (I know, a big surprise, right?) and the Outlaw Josey Selby took hold and held on until I was 25 or so. I never minded it. I love Clint Eastwood westerns (with the exception of Joe Kidd which is a lame movie) and being named after such a seminal movie was all right by me.

Now it's Joe or Joseph, either are acceptable.

I watched Invictus for the first time last night, a Clint Eastwood-directed movie (see how I tied that all together? natch ;). There were (a lot of) trailers before I actually got to movie itself. Among them was the 35-years/35-movies box set from Warner Brothers. This piqued my interest until I counted just how many Clint Eastwood movies I already own and realized it wouldn't be worth the money. They had clips from the interviews with Clint that are included in the special features. I thought I'd share a few (althought not direct quotes, as close as I can get).

The first one that caught me was a discussion on how he made movies like The Outlaw Josey Wales, which were a turn from the kind of westerns that were made at the time. He said he never thought to make movies that other people liked. He made the kind of movies he wanted to see and it turned out that other people wanted to see them too.

For a fantasist who writes with little/no magic and little/no fantastical creatures, this kind of thing is huge. I write the kind of books I want to read! Maybe other people will want to read them too.

The other one was his first offer. He had been rejected so many times over and over and over again that he jumped at the chance when someone finally made him an offer.

WHAT? Someone rejected Clint Eastwood? They rejected Josey Wales? They rejected William Munny? No one rejects William Munny. They get shot by William Munny then they go talk about how exciting it was with all the other people that just got shot by William Munny. There is no rejection of William Munny!

Clint Eastwood got rejected. A LOT. This is exciting. Thirty-five years from now I can talk about how much I got rejected and someone can make a blog post asking how anyone could reject Bastin the Bold or Otwald d'Kilrachen.

I don't know kid, but they did. Keep your chin up. ;)