Emily C. Reynolds is not only an assistant to agent Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency, but she is also the recent winner of Novel Rocket's Launch Pad Contest for contemporary romance. (There, you must call her Mme Hendrickson.) I asked her to share her timeline for success as she continues her writing journey. I hope her words encourage you. You'll find Emily at home here.
Occasionally, other voices will show up here. Perhaps even yours. If you have something you'd like to say about writing or editing, about the process or the wait or the frustration or the joy, leave a comment or send me an email and let's talk about it.
Normandie Fischer, Editor, Wayside Press
An Insider's Look
It’s confession time.
For quite a while, I didn’t talk about being a writer, and not merely because writing is a solitary pursuit. First, I’m not published, and there are some who’d dismiss me as a poser. Second, it takes a long time to create a novel from start to finish. And once you do, the process has only begun. It goes something like this:
1) Write the Masterpiece. This takes a long time. For most people it takes at least a year -- if they’re good at it. For many, the process may take up to ten years.
2) Have the Masterpiece critiqued. I call this “unleashing the hounds.” This is where you straighten your spine and let several trusted critique partners have at your ‘baby’ because they’ll tell you the truth. They’ll go to work, pointing out all the plot holes and narrative slumps, the scene/sequel issues and character arcs, and—my personal weak area—issues with goals, motivations, and conflicts.
3) Rewrite the Masterpiece. Now, you have to go back and rewrite most of the story at least once and more likely several times. My first book was gutted and rewritten 7,359 times. I counted. But the writing's better, which keeps me from regretting the blood, sweat, and tears.
4) Pitch the finished Masterpiece. Hopefully, you’ve been scouting the industry for a while now and have a good idea of who might best fit your project. You've taken courses and read writing blogs and learned about different agents. You know which ones represent your genre and what each requires for a submission.
You write a synopsis (one page summary of your entire book). That alone can take several weeks. You poke and prod and tweak those first three chapters of your book until they SING, because they’re your one shot. That’s all an agent is going to look at to make his/her decision. If you’re blessed, the agent will love it and request the full manuscript.
5) Wait. You wait for so long you wonder if you really did hit ‘send’ on that email query. While you wait you start working on your next Masterpiece. Eventually the rejections come. You soldier on with book 2, trying not to let the rejections of your Masterpiece rattle you. Eventually, your query finds the right agent. Maybe the agent wants substantial edits. Now you have to rewrite some more. (see point 3) and resubmit.
6) Agent starts shopping the Masterpiece. This takes even longer. Months and months as the agent tries to prove to a publishing house editor that your project is just perfect for that house.
7) Wait some more. And work harder to learn everything you can about the craft of writing. You continue to go to conferences to make connections with industry professionals and talk to editors about your writing projects. You continue to write, you read everything you can in your genre (and outside your genre), and you wait.
And that’s where I am right now.
It requires more patience than I ever imagined. It requires being okay with the process and not merely with the end point, something I’m not very good at.
Here's an interesting thing I learned not too long ago: when the Israelites escaped Egypt and headed to the Red Sea they walked right up to it and then had to WAIT until God moved. I had never picked up on that part before. God didn’t part the waters as the people headed that way. They got to the edge of the Red Sea first, and took a good long gander at that vast expanse of oceanfront. With the Egyptians (interestingly enough a symbol of the world and our struggles against the flesh) coming right up behind the Israelites in a less-than-friendly manner, God made them wait right there on the brink. They couldn’t go forward and they couldn’t go back.
One might say, stuck.
God drove them to the threshold and made them wait. They had to exist in liminal space, the place between what was and what will be.
Like taking a step of faith . . . except without the step-taking part.
Waiting. Being. Resting in the knowledge that He’s got you right where He wants you.
“I’m going to show the courage not to retreat back to what was and I’m going to be patient not to jump into what I think ought to be, but I'm going to stand in liminal space. I am going to trust that as I stand on the threshold it is pregnant with the possibilities of God.” –David Jensen
It’s hard, standing on the edge and looking out over the possibilities, trying to be okay with the “spaces in between” that sometimes feel heavy enough to crush you. I’m trying to be at peace on the threshold, trying to stay at peace as I wait on the cusp of this writing adventure. Because I don’t have a clue about this wild ride God is taking me on.