If You Don’t Have Patience

Patience is a necessity in this business. It’s a lesson that has been drilled into me repeatedly—even if I continue to chaff under that necessity.

I trained in the newspaper business where instant gratification is the norm for the writer.  Each afternoon, we had story deadlines and our articles appeared in the next day’s newspaper.  Some times the stories were held over until the following day—but they appeared in print and were read right away.

The magazine business takes longer with three to four months of typical lead time for many magazines. Other publications take even longer before they appear in print.  Last fall during a writer’s conference I had a face to face meeting with a magazine editor.  Several of us on the faculty slipped away one evening and grabbed supper in town at a restaurant. We told each other stories about the publishing business and enjoyed getting acquainted. 

Several years ago, I had ghostwritten an article for this publication when I worked at another company (and the “author” got paid for my work—which was fine back then because I was eager to promote the topic). I’ve never had my by-line appear in this particular publication with a large circulation. In rare emails since our meeting, I have been offering to write for this magazine. Late yesterday, I received a specific assignment from the editor.  See what I mean about the need for patience?

In my fiction acquisitions editor role, I’ve been working on contracting one of the novels since last summer. In mid-October, the publication board voted to accept the novel and yesterday I received the go-ahead from the literary agent to issue the contract.  This particular arrangement is still in motion. The deal will not be finalized until the author and the publisher sign the agreement. At this point, both parties have agreed to the general terms. The scheduled publication date for this completed novel is Spring 2007.  It seems like a long-time—even to the author and agent—but it’s one of the realities of book publishing. Patience is required for novelists as well as nonfiction authors. 

For me, the writing life reminds me of the regular act on the old Ed Sullivan Show. A man would walk out on the stage with some china plates and tall sticks. He would begin with one plate, then slowly add a series of spinning plates. When one plate began to fall, he quickly gave it another spin. If you need a reminder of the act, check out this link. It will take you to a real 4 1/2 minute show.

Patience is a necessary part of the writing life. If you don’t have it and want to be published, then you will learn to get it.

4 Responses to “If You Don’t Have Patience”

  1. Becky Says:


    I understand the need to be patient, but sometimes I wish we could have the process demystified. I mean, spring of 2007 seems like a long time off, especially in light of something like Ted Dekker’s three books Black, Red, White all being published within a year.

    I also know not to compare, but I can’t help wondering why some projects seem to come off the presses and into the book stores quickly while others take considerably longer.

  2. Macromoments Says:

    Lots to think about here, Terry. Your article is about *persistence* as much as patience–staying the course and celebrating those nice surprises when they finally do show up. It’s a reality of this business, and something they don’t stress enough in writing courses.

    One of the best remedies for impatience is to move on to the next project and keep those wheels turning. It sounds like you’ve made a practice of that for many years.

  3. relevantgirl Says:

    Yes! I think God calls impatient people to be writers just so they can learn patience the hard way. What the previous commenter had to say was very true–just keep writing. I contracted for three projects last year. My first contract will be released the last (Jan of 06), my second contracted book will be released in a few days and the third one this summer. There’s no rhyme or reason, other than the particular schedule of a publishing house, as to when things are taken, acquired and published.

    The same is true with the waiting game for proposals and manuscripts to be read. A response could take three weeks. It could take a few days. It could take a year. (All three have happened to me).

  4. Andy Land Says:

    Thanks for the link to my plate-spinning act. Sorry it took me so long to find it here. I’ve recently eplaced all my Real Player vids with Windows files so if you’d like to continue to send readers that way, feel free o head to andymartello.com and change links.

    Great blog. Being something of a frustrated writer myself, dying for an agent, this site is extremely valuable as a reference tool.

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