8.23.2006

Life is what happens when you're making other plans

Dear Miss Snark,

About a year ago now, flushed with recent short fiction publication success, I managed to give a 30 second pitch to a Big Name Editor at a writer's conference.

She sounded enthused and asked to see the novel. I admitted the novel was a WIP, and she said she wanted to see it when it was finished.
Fast forward over the past year, during which life happened and while I made progress, I did not even come close to finishing my novel.

Currently I'm in the midst of a high-risk pregnancy with complications and even if I make it through this okay, shortly after the new year I'll be dealing with recovering from a major illness, tending a newborn, and also caring for my toddler full time.
Obviously my nitwit behavior was in pitching before I could put my money where my mouth was, but my question going forward is this: At what point does an editor's request for a manuscript expire?

I mean, let's say that I pass the 2 year anniversary of the pitch before I manage to complete my magnum opus. Will I look like an even greater nitwit when I mention in the cover letter that the material was requested such a long time ago? (I know not to give excuses, just to say something like, I apologize for the delay, here's the manuscript you requested at X writer's conference 2005). Or should I not mention the meeting at all because the editor will not want to work with an author who has such a long timeline?

Your Snarkilicious Wisdom would help me very much,


Two words: Patsy Cline. Rent the movie Sweet Dreams to see what I mean.

If your work is good, we want to see it. We are avaricious beasts and we want to represent good work. There is a nice man toiling away in a garret somewhere who has been on my radar for YEARS. I thought about him every now and then. I didn't contact him, figuring if he wanted to send me stuff, he'd know how to find me. Well lo and behold last summer, what should turn up by an incredible wonderful marvelous book. There were some structural problems, which he's working on now (and you'll notice we're at the year mark..again).

But, he can send me stuff till he's dead or I am. He's that good. I don't care that he's slow. I want a great book.

When you contact the editor again you can say something close to what you wrote to me and she'll understand you're not a slacker. Even if you are, if you write well enough, all is forgiven.

While Killer Yapp is available for babysitting, the opening sequence of Who Framed Roger Rabbit is in fact a documentary of KY's last adventure with the diaper set.

11 comments:

December Quinn said...

Oh! Patsy!

Edyta said...

Miss Snark's admirable display of patience with the writer who has been toiling for years in the garret has got me thinking about the age issue that was raised recently. If she is willing to wait for years for this man, and presumably others, to create the perfect manuscript, then I can see why she'd want to get 'em while they're young. Seems sad, though, that a more seasoned, prolific writer many get the brush off because he or she is too old.

Kimber An said...

Congratulations on your little ones! As wonderful as getting a book published is, it can't compare to a toddler throwing her arms around your neck, kissing your cheek, and saying, 'Oh, Mommy, you're so bootiful!' And you look like a train wreck at the time. Books stay books, unless they burn up. Babies only stay babies for a few short months. Treasure this time. ;)

HawkOwl said...

J.S. Bach did that. Someone asked him to send some concertos. After two years, Bach sent the guy the Brandenburg Concertos, along with a job application. He didn't get the job.

jude calvert-toulmin said...

> Currently I'm in the midst of a high-risk pregnancy with complications and even if I make it through this okay, shortly after the new year I'll be dealing with recovering from a major illness, tending a newborn, and also caring for my toddler full time.

Oh you poor thing. I do wish you the best of luck with the pregnancy and recovering from illness. And whilst caring for a toddler too. As kimber an says, just try to enjoy it whilst it lasts. Your babies are way more precious than any book. I shelved my writing career until all my kids left home (well, we had dogs too so it was a bit full on) so hats off to you if you can find the energy to combine tots plus writing. Go for it once you're ready and able! :)

> J.S. Bach did that. Someone asked him to send some concertos. After two years, Bach sent the guy the Brandenburg Concertos, along with a job application. He didn't get the job.

HA HA HA HA HA! :) Priceless!

Ryan Field said...

Talent usually wins out in the end.

Christa M. Miller said...

I can totally relate to this author. My pregnancy isn't high-risk (hopefully it will stay that way), but I too have a toddler and am trying to market my novel.

It bothers me to hear "Enjoy this time" because it implies that I don't already. Like mothers who work out of the home, I am wired to work. I just happen to be one of the exceptionally lucky ones who is suited to doing it at home while I watch my child(ren). But there is no doubt in my mind that pursuing my career makes me a better mother.

I started marketing my novel last year even though we wanted another child. There are no guarantees in life and I wanted at least to start the process; I "felt" that it was the right time. I still do, and I don't regret it.

This past year, personal problems of my own made it difficult to pursue... but the agent who most recently requested my partial was very forgiving. More importantly, friends told me that I probably wouldn't want to work with an agent who wasn't forgiving of life issues.

Author - if you want to chat more, please feel free to contact me through my blog! I am always interested to hear from mom-writers who are in the same boat I am. Good luck to you!

Lynn Raye Harris said...

This is very encouraging to me. I had a contest final earlier this year in which an editor requested some changes to the partial and wanted to see the mss. Life intervened, as it is wont to do, and I am just starting to look at making those changes and finishing the mss. I was wondering how to approach her again when I get it together, or if she'd even want to hear from me, but I guess it's one day at a time and I'll just cross that bridge when I come to it. Thanks to the writer for asking the question and to Miss Snark for the answer. :)

mamalujo1 said...

"he can send me stuff till he's dead or I am. He's that good. I don't care that he's slow. I want a great book"

Maybe there's hope for me, yet.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think that the kind of life events that get in the way of writing - births, deaths, illness - are precisely the experiences that make you a better writer.

Robin Burcell said...

So I should be writing...

But too well do I remember what it was like when I was pregnant with twins, high risk, at home, knowing that an agent and editor were out there, waiting for a promised manuscript. Not sold. Just promised. Twins came. My visions of writing whilst nursing did not quite come true. In fact, all attempts at hitting the keyboard for any quality writing did not come to be until the twins were about two, and I went back to work full-time.

I was so worried about not having that readied manuscript as promised. What I failed to see is that we are such a small blip on the editor's screen. An editor may very well ask for dozens of manuscripts a day. Does an editor remember each request? I doubt it. Is the editor sitting there thinking, day after day: Where is her manuscript? No. And this, even though you, the writer, have not forgotten.

What you must remember is that these editors are very aware that life goes on, and sometimes with a capital L.

So what did I do after my long delay? Had someone re-introduce to this editor at a writer's conference, where I promptly pulled out the photo of my (then) two-year-old twins, and said: this is why I haven't written. In fact, this is why I've completely changed genres (from romance to murder mysteries.) Would you still be interested in seeing the manuscript?

And she said yes. She never even blinked an eye. (She did say my kids were cute!) And I'm quite sure this would be the same whether I'd simply mentioned it in a mailed query, even though a couple years had passed from our last contact.

She ended up buying the book. Not because of any sympathy factor, or the darling children in the photo. She liked the book, and that, in the end, is what counts. So don't stress over the time, the delay, or anything else.