Drive-Thru Writers

There’s a drive-thru Starbucks in my town with a line of cars wrapped around the building. The wait will take longer than finding a parking spot and ordering inside, but the car is warm and I’m only interested in shortcuts. I want hassle-free. Instant. At my fingertips.

I think the publishing world was misnamed. It should have been the Delayed Gratification Industry. The wait is the hardest piece to endure. The art of perfecting a manuscript feels, at times, like a black hole with many boxes to check. First draft, second and third reviews. Beta Readers. Social media presence. Query letters. Synopsis. More re-writing. Rejections. Revisions–they make me wonder how there are books on shelves or in the hands of digital readers. It can take months, even years, to get the story just right, and even then, there are no guarantees. Those who reach their goals with a seemingly magic bullet leave me wondering if there’s another drive-thru option I’m missing. I feel like I’m stuck in a vehicle behind everyone else.

Then, I think about the actual process of from pen to publication. It’s time-consuming and slow for a reason.  The hot drink I order at Starbucks always requires that I take the lid off for a few minutes. The liquid needs to breathe to be ready for consumption. Manuscript preparation is no different. Some personal space is required.

It’s time to get out of the car. Go inside. Sit down. And wait.

When I look up the words ‘Sit’ and ‘Sit Tight,’ I find these variations according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

  1. Verb – Lie, Rest, to have a location.
  2. (a) To maintain one’s position without change. (b) To remain quiet in or as if in hiding.

What no one told me when I began writing is the time required for doing just that. Sitting. No, not literally in a chair (although that comes with the job). I’m talking about the difficult period from an almost finished manuscript to actually completed. About there can be the most challenging place to be. This is when I want to run out and throw my work at anyone calling for submissions.

Tempting as it is to skip ahead, I pull back. I find a way to give the novel space and air, just like the steaming latte. Put the work away. Let someone else have a read. Take the foot off the gas instead of driving the manuscript until the writing is forced, broken, and disjointed.

A literary agent I follow recently wrote the number one reason she rejects a submission is due to the lack of quality in the work.

I’m going to say that again. The lack of quality in the work. There’s a call to action to any writer worried about speeding ahead.

The thing about taking the long way is I’m forced to leave my writing idling in the car. I’m reminded that the book life isn’t the only world. Opening the door with the intention to get my favorite peppermint mocha this time of year and finding a table and chairs is resting. I can see friends reuniting. That couple occupying the same chairs with their books and papers in front of the fireplace. Laptops are open. Headphones are on. A woman checks her phone at the corner table. Business meetings and morning coffee dates are in full swing. These are people living their lives. They aren’t thinking about word counts or editors or Did I forget to revise that one scene in the middle of chapter nineteen? 

When the book is truly ready, there will still be agents accepting talent, book launches and Twitter parties, and a right time to show-off a beautiful cover and catching blurb. Most of us in this business are avid readers, and for me,  I forget ninety-percent of the stories and I move onto the next. Be the type of writer who wants people to remember their stories.

Where are my waiting writers? This one is for you. Get your Grande Latte. Create a novel worth the wait. Some other writer will soon look at you, seated in the first position in the drive-thru.

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