I spent the evenings of my Seventh-Grade crammed into a pre-fab construction trailor , knowing that Bridget-Ann Taylor* was playing my role of Becky in that production of Tom Sawyer, because my Dad made me turn it down and go to C.C.D class instead. I'm actually still a little pissed about that. I could have been a star!!!
Among the many Sanct and Fearful things I learned (Nuns DO NOT get bathroom humor!) I learned there are Seven virtues in the Catholic Catechism to oppose the Deadly Sins:
Chastity - Lust
Temperance - Gluttony
Charity - Greed
Diligence - Sloth
Patience - Wrath
Kindness - Envy
Humility - Pride
Writers, as artists (and as people really) are prone to fits of varying deadly sins, but none I think is more dangerous than Gluttony.
Conceptually, we think about Gluttony as a sort of disgusting pig-ishness; food obsessed Dionysian Gods with globs of mayonnaise shawshanking their way out the corners of mouths. But in practice it's more about a sense of impatience, over-eagerness, indulgence, and a trouble with restraint.
The virtue I'm talking about is actually "temperance," but ironically, patience is a more accessible, colloquial term for what I wish to suggest to anyone:
BE PATIENT. Slow down.don't rush. Wait. Consider. Take your time.
First, with your own process and craft. Everyone has a different process. Accept what works best for you. Establish goals. Celebrate milestones. But not at the expense of your best efforts. You ever go on a strict weight-loss diet? I can't. I get so eager to be a "success" that my health and mood suffer (you know what's a guaranteed bitch-fest and a likely black-out for me? That cayenne lemon cleanse!) . Do not be so eager to be a novelist that the novel suffers.
Second, with querying and revisions. Innumerable (actually probably numerable but I don't remember) are the times that I've asked for a revision and felt my heart fall when a purported "final draft" arrives in my inbox in less than two weeks. Or that query that comes in 3 separate times, each time because the author realized the query before wasn't quite right.
Check out this post by Janet Reid on your best asset during revision or her post about if you're querying too soon. TIME. you need time. Also, Sarah LaPolla had a great post about what she wants in a revision. Go read this and tell me you can do all that in less than two weeks. It's way more than just tinkering with comments we've left in the margin.
Revision is about RE-VISION; seeing your novel in a new way, with fresh eyes.
Time to ruminate and consider and mull is essential. There's an assumption that if you aren't diving right in you're procrastinating. NOT SO!! NOT SO, I SAY!!!!! There is a MAJOR difference between incubation and procrastination.
This doesn't mean you should ignore commitments or deadlines. And some editors, see a fast turn around as a sign of good things. And indeed a fast, well-done turn around is awesome, but in my experience only a handful of authors - either by luck, nature, or hardwork, are both fast and well-executed.
Additionally, your agents and editors need this time to clean their mental slate. I can't be objective about your manuscript if I've read it 3 or 4 times in 6 weeks.
Patience is also about practicing restraint. Jennifer Laughran wrote this fantastic post about whether or not it's time to part ways with your agent. In it she writes "Do you send your agent absolutely everything you write, daily in-progress first drafts, in a deluge, incessantly, without even re-reading them?" and "Do you email or call multiple times a day for non-urgent questions?"
In such instances your eagerness is sabotaging you! Learn to control the impulse, and more importantly, learn to deconstruct the false belief that the more you send or the sooner you send it, the sooner your novel will be on submission. Your novel will go on submission when it is ready, not when you send it back me.
Eagerness and thirst is an absolute necessity, but temperance is a tool that might help you see what you might have overlooked in your excitement. It's sort of like falling in love very quickly and then finding out he, like, has a weird foot thing or doesn't "believe in" toothpaste. It's why I read things twice (and eventually dumped that dude).
Here are some tips:
- Read your edit letters slowly.
- Pause between reading your edit letter and executing changes. You know how people always say you should wrap a strained wrist tighter than feels comfortable? Pause for longer than feels
- Re-read your manuscript slowly and closely.
- Super pissed? Leave that supremely bitchy e-mail alone for at least a few hours (preferably a day)
- Totally 100% think this is ready? Wait 24 hours and make sure you still feel that way.
Be patient! Don't stop.