A Writer’s Biological Clock?!

Article’s recipe: Inspired by Sarah J Maas‘s remark in regard to my querying frustration & by Erika Mark’s epic journey to publication

The writers around you are landing agents, signing contracts, promoting their up-coming novel–you see this, grow envious, and the moment you send out your first batch of query letters, a clock puffs into existence. A clock that tells you that time in running out. Hurry and get published!

My advice: Get a hammer and SMASH that clock to smithereen.

When I first began querying, sending out a batch of twenty-four emails to agencies, I was determined to settle for *any* agent who’d make an offer. After all, unpublished authors cannot be choosers…Right? The desperate underdogs must accept whatever opportunities open up for them. Right…?

….Not quite.

My mindset has changed. Somewhat. When Sarah (author of THRONE OF GLASS) sensed my desperation to land an agent within this year, she told me about how she looked back on her querying days and wondered WHY she had been so determined to get an agent RIGHT AWAY. She reminded me that writing would afterall be my LIFETIME CAREER. So why the rush? If you have a LIFETIME to achieve a goal, what does it matter that you get published now, or in five, ten, fifteen years?

You might say: Yes, yes, it MATTERS because the world is missing out on a great book. BUT, unlike a woman whose reproductive life span has an END, there is NO such clock ticking away in a writer’s life. If querying doesn’t work out, don’t sweat it. TIME IS ON YOUR SIDE. NOT AGAINST YOU.

Querying is like…like searching for your soulmate in life. There are MILLIONS of people to choose from. And among the many, there is the right one for you (ehm, the soulmate theory is totally debatable, but I digress). You’ll be courted, and it might not work out–as in, you might meet an AGENT, but s/he might not share the SAME VISION of your manuscript as you do, and so you might choose to move on. You might feel the social pressure around you, to marry SOON, because you’ve hit your 30s. But just as a woman shouldn’t feel pressured to settle for ANY man, a writer should not feel pressured to settle for just ANY agent. NO husband is better than a BAD husband / NO agent is better than a BAD agent.

If an agent rejects you, know that the right one is somewhere out there for you. And you WILL find her/him. It just might take a few hundred more query letters, or a few more years. So NEVER lose hope!

I read an article written by this one agent, I forget who, but s/he was talking about how unpublished writers should enjoy their days before publication. Once you get published you will [always?] be writing to meet DEADLINES. If you get a two-book deal you’ll be writing sample chapters of a story that you have yet to write the end of [or something along these lines]. Of course, if *I* ever get published, I DON’T think I’d want to trade that moment with my unpublished days of freedom. BUT, just saying, when it comes to writing, it’s the journey that matters!

P.S. There seems to be many writers in the querying stage. Cheers to you all!

P.S.S I finished reading Pillars of the Earth: So. Friggin. Good. ‘Nuf said. [Actually, no. Not enough said. I’ll be writing a review of the book]

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21 Comments

Filed under Querying

21 responses to “A Writer’s Biological Clock?!

  1. Super post, June–and your sentiments are right on. It takes as long as it takes. Sure, some stories of getting published are shorter, some are longer, but there are no deadlines for that first sale–only the ones we impose on ourselves. In the meantime, you are building up not only your craft as a writer, but your field of contacts with each manuscript and each query.

    I love the idea of a writer’s biological clock, June. It speaks to so much of what we struggle with as we pursue our goal.

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    • “you are building up not only your craft as a writer, but your field of contacts with each manuscript and each query”

      I totally agree with this. Also, it’s so important to build a readership, so the longer it takes to get pubbed, the more time you have to build an…empire [haha]

      Like

  2. Great post June! You raise excellent points and have helped me calm my frenzy. Lol It is better to not be desperate, even though I probably will FLIP OUT if and when an agent shows interest. I don’t know if I’ll ever look back to these unpublished days fondly because – to be blunt – right now I hate them. Becoming published has been my dream since I was ten years old, so yet I supposed I can wait and will wait for the right agent/publisher, but I would prefer it not be fiteen years.

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    • Same here. If an agent was interested, I’d flip out. And I did! But I guess it didn’t work out too well in the end.

      Of course i agree with you too, hehe. I wouldn’t mind waiting a few more years. Just…not…fifteen more years. My patience has a limit after all

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  3. Hahaha. Great analogy, June H.! I love this optimistic perspective of yours. You are right. We don’t have some clock that is ticking away, a deadline we HAVE to meet. It just needs to get done. Does it really matter WHEN?

    But I totally get the feeling. It would make you feel better that I feel pressure from people who have already finished their novels and are looking for an agent (such as yourself)–it makes me feel like my writing biological clock is ticking! I feel like I should already have a finished novel! I feel like I should be querying agents! I’m so behind!

    But I’ll take your advice. The book needs to be finished. But there is no deadline. Just enjoy the ride! 🙂

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    • Ahk, I totally know how you feel. And this is not an understatement. When I was working on my manuscript, when it was far from completion, I was so restless. I felt like I wasn’t a ‘real’ writer until I started querying. But then when I started querying, I now feel like I am not a ‘real’ writer until I land an agent. At this rate, when I do get an agent, I won’t feel like a ‘real’ writer until I get published. And then when I get published, I won’t feel like a ‘real’ writer until I’m on the NYTimes Bestselling list and have my book contracted by Warners Brother to be made into a movie…

      …So affirmation only comes from the self. Not what you achieve. I think no matter what I do, with this mindset, I’ll never feel happy with where I’m at.

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  4. Lua

    I love the analogy June! It also reminded me that I have to find two special people in my life; a husband and an agent.
    I’d prefer it if I can have the agent first 😉

    I’m not going to lie- I do hear that voice inside my head, “come on, quick, quick, everyone you know have already took off with their careers, query and say yes to the first agent who offers representation”- if they offer, that is… 🙂
    And I’m trying my best to avoid it. I don’t want to rush anything, like you said, this will be a career move and having an agent is a long-term commitment!

    Like

    • Long-term commitment is right! I’d rather wait and get the perfect agent who not only wants my book, but wants me as well. Erika brought up a good point, that there’s a diff between an agent contracting YOU and contracting your manuscript [something she brought up in her article].

      I can imagine how much more pressure you must feel. You left the road to becoming a lawyer in order to pursue your dream. So people are all watching you and all. And while you know that it’s important to take your time, there are people to prove yourself to…. well, maybe the latter is not your case, but it is mine

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  5. I love that you remind folks to savor the unpublished days. I suppose the quest for publication is a bit like the quest to grow up, when you’re a kid. Once you get there, parts of you long to go back.

    So savor I will – and thanks for that! Truly!

    – Corra

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    • Ah, an awesome analogy there. And I truly do imagine that might be the case… But I can’t really say for sure as I’ve never been published. The past is always sweeter [for some]

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  6. Pingback: Paracosm « {Courage 2 Create}

  7. I don’t believe in biological clock (maybe mine has been broken for so long, I don’t even remember I’m supposed to have one), neither for life, nor for writing. But I know what you mean and also what the agent means! 😉 Many writers rush to submission, and then think maybe another pass would have benefited them.
    As for myself – I’ve been unpublished for so long, I can wait another month or another year until I find that perfect agent (my goal for the summer, while I wait for my beta-readers to get back to me, is starting research and compiling a list of interesting agents). And I’m happy I’m still unpublished every time I read something I wrote 10 or more years ago, so I think what she means is “you’ll miss being unpublished” meaning those “experiments” and horrible first draft that badly need rewriting! 😉 When you have an editor to help you (a pro, in-house with your publisher, hopefully), all that will probably be gone… will I miss it? Who knows… I’ll check back with you when I find an agent and get published, OK? 😉

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    • Oh man, I know what you mean! My writing was soooo undeveloped a few years ago. Time benefits writers so much because we get to develop our craft, so there’s no harm in getting published later in life [your pride might be the only one getting seriously injured]. During the time of waiting, a writer is able to write new books, to READ new books that inspire you tremendously…to have a chance to grow..to be free…

      Of course I’d trade all that freedom over to get published. But hey, just saying, I don’t mind the wait

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  8. Wonderful post, June! I agree with you that there’s no point in pressurizing ourselves with self-appointed deadlines to land an agent (esp. because there’s SO much in that process that is utterly out of our control). But, gosh, it’s hard isn’t it, to be not goal oriented in today’s world?

    Or maybe our goal should be to have relaxed, enjoyable and practical objectives that are flexible enough to make room for our real life, too.

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    • “Or maybe our goal should be to have relaxed, enjoyable and practical objectives that are flexible enough to make room for our real life, too.” I couldn’t put it any better than that! I don’t think it’s wrong to be ambitious. That’s what I admire in writers–that burning need to be published. But I also respect those who burn, but are self-disciplined, and wise, and hopeful, and most of all, patient.

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  9. Smash all of those silly internal clocks. Time is an illusion anyway. I know it sounds cliched but there really is wisdom in enjoying the journey. Otherwise when you get published you won’t be able to enjoy it, you’ll just set up another clock, like the clock of editing/proofing deadlines, or worrying about the next book.
    Relax, enjoy.
    You’ll get there.
    X Lisa

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  10. Awesome post, June. You’re so right! It’s like the marshmallow test–when they asked little kids if they would rather have one marshmallow now or wait for two later? And the kids who said they’d wait for two later consistently did better in school (or something like that…). But–the writing marshmallow test! Would you rather hurry now against some self-imposed deadline…or would you rather keep improving, keep creating quality work, and it will happen when it’s right?

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  11. Junebugger,

    It took me ten years, but “The Mandolin Case” made it. The writer world belongs to the tortises not the hares. The persistent will prevail.

    Dr. B

    Like

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