I recently had a conversation with an author who has been waiting years to be published. She’s gotten an agent, shopped her novel, and had it go to committee twice, with no success. And she still keeps plugging away. I asked her why. Why don’t you just self-publish? She said,
I want to know my writing is good enough that somebody else will foot the bill for it.
I realize I may be in the minority, but I applaud this author’s patience. And her reason for waiting. As a writer, patience used to be a virtue. Now it’s an option. Thanks to self-publishing, you never again have to wonder if your book is “good enough” for someone else to foot the bill.
So needless to say, I found it refreshing to hear this novelist and screenwriter extol the writerly virtue of… patience. In his article 25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing, Chuck Wendig offers this advice at #5:
The rise of self-publishing has seen a comparative surge forward in quantity. As if we’re all rushing forward to squat out as huge a litter of squalling word-babies as our fragile penmonkey uteruses (uteri?) can handle. Stories are like wine; they need time. So take the time. This isn’t a hot dog eating contest. You’re not being judged on how much you write but rather, how well you do it. Sure, there’s a balance — you have to be generative, have to be swimming forward lest you sink like a stone and find remora fish mating inside your rectum. But generation and creativity should not come at the cost of quality. Give your stories and your career the time and patience it needs. (emphasis mine)
If “stories are like wine,” then authors are like winemakers — both require time to “age.” Thus, the “virtue” of waiting to publish is two-fold:
- Waiting gives the author time to grow in her craft and career.
- Waiting gives the author time to deepen and hone her stories.
Yesterday, I announced I’ll be releasing a second self-published book. (Though, after some of the comments, I’m considering re-working the cover.) Point is: I have nothing against self-publishing. Nevertheless, the suggestion that waiting to publish can be virtuous always seems to tweak some authors the wrong way.
A while back I posted about a friend of mine, Jessica Dotta, who waited 10-years before finally being contracted for her Historical trilogy with Tyndale House. I used Jessica’s story as an example of the virtues of waiting to be published. Of course, there was a lot of dissent. Some even called her stupid for denying her readers, handing her rights over to a publisher, and conceding to potentially meager royalties. While the debate was interesting, it was fascinating to hear what Jessica personally learned by waiting so long to be published. In her comments on that post, she said this:
Had I been published earlier, I never would have mentored several writers, many whom have gone into print, some bestselling.
I would have never started working with ministries and gaining a whole new perspective of what a well-lived life means.
I never would have worked for a film production company, or an artist management company. Had I been so focused on fiction, I never would have written non-fiction on behalf of Media Change and been invited to join them.
During the wait, I learned how to write deeper with stark honesty. I started to chronicle the rawness of healing from a divorce and what it means to find grace.
I might not have taken the opportunity to use my PR skills to join the fight against a genocide….
Something much bigger was taking place in those years. God had a fuller, richer life in mind. Had I not waited for Him, I would have missed it.
Something much bigger than just getting her story into print was happening in Jessica’s life: She was “aging,” growing as person, growing as a writer, becoming something she may have never been if she’d rushed her story into print.
It makes me wonder how many of us writers miss personal growth and career opportunities because we are too anxious to get published.
No. This isn’t an argument for traditional publishing. This also isn’t an argument against self-publishing. This is a reminder that not hurrying — in life and writing — is a virtue.