Hurry up and wait

So here is where my day job conflicts with my fiction writing.

My day job currently consists of writing news and features articles, and editing pieces for various companies. I’ve done the newbie-reporter gig of covering municipal meetings and county fairs, and logged a number of years as a newspaper copy editor. The copydesk edits all articles in the paper, writes the headlines, fine-tunes (or fully creates) the page layout and clears everything to go to press. What does all this have in common? It needs to be done right now. Or ten minutes ago, if you can swing it. Deadline waits for no one. Missing deadline and making the paper late invites capital punishment. Think I’m kidding? Here is the original definition of the word “deadline.”

When I started seriously writing fiction and researching the kidlit industry, imagine my surprise to discover right now is not how it works. Agents and editors don’t want you to rush. They want you to put the story down, give it time, then pick it back up with new eyes so you can revise it properly; if you send them a revision too quickly, they’re liable to decide you took too little time on it and reject it. I was at first baffled by this, then slightly tearing-my-hair-out about it. “But don’t you want it to be done? Isn’t it done now? How long should I be taking to make it done? Arrrrrrgggghhhhhhh.”

It’s taken some practice. But I’ve been getting better at allowing time for breathing room, and letting the story be done when it’s ready to be done. So, don’t make my newbie mistake. Put it down. Give it time. Breathe.

(But if you’ve got a firm deadline, please, don’t blow it.)

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