Good Things Take Time

A while back I read an amusing—but oh-so-true—article in Entertainment Weekly titled “The Filmmaker’s Guide to Making the Perfect Pitch” (note: this online version is shorter than what appeared in print). By Oscar- and Emmy-nominated writer-director Morgan Spurlock, it began, “When I was younger and dreamed of working in the film industry … I thought I would just write a brilliant story and someone would hand me a sack of money to make it. Wake-up Call No. 211: It doesn’t work like that!”

This is something I wish I could tell … well, everyone. All y’all, as we say here in the South. :)

While I get much of my work (both editing and writing) from traditional publishers, I have been getting more and more interest from independent authors (that is to say, authors who don’t have book deals—and maybe not even agents). One of the most difficult things to convey about what I do and about the book business in general is How Long It Takes.

From “No, I can’t start work on your project tomorrow” to “No, it doesn’t surprise me that you haven’t heard back from that agent in a month,” good things take time, so if you’ve got a book in you, build that into your expectations now.

There are plenty of resources online that can prepare you for the process. Literary agent Rachelle Gardner has written a helpful article that covers all the bases. No, I’m not on her list of recommended editors, but maybe I will be someday. See? Editors have aspirations too. :)

I like this one for this piece of advice, which is excellent: “Become a non-bad writer. … You have to shake off the stench of amateurism before you start talking to people in the publishing world.” The author writes nonfiction and he recommends writing for edited publications to become a better writer—but the key word here is edited. You should work with an editor. It won’t be inexpensive, but it will be helpful in many, many ways. Not least of which making you a non-bad writer.

I like this one because it recommends you research the biz, and for this pearl of wisdom: “Publishing is a slow, slow business. Decisions aren’t made quickly.”

Finally, I love Jane Friedman, a professor of media and writing at the University of Cincinnati and the former publisher of Writer’s Digest. She has some interesting things to say here about how to get a publisher’s attention. And she’s written extensively about the path to publication, from basics to craft to getting published and inspiration (check out the archive here).

The Morgan Spurlock article discusses naysayers, networking, and no-thank-yous, but his final comment caught my eye. “Don’t give up,” he says. “I went to film school with some amazing, talented people who are now amazing, talented bankers and real estate brokers.”

It’s true. A great manuscript is a good first step. But it’s going to take time, grasshopper.

Tweet: Wake-up Call No. 211: Publishing doesn’t work like that!
Tweet: A great manuscript is a good first step. But it’s going to take time, grasshopper.

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  1. Iain Broome says:

    Thanks for the Write for Your Life mention and you’re absolutely right, these things do indeed take time. Liking the blog, by the way. Lovely stuff.

  2. Heh heh heh, I’m not on Rachelle’s list either, though I tried. I left a comment to the list.

    This is a great point that beginners need to understand. I’m putting the article on FB.


    • Jamie says:

      The best boss I ever had used to say, “Just do good work, Jamie.” And that’s what I try to do. I have little goals, sure. I have my little aspirations. :) But I figure doing good work will eventually get me there. :)
      Thanks for reposting!

  3. I still think so :) .. such things can only be learned by practical experience..