Waiting – a guest post by the infinitely patient RJ Barker




There’s this thing about writing that everyone has to put up with.

The waiting.

And while waiting you will be frustrated You will want to get on. You will see books getting bought, books coming out, books getting reviewed and NONE OF THEM ARE YOURS.

But still. Deep breaths. Stay calm. W a i t.

Now let’s be straight here. You’ve never heard of me so why should you listen to me? It’s pretty unlikely you’ve read anything by me[1] and for that reason I’d be really uncomfortable giving writing tips or telling you how stuff works because I’m still working that out. But I’m at the stage of nearly author – agented, a few publishers are RJ-curious – and the book I recently finished is probably[2] pretty good if you like that sort of thing. I’m getting there, is what I’m saying but that’s not important to this because this is about waiting and you don’t need to be a pro author to be an expert in waiting.

But if you doubt me here’s a quick waiting C.V. For you to peruse.

Short stories.

• Waiting between four weeks to six months for some variation of ‘we like this but you are a bit weird and we’re not sure if you’re a good fit for us.’ Repeat for years and years, to very little effect.

Personal life.

• Waiting for six years to get chronic and painful illness under control.[3]
• As a British citizen I have a natural propensity for queuing and inevitable disappointment.


• Waiting for beta readers – a few weeks to you’ve-had-this-for-four-years.-Have-you-read-it-yet?[4]
• Waiting for agents to take an interest. They’re pretty quick actually, generally I’ve heard a yes or no back within a month or two. Some don’t reply to a no but they tend to have an ‘if you’ve not heard in X…’ in their guidelines.
• Waiting for agents to provide edit notes. Again, this is pretty speedy given the general glacial speed of publishing. A month to six weeks. But…
• Feedback on multiple revisions. This can sort of feel like you’re stuck on a Möbius strip.^
• Waiting to hear from your agent about what he has heard from publishers. Again, pretty quick in most cases. Three weeks or so (quicker if a no, it seems) though smaller publishers often take longer.
• Repeating the latter three stages (ongoing.)

And of course, if you do sell the book there’s a whole new set of patience based experiences for you to enjoy – but as I said, I’ve not quite got there yet.[5]

I mean you can circumvent the waiting. There are ways. Well, a way. You can self publish in that delightful finishing rush when your book is prefect and thier are know typos. You might be way more accurate than I am and your book might be perfect from the off (it isn’t). You might not need to rethink some of your character’s actions (you do) and you probably don’t need any form of editorial input (you really, really do.)

But if you’re sure you don’t need to wait then go ahead and hit that publish button. I am wrong (I’m not). Your book is great (it sucks).

I suppose what I am saying is that waiting is inevitable. You should wait. Waiting should be part of the process. It let’s you reset and rethink. Waiting brings doubt and doubt, though not much fun, is useful. It means when you get that feedback saying that maybe instead of a sentient housebrick your main character should be a human you’ll be more receptive to it. Even though it, clearly, is a stupid idea at least you’ll be so desperate to get on you’ll be prepared to humour these crazy people who are questioning your creative vision[6].

Your book is like good coffee, leave it to brew and if possible get someone else to do it for you and draw a little picture in the froth on the top of the. Erm. Book.

I didn’t really think that metaphor through if I’m honest, rushing things you see… I don’t even really like coffee I’m more about tea.

Be glad of the waiting and its enforced reflection is, I suppose, what I am saying. I know that’s not a great conclusion but don’t worry – a better conclusion is coming in about six to eight weeks depending on my workload[7].

TL/DR. 94.2% of writing is pressing refresh on your email client.

RJ is currently waiting for edit notes on his fantasy novel ‘The Uncrowned Heir’. And yes, of course the heir is uncrowned, cos they’re an heir. If they were crowned they’d be a king, wouldn’t they? You will have to trust me on this, for now, it makes absolute sense in situ. You wait and see.

1.But you can, see, here! http://www.gollancz.co.uk/2012/06/the-shepherd-by-rj-barker/ Note how long ago that is? See, I am a MASTER at waiting.
2. Or is it? Oh god, I don’t know. It’s terrible isn’t it? Just tell me I…PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER, MAN! Okay, yeah. It’s probably alright. I like it anyway.
3. This is not compulsory.
4.You know who you are, R****** P*****.
5. But close! Oh so close. – http://wah-wahwriter.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/failing-at-highest-level.html
6. This isn’t how writers actually think. *Hard stare.*
7. Yes! An entire blogpost on waiting and not even one Godot joke. Go me.

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