How do you find the time to write your books? Do you just sit down and write whenever inspiration hits or do you set aside a certain amount of hours every day to write? And which seems to get the job done better?
For many writers, myself included, writing is not their full-time job. And even for those who do write full-time, it can be difficult to juggle the creative and business side of being a professional writer, ie. social media, conferences, school visits, etc. While these other commitments are important as they often help writers generate supplemental income, they can swiftly take over your creative time.
While I can’t speak for all writers, I can give you some insight into my process. For inception novel writing, which takes the most amount of creative energy for me, I tend to block out large chunks of time to devote to the first draft of a project. I’ll pull back from social media, make sure all my admin-type projects are complete, and devote most, if not all, of my limited time to simply writing. For me, this means 3-5 nights per week between 9pm and 12midnight (I’m a night owl). To help make the most of my writing time, I often daydream about my story during the hours in between, thinking about characters, scene, and dialogue. This means that when I sit down to write, I have an idea of what I need to accomplish and I can be efficient with my time.
When I’m writing something new, I need to spend as much continuous time as possible in it, or I lose the thread of the story. My best writing comes when I am living with the characters, feeling their feelings, thinking their thoughts, and that only comes when I’m deeply invested. Therefore, to complement my weekly shifts, I try to plan for a couple weekend writing retreats per year, so that I can spend a few days with my characters without the responsibilities of daily life. I do very little revising on the new draft during this time and I try and tune out the editor in me altogether (unless problems arise).
So, to summarize, the three things I recommend for you are:
- keep to a weekly writing schedule;
- hold your creative time sacred;
- build in some more in-depth writing retreats.
Hopefully, this will ensure that you are able to accomplish your writing goals while still managing your other responsibilities.
I keep hearing writers who have agents talking about “going on sub.” I know it has to do with their books going out to publishers, but can you explain how that process works?
Elizabeth M. from Washington D.C.
“Going on sub,” short for “submission,” means that your agent thinks your manuscript is ready to pitch to editors. Based on your story and intended market, your agent likely has a top tier of editors to whom they intend to pitch your story. For children’s literature, which includes YA, the sub list is usually 6-12 editors. Most agents will only pitch to one editor within a publishing house, even if the publisher has several imprints. The pitch includes a short synopsis (similar to a log-line), a few published works that are comparable to your project, and some specifics like whether its YA or MG and the genre of your manuscript.
Some agents will share their sub list with the author. Some don’t. Some agents will share editor responses with their authors, word-for-word, while others act as a go-between. And some agents will only tell an author when an editor is interested. If you have a preference as an author, it may be wise to let your agent know. They may be flexible in their process or they may have found through experience that they prefer their own methods.
While it’s the agent’s job to follow-up with editors in a timely matter, if it seems like it’s been awhile (three months or more) with no response, you may want to nudge your agent. They are likely juggling several projects at once and may appreciate a gentle reminder.
Going on sub can take anywhere from a week to a year, maybe even longer. This is because the agent likes to give the editors ample time to review your work. If the first round of editors pass on your manuscript, but offer feedback, your agent may ask you to revise your manuscript before going out on sub again to increase your chances of sale.
In the best-case scenario, more than one editor will be interested in your work, which allows you and your agent to have the upper-hand in negotiating your contract. You may be invited to speak to the editors over the phone to learn a bit more about their vision for your book and how they believe it fits with their publishing house. These conversations are extremely valuable because it gives you, the author, the opportunity to ask questions and get to know the editor before you enter into what will become a long-term relationship.
If your agent has exhausted their list of contacts, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the end of the line for your book. There may be opportunities to strengthen it and go out on submission again. Or it may be that it’s not the right time in terms of market conditions. The good news is that editors move around a lot, so if you and your agent decide to go out on sub later down the line, you will likely have a fresh set of editors with different sensibilities reviewing your work.
Laura Lascarso is the author of two YA novels, COUNTING BACKWARDS (2012) and RACING HEARTS (2015). If you have a burning YA question you’d like answered, tweet it to @lauralascarso with #DearLaura or include it in the comments below.