Action Figures, Progress Report #2…or, “The Waiting is the Hardest Part” – Tom Petty

This was in my e-mail inbox this morning:

I’ve finished reading your first 50 pages and I’m really liking the story so far! I love Carrie’s spunk and the supporting characters in the group of misfit superheroes-in-the-making. Will you please send me your full manuscript? I would also like to ask for a 30 day exclusive on the full. I really look forward to reading more! Hope to hear from you soon!

Ten days earlier I’d sent out a 50-page sample of my Action Figures manuscript, and in-between those e-mails I’d been alternately envisioning any number of outcomes (not all of them good) and forcing myself into a state of not-so-blissful denial: I’m not going to think about it, I’m going to think about something else, I am a rock, I am an island, I control my emotions, they do not control me…

Day One of The Waiting Game was the worst, and each day I got progressively more distracted by life stuff — work, wife, pets, Elder Scrolls, etc. Yesterday I had a relapse and spent too much time thinking For Christ’s sake, talk to me! Ask for more pages or tell me this doesn’t meet your current publishing needs, but for the love of God end the torture!

And this morning, he did, but not really, because now I get to experience an even more intense suspense as I wait for that e-mail that will tell me Sorry, but after reading the whole thing I’m going to pass on this project or I would like to represent you.

I’ve ridden this ride before. It hasn’t happened often, but there have been occasions over the past 22 years when an agent or publisher has been intrigued enough by an initial pitch to ask for a manuscript. The difference this time around is that the request does not feel perfunctory, mechanical, or impersonal. This fellow (who shall for now remain nameless) has been responsive, involved, and enthusiastic. It feels like I’m dealing with a honest-to-God flesh-and-blood human being that truly likes what I’m offering.

That has lent this particular submission process a sense of promise I have never before experienced, and that makes the waiting all the more nerve-wracking. I want to at last receive a positive response. I want my two-plus decades of trying and failing and trying again to finally pay off.

I’m thrilled that this may be the day I’ve been working toward my entire adult life. I’m terrified that I’m going to be crushed worse than ever before.

Should option two play out, I know it’s going to hit me hard and hurt, a lot. I’ll probably lose myself in something very much not writing so I don’t have to think of this latest huge setback. I’ll spend time wondering if I’ve been wasting me life chasing a dream that will never become reality.

And then I’ll get an awesome idea and I’ll be right back at the keyboard, pounding away, because that’s where I belong.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

(In the meantime, I’m going to re-read my latest inspirational find, a column entitled 25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing (Right Fucking Now). I love this guy.)


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