Thursday, March 19, 2009

Waiting For the Pot to Boil

by Marilyn Baron

Waiting to be published is like waiting for a watched pot to boil. Waiting for that call from a prospective agent or editor about a manuscript you’ve submitted requires tremendous patience. It all boils down to one word—hope. How many rejection letters do you need to receive before losing it (all hope, that is)? Just when it seems like all hope is gone, you get a letter saying, “We enjoyed reading the first three chapters of your book and are interested in seeing the full manuscript.” And then, put on another pot, the waiting begins all over again.

Hopes can be dashed one minute and raised the next. Hope springs eternal. Writers are resilient. Like bruised and bloodied boxers, we’re driven to survive on sheer will. And like those weary and battered prizefighters, we get back up and send out one more round of query letters and partials and hope for the best.

A fellow RWA member who waited nine years before she was published encouraged me to “stay positive.” Another RWA acquaintance, a Golden Heart finalist, advised, “write the next one and don’t let the self-doubts get in the way of writing a good story.”

I met one of my favorite writers, Janet Evanovich, at a book signing event for her novel, Lean Mean Thirteen, who had similar advice for aspiring authors: “Never give up,” and “move on to the next book.”

Best-selling author Steve Berry told me he had five manuscripts rejected a total of 85 times over 12 years before he published his first novel, The Amber Room. A lawyer who lives in Georgia, Berry is glad he never gave up trying to become a writer.

According to Berry, the number one thing aspiring writers need to do is learn their craft. He advises them join a writer’s group with others studying the craft so they can teach each other.

“Don’t ever give up,” says Berry, who considers himself the “poster child” for that philosophy. “It’s cliché, but true. Somebody’s name is going to be on the cover of a book. It might as well be ours.”

Although Berry believes “there’s no such thing as handling rejection,” he acknowledges, “you can learn from it. Just stay with it. Just keep going forward. Keep writing. There’s only one way to learn how to write and that’s to write.”

Berry also advises aspiring writers to “have a finished manuscript that’s as perfect as you can make it before trying to find an agent,” and to “follow submission instructions exactly.

“A lot of it is luck,” admits Berry, who sent out 300 letters, and received 10 positive responses before his agent took him on.

“That was a miracle and it was a miracle she stayed with me. I’m not a liability anymore.”

I also had the opportunity to meet another of my favorite writers, bestselling novelist Daniel Silva, at a book signing. He offered the following advice to aspiring authors.

“Write something and finish what you write,” Silva emphasizes. “Everyone who has ever handled me has said how important that is.”

Silva, whose first full manuscript made its way out of the slush pile, believes that writers will be successful if they’ve got a full book and it’s good enough.

“Don’t just submit the first three chapters or the first 50 pages,” he recommends. “Send the full manuscript.”

“Just write the book,” Silva advises. “Any book can be fixed.”

There are plenty of people to support us along the way—critique group partners and published GRW members, who encourage us and tell us we will make it if we just keep writing, work hard to perfect our craft, and hang in there. They are so sure it will happen for us and so generous with their time and talent, and they’re willing to do whatever they can to help us make it happen.

And I have another incentive to get published. Every time I ask my husband to read one of my manuscripts, he responds, “I’ll read it when it gets published.”

Bottom line—your dream is worth working for and waiting for. So don’t give up (hope). Yours may be the next success story.

I’d better run. I think my water is beginning to boil.

Do you have any stories you’d like to share about waiting to be published?


Tami Brothers said...

Hey Marilyn,

Great thought provoking post!!! I really needed this. Thanks for sharing all these wonderful comments from other people who have been where we are...


Susan May said...

Right now I need to be writing so that I can turn on the eye. Nice post. It is always good to be reminded that we have to keep pushing forward.

CiCi Barnes said...

All you've said, Marilyn, is so true. We have to have patience and persevere, which is oh so hard to do sometime.

But hope does spring eternal, and as it's been said, "A true writer can't not write." So we keep going and waiting for our pot to boil over. We just have to remember to turn on the stove to make it happen.


Lynn Raye Harris said...

Everything you've said is true! I wrote for 3 years, gave up when I got discouraged and life got in the way, then came back to it a few years later when I realized I didn't want to quit forever. Four years from the time I started again, I sold my first book. I've now had two accepted, and I'm working on the third.

You just can't give up. Books can be made better. New ideas are always there. Keep putting those pots on the stove. :)

Carol Burnside said...

I think it's more than hope (which suggests a passive approach, IMO). We believe in ourselves and that's what keeps us going--determination. I understand what you're saying here and your 'bottom line' comment is spot-on. We actively work to make our dreams come true.

Right now, I feel like I'm on simmer, waiting for that first big bubble to rise. :)

Sandy Elzie said...

Great post. Those who were at the GRW monthly meeting when I announced my first sale heard the story about sending in 3 chapters prior to finishing the book since, like all those before, I expected to get a rejection letter. Eight days later I got a letter asking for the whole manuscript. Yikes.

I had hoped for 8 years, had simmered off and on, had received a couple dozen least...and then the pot boiled over.

Just hang in there. When the match is right...right story, right editor, right time, then it will happen.

Like Winston Churchill said during WWII, "Never give up."


to Avalon Books (

Linsey Lanier said...

Very apt analogy. I'm glad you mentioned learning our craft as well. If writing and learning how to write better fill the long wait times, then at least we know we're making progress. And we'll have a backlist to show for our efforts. :)

Good post.


Marilyn Baron said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Lynn, yours is an inspiring success story we can all learn from. I'm glad you came back to writing. What was the name of your first book?

Marilyn Baron

Marin Thomas said...


keeping a positive attitude is so important. There are many factors that go into a "first Sale" and about the only one a writer has ontrol over is writing a darn good story. Keep beliving day it will happen!

Marin Thomas
A Cowboy's Promise April 09

Marilyn Baron said...

Thanks. I appreciate it and thank you for your advice. Sometimes it is hard to stay positive but friends like you make the process easier.


Dianna Love said...

Great interviews and advice from authors who know what it takes to get published. Nice job,Marilyn.

I don't think there's a thing I can add except to take advantage of the camaraderie you have here to support each other as you've been doing. The connection in a group like this is hard to create from scratch and invaluable once you do.

I won't be back here until Mon or Tues. I'm crammed for time the next few days. See all of you then...or this Sat at the meeting.

J Perry Stone said...

Marilyn, I'm with Tami. I really needed to hear all of this. And it IS like watching a pot.

I'm watching mine, as we speak. I got some really encouraging news and then ... nothing.


It's enough to make a person go crazy, but then I read this blog.

Thank you SO much for posting it.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Hey Marilyn. I like the admonition to finish the book. My pot is waiting to boil on the Daphne contest. I'm not going to watch the pot since I know that I'll be waiting at least 6 weeks.

Marilyn Baron said...


Good luck on the Daphne. You're halfway there since you entered.


Thanks for commenting and supporting us as usual. You're right, this group of bloggers is amazing.

I will see you Saturday.


The silence is a killer and hard to take but that's why you have your blogging sisters.

Also, and this is off the subject, but I just can't believe the news about the senseless death of Natasha Richardson. It makes you realize that in the scheme of things you should be grateful for what you have.

Marilyn Baron

J Perry Stone said...

I agree, Marilyn. When I heard the news, I sobbed. I suppose that as a mother and wife, I couldn't help projecting how her family might be feeling. But what a brief life. 45 is far too young.

Berta Platas said...

I loved your post, Marilyn. You do have to work on your craft, and move on to the next book. I play with lots of genres, so it's more like juggling those boiling pots--a dangerous proposition.

Here's to lots of success to all of the ladies who post here. May you achieve the sale of your dreams.

Marilyn Baron said...

Thank you, Berta. What a wonderful sentiment. The image of juggling pots of boiling water is a little frightening. But you do it well.


Tammy Schubert said...


Great post. I really needed a little inspiration today.

Cyrano said...

I loved your post Marilyn.
I really enjoyed the statements made by Berry and Silva. I always like to hear pre-publishing stories. It gives us un-pubs hope to know others went through ups and downs too.
What I have to work on is finishing my novels. I need to get over what ever it is in my psyche that's keeping me from completeing my stories.
That's my goal for the future. Hope I can reach it while waiting for the pot to boil.
have a lovely day. Enjoy this weather.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Marilyn. Late getting back, but my first book is out from Harlequin Presents in August. It's called SPANISH MAGNATE, RED-HOT REVENGE. And I just found out I have a cover! It's at I Heart Presents today.

Marilyn Baron said...

Congratulations Lynn. I'll be looking for it. Come back on to the blog and let us know about it when it comes out.