Laying Track

by Mistina Picciano on February 4, 2013

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Six weeks have passed since I sent my fledgling novel off to one of the big publishing houses. Not a peep. However, I realize these things take time. Even if an editor loves your work, she still has to sell it to the rest of the decision-makers. This is part of the reason that the traditional publishing process takes so . . . darn . . . long.

Anyone who meets me can see my control-freak tendencies, but I’ve been fine with the waiting. Sort of.

On the one hand, lack of rejection means that hope can spring eternal a little while longer, right? On the other, I realize that the eventual response—assuming, of course, that one is forthcoming—will likely be negative.

So what’s an aspiring writer to do while playing the publishing waiting game?

Get back to work

Now that I have a complete, 652-page manuscript, part of me is anxious to plunge into the hunt for an agent and publisher. Another part of me thinks perhaps I should cool my jets, give myself some time and perspective in hopes of revising my novel with a more objective eye.

Either option is fine, as long as I move my writing forward. Yes, I can start rewriting immediately and fire off query letters to a few agents at a time. Or I can set the manuscript aside and begin a new project—or resume an abandoned one. Anything that keeps the writing muscles strong and supple.

Julia Cameron refers to the act of inching forward in our creative endeavors as “laying track.” It’s the single best way to fight the self-doubt whispering that our work will never be “good enough” for publication.

As long as we advance our art, finding pleasure in the process, we can avoid the trap of believing that only a finished product—in this case, a published novel—justifies the effort of creation.

Knowing and doing

Her advice makes sense. Still, it’s hard for me to drum up enthusiasm for my next novel, realizing that the most recent object of my literary affections may never make it beyond my hard drive and the backup cloud server.

Yesterday, I upgraded my copy of Dramatica Pro to Dramatica Story Expert, which should help with the critical planning stage. (See “Finding Your Writing Process.”) I promptly read the manual and spent some time journaling in my official “noveling notebook.” This last exercise was mostly a brain dump, but I did commit to a loose plan for advancing my writing:

  • Spend at least 1-2 hours/day working on my new novel (or revising the last one)
  • Complete the synopsis and outline of the next novel by March 31
  • Complete the first draft of this novel by June 30

Next, I need to establish milestones and rewards. A cupcake date for one week of writing? A new journal or pen for a completed outline? Regardless, the prize needs to motivate me—and I need to follow through, both with doing and with rewarding. (I still haven’t treated myself to a mani-pedi to celebrate my finished manuscript.)

How do you keep yourself focused on the creative process and avoid the soul-sucking depression that can accompany the desire for results and recognition?

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