• Kristiana Sfirlea

Publishing Musings: The Patience (and Porridge) of St. Writer


"What's it like being on submission to publishers?"

I've gotten this question a lot lately. A perk of being an agented writer. My answer is usually a nice balance of the positives and negatives: "Editors are reading my words. It's so exciting!" "How long have I been on sub? Six months. The waiting is hard."

But what I really want to say is one simple word. "Grueling."

gruel·ing (/ˈɡro͞oəliNG/)

adjective

extremely tiring or demanding: a grueling schedule

Not a classic definition of what it's like to be on submission to publishers. There's nothing tiring about it (unless "tired of waiting" falls under the description). And demanding. Ha! This is the calmest season of a debut author's career! No demands whatsoever (except, perhaps, "demands for answers"). So why choose grueling as my answer? Easy. Because it has the word gruel in it.

gru·el (/ˈɡro͞o(ə)l/)

noun

a thin liquid food of oatmeal or other meal boiled in milk or water

Gruel. That good-for-you gunk fantasy characters slurp up for breakfast on quests. Gruel. That food substance cruel masters water down daily to "feed" more of their slaves/orphans/prisoners. Gruel. That less-pleasant word for porridge, oatmeal, and cream of wheat.

Gruel, glorious gruel.

Gruel is tasteless. Gruel is boring. Gruel fills your stomach and keeps your body alive. Yes, being on submission to publishers is like eating gruel. It's grueling.

But you know the funny thing about this eschewed breakfast food? Stir in some sugar and it's...actually pretty good.

So, how does one sweeten their attitude towards the submission process?

Let's talk about patience for a mo'. I know, I know, every writer's favorite subject. But be patient with me, will you? This is a hands-on lesson. There's a saying you might've heard before or a paraphrase of it: "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience." (James 1:2-3)

tri·al (/ˈtrī(ə)l/)

noun

a test of faith, patience, or stamina through subjection to suffering or temptation

Ah, yes. Now that is a much more accurate description of what it's like to be on submission to publishers. The suffering of watching your book baby - the DNA of your heart and soul on paper - be turned down or ignored, the temptation to call it quits and give up before your hopes and dreams are smashed by someone else's hands. It's real. And I'm supposed to call this joy? Because it produces patience? PATIENCE? What good does PATIENCE do me? AND WHY DOES EVERYONE INSIST ON HARPING ON AND ON ABOUT IT?!

Whew! Forgive the caps lock. That felt good to get off my chest. For the record, I am going somewhere with this. It's funny, but whenever someone quotes the above verses, they tend to neglect the one that comes after. The one that kind of explains everything: "But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:4)

Patience has a purpose, and it's about waaay more than carrying you through to success. Knowing that Jesus is the Author of my life story, knowing that He is good to me and loves me, I believe that He has amazing plans for the stories He's given me to write and the perfect means of implementing them. That faith is tested every day I spend in the query trenches, and I have the gradually-amassing pile of patience to prove it. Here I am, huddled in a ditch in a raincoat with faith and patience keeping me company on either side, and somehow - somehow - I am joyful. Why? Because slowly, slowly, I'm starting to understand.

Patience's perfect work is to equip you. Equip you for what's to come, so when it gets here, you won't lack anything you need to meet it. Patience is God's chisel on the soul and one of His greatest mercies. When I stop and look at what patience is equipping me for in my life right now, this is what I find:

  • Patience is equipping my writing. It's no secret that I'm a turtle writer. The ponderous plodding of my daily word counts is in part due to dyslexia, then the fact that I "write" most of my drafts in my head (the majority of my stories are played out and edited in my imagination first - final cuts make it on the page, which means a lot less wordage per day but a lot less rewriting in the long run), and finally, sometimes it just takes me awhile to find that perfect word or description. But one day this turtle writing is going to be under a deadline and all she'll want to do is hide in her shell. Thankfully, my time on sub is giving me a stress-free environment to work on my second book at my own pace. And then, when the day comes for me to focus my energy on promoting Book 1, I won't be freaking out over finishing its sequel. I may even be working on Book 3! (Or my Dragons&Dyslexia side project. Or both.)

  • Patience is equipping my platform. Real, meaningful platforms rarely, if ever, happen overnight. And if they did, I would have absolutely no idea how to maintain mine without frying my brain, mismanaging my time, and pulling every social muscle I have. Instead, God has blessed me with a ridiculously wonderful writing community on Twitter - one that grows at just the right rate with every passing year. As you can see, I'm learning to manage a blog and have kept up on it just shy of a year this month! For a fiction writer like me, that's big progress. I designed and published my website in March 2018 and then overhauled it a few weeks ago to better represent my spooky, goofy stories. All social media outlets take work, but some work is funner than others. Like my newfound joy in combining my love for crazy socks and books on Instagram! Developing each of these takes time, but right now, time is what I got.

  • Patience is equipping me medically. It's been a year and a handful of months since I was diagnosed with gastroparesis. Learning and accepting my limitations has been both liberating and terrifying, especially in terms of my career as an author. But the more time I have to get comfortable with my condition, the better I understand it and how to create a schedule that accommodates flare-ups and all the lovely side-effects of having a stomach that doesn't like being a stomach.

  • Patience is equipping my relationships. This. This is the secret joy of the writer's life. Friendships with the most incredible people who share your passion. Supporting and encouraging others, putting their interests on par with yours, sacrificing time and energy to invest in their stories and success - it opens up an indescribable capacity for joy and pain. Joy because every one of their victories, milestones, and happy moments feels like your own. Pain because every rejection, doubt, and discouragement hits you in the heart, too. And there's beauty and redemption in both. So much of an author's writing community is built during the querying process. What sort of special connections would I be missing out on if I rushed through it all?

When I stop and think about how God is using patience to equip me while I'm on submission

to publishers, I get all tingly and excited inside. And motivated! And truly, truly grateful. If the word "patience" leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, don't be fooled. Stir it into some porridge and let the sweetness surprise you. Trust God with everything, let patience have its perfect work, and eat your gruel. It really is glorious.

glo·ri·ous (/ˈɡlôrēəs/)

adjective

having a striking beauty or splendor that evokes feelings of delighted admiration


© 2020 Kristiana Sfirlea