Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Who, Me? Worry?

by Jess Riley

Someone once told me that it’s harder to STAY published than it is to GET published. At the time, I thought, “Oh, pish-posh, what drivel. That’s not going to happen to MEEEE!”

(If this were an episode of The Office, I’d look straight at the camera and give one of those knowing, deadpan smiles perfected by Jim Halpert.)

Right now, at this very moment, an editorial team is deciding the fate of my work-in-progress. The sophomore novel-to-be. Because the proposal is with the editor I worked with on Driving Sideways, I only wrote 110 pages before handing it over. If this novel is given the green light, I will be finishing it with the keen insights of my editor. If this novel is NOT given the green light, I will still be finishing it, but first I will need to spend several days completely prone on the couch, eating Funyuns in my pajamas.

(Which reminds me of one of the best Onion headlines ever: “Funyuns Still Outselling Responsibilityuns.” Gets me every time.)

So, while I wait, the plan is to continue working on it. Trouble is, I’m incredibly anxious. Jumpy, even. It would now be easier to thread a needle with a garden hose than it would be to actually meet a daily page goal. Unless that daily page goal includes grocery lists, birthday cards to relatives, and insecure emails to friends.

(Oh! I just got a text. Hang on.)

I may be developing adult-onset attention deficit disorder, or perhaps I’m just turning into my mother. She called me recently while driving home from work to discuss an upcoming family reunion when she suddenly blurted, “Oh, there’s a dead deer! Poor thing. Which reminds me. I should tell you I got my hair cut.”

While I wait for the verdict and gnaw my fingernails to shreds, my writing process has completely disintegrated. But I only have one more month of golden writing time before heading back to my day job, so I need to focus. Butt, meet chair. You’re not leaving until you give me at least four good pages a day.

It always comes back to discipline. (I know. How fun is that?) You have to find a way to introduce your muse to your inner drill sergeant and just get to it. Right now, my inner drill sergeant is shouting, “You think you’re anxious? You should be so lucky! Try waking up in the Sudan or Afghanistan. Get your fingers on that keyboard and give me twenty! Good sentences!” And my muse is clearing her throat. “Okay now, you can do this. You convinced your husband to see Midnight in Paris with you last Friday, didn’t you? And he hates Woody Allen! Just close your eyes and pretend you’re falling asleep. You get your best ideas then. No! You’re driving! When you get even better ideas! Okay, wait--I have it: you’re falling asleep while driving. There. Go! Go write, now!”

Speaking of which, it’s nearly two-thirty. After I figure out why my dog is making this strange wheezing sound, and I get an ice cream sandwich and see what the squirrels are up to in the backyard, and check my e-mail, I’m totally going to get started writing.


When Jess Riley isn't blogging with the Girlfriends, she can be found blowing small things way out of proportion here.


  1. That was hilarious! (Not to laugh at your pain, but you phrased it so well.) I just went through the querying process, and several people advised me to fill the waiting time by writing my next book. It was great advice in theory, but so hard to actually practice it. Good luck with acquisitions. I know they'll love it!

  2. Oh my God, Jess, how did you channel me? Substitute fun-yuns with BBQ chips and I'll think you've taken over my head.

    I just have to laugh and laugh and laugh when people ask when they can read my next book. I figure that's so much better than replying, "Who the hell knows?"

    Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

  3. Oh, my gosh, I nearly threw up reading this post. I'm also working on the agent rewrite of my novel and am just haunted by visions of not being able to stay published. Though I wouldn't wish this nerve-wracking time on anyone, it's nice to know I'm not alone.

  4. Good luck with your proposal, Jess! Driving Sideways was delightful. I'm sure #2 will be a big hit. I'm just getting ready to publish my first book and in these angst-ridden weeks before publication I've been known to take the Twizzler cure. Note to self: Buy stock in Twizzler.

  5. Caryn, good luck with the querying! That advice is spot-on, but it is hard to follow, isn't it?
    Judy: we'll have to come up with a clever, funny response for that question. LOL
    Ernessa--you are SO not alone! I'm thinking of starting a support group. ;)
    Meredith, thank you so much! Good luck with your own book--enjoy the ride!
    Karin, will definitely do so. :)

  6. Yes, yes, yes - all so true and familiar. I think the Girlfriends should start our own publishing company. Who's in?

  7. Baaaaaaah! Judy got to the channeling me thought before i did!! It is nice to know we are all in good company!!

  8. Love twizzlers, love BBQ potato chips, but never had a funyon...anyway, loved your post Jess and feel your pain. and your mother's comment is hysterical. sounds just like the mother I'm trying to write in current wip! good luck and keep us posted--since you plan to finish the dang thing no matter what, might as well get started:).

  9. Jess, fingers and toes crossed for you!! (And I'm jumping in on Melissa's great idea of a Girlfriends Publishing Company...we could be huge. ;)

  10. Jess, best of luck. I'm hoping to stay pubbed too!