Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Wait a guest post by Margaret Yang

by Margaret Yang

Speed is a way of life for modern humans. I’ve had people call me an hour after sending me email asking why I haven’t responded yet. I’ve wondered why the line moved so slowly at Starbucks, only to realize it took less than three minutes to get coffee. I’ve grumbled and sighed when a webpage took thirty seconds to load.

I have screamed at my microwave to hurry up.

Writing is different. You can’t hurry a book. The first draft takes forever and the second one takes even longer. It should. I’ve seen too many rushed novels—books that were under deadline from big publishers with tight schedules. NaNoWriMo books that were thrown onto Kindle by impatient writers. Books that never got to be the fullest expression of themselves because somebody couldn’t wait.

No book is done in a single draft. All of us need at least one rewrite, and most of us need many more. We need to give our beta readers plenty of time for comments, and then we need to fix the book again. It takes time for thoughtful edits, careful proofreading, and professional-level cover art. None of it goes as fast as we want it to.

A wise martial arts instructor once told me, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” Ironically, when we slow down, we achieve more in less time.

Patience pays off no matter how you decide to publish. Traditional publishing moves at a glacial pace, so if you’re querying big publishers, you’ll already be used to the slowness of it all. But due to your patient and careful self-editing, the publishing process will go more easily than you expect. If you’re self-publishing, the more time you give yourself at every stage of the process, the better your book will be. You will make mistakes when you’re doing it yourself. But if you build in time to fix them, no one will ever know. All the readers will see is an extremely professional product, one they’ll happily recommend to their friends. To paraphrase the martial arts teacher: slow is smooth, smooth equals sales.

It’s so tempting to rush our books into print or to query too early, especially when we’re excited about our ideas. Nothing goes as fast as we want it to. But the more we slow down the process, the smoother the entire experience will be—for the writer and the reader.

Now, if only my microwave would hurry up!

Margaret Yang is a writer and parent from Ann Arbor, Michigan. She loves everything about the modern world, and will one day own a flying car. Margaret blogs at where every Friday, she reviews a new how-to book for writers.


  1. I too have tried screaming at the microwave. I've also tried waiting.
    My mother jokes about how long it takes to make a baby and deliver it and then raise it, and pay for college. The best things of life, like adolescence, can't be hurried.

  2. Too true, Margaret! :) Time has its own rushed schedule and there's no point in helping it along. Slow and steady wins the race.

  3. I swear you wrote this post just for me. I'm the queen of trying to do too much too fast. Thanks for a very timely reminder.

  4. Wise advice. Now if I can only keep it in mind as I write that book! I need to. I really, really do.

  5. And each time I throw them out there, I think they are good. Karen