Monday, January 16, 2012

Buried Alive

For anyone who has ever worked in customer service of any sort, I’m sure you can relate. It’s dead, then it’s busy. It slows to a crawl, and then you can’t keep up. The office will be quiet one minute, then all eight phone lines are blaring for attention, and you’re the only one taking calls.

I’m not sure if there’s a science to this or not. I’ve held, over my life, seven customer service oriented jobs, and the above has been a universal truth. Granted, with some jobs it was easier to predict than others. For instance, when I worked for a movie theatre, pinpointing rushes was as easy as knowing the showtime schedule. The same thing for the food service industry. Yet working in women’s clothing or my two-year stint as a bank teller, the rushes were harder to predict. As a writer and editor, it gets even trickier.

You see, you spend most of your time waiting. Waiting for news on a manuscript, waiting for contracts, waiting for edits, waiting for cover art, waiting for the second round of edits, waiting for lines, waiting for publication day, waiting for reviews, waiting for your royalty statements, waiting for your crit partners, waiting, waiting, waiting. I won’t pretend it’s easy—patience is a huge part of being a successful author. But then so is time management. ‘Cause guess what? After all that waiting comes the endgame, and if you aren’t ready you just ain’t gonna make it.

You know why? You subbed Manuscript A to Pub X, which had a response time of 4-12 weeks and Manuscript B to Pub Y with a response time of 8-16 weeks, and Manuscript C is in edits with Pub Z. Well, as it turns out, Pubs X and Y get back to you on Manuscript A and Manuscript B within, let’s say, two weeks. And their production time is considerably shorter than Pub Z’s, so now you have three manuscripts in edits. If you’re not exhausted yet, just wait until Pub Z wants substantial revisions, Pub Y doesn’t do much in terms of edits and, being a perfectionist, you have to go through the manuscript with your very own fine-toothed comb, and Pub X is just really efficient at getting things back to you well before their due. And between your second, third, and line edits, you have promo to do, and oh yeah, words on Unfinished Manuscript to get out.

We either have all the time in the world or we have none at all. Is the above scenario inflated? Probably a little, but I recently went through much the same thing—only toss on the fact I was editing two books editing for Mundania, and it’s a bit closer to home. Other authors might stretch their releases out. I admire that, I really do. It’s just not the way I operate. I get something done, I send it to the CPs, and then I’m ready to put a nail in that particular coffin. For as much as I need it, I lack the patience to just sit on a manuscript. And as I said, for writers, patience is a must.

Somehow, though, even with as flawed as my personal approach might be, I am able to turn everything around on time. And everyone works differently under pressure; I was one of those students who would stay up until three in the morning pounding out a 25 page thesis paper due at seven a.m the next day. And ace it, of course. But not everyone works like that. As a writer, you have to pace yourself appropriately. You have to know your boundaries. You have to realize that Saturdays are work days, too. No matter how much we’d like to pretend otherwise.

So if you’re just getting into this game, think about yourself during finals week. ‘Cause sometimes writing can feel a whole lot like that. Only this time not just the teacher’s reviewing your work.


Jacqueline Paige said...

Ha! Rosalie I think we were twins in a past life!

You left out the real side of life in your post though, family, friends (you know all those people you put on hold for one more hour to finish up what you're working on)..

Most of what you described is my life of writing. I have a new release coming out every second month this year and will be up to my tailbone in edits, rewrites, promo for the whole of 2012. Of course that's not including the four other submissions I sent out right after receiving the new contracts.
What can I say, I don't do 'idle' very well at all!

As for the customer service end of it - being a manager of a busy cafe in both a winter and summer tourist path seemed like a really good idea at the time two years ago...

Let me know when you need me to stand behind you and hold your weary head up off the keyboard to coax you to the finish line - and I expect the same from you.



Rosalie Stanton said...

Oh, Jacq! How droll! Surely you know writers don't have a life outside work?

You make an excellent point. Yes, I do have the hubs chirping in my ear. Last night I barked at him while I was trying to get any words committed on my WIP. He adapted the wounded puppy look and went away to make dinner.

I'm not a manager, but I am a there are 8 hours a day I'm guaranteed to do none of the above...unless the boss ain't watching.

You have a deal, lady. Let me know when you need me!

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