I started publishing way before email and the Internet, and the thing I hated most was waiting. Like waiting to hear about a story or manuscript I'd submitted. I'd obsessively check my calendar and count days, weeks, months. I kept writing, kept reading books about writing, and kept all kinds of calendars which I checked whenever I wasn't busy. Hell, I checked them when I was busy, and they started to look as crowded as the Periodic Table.
I thought getting published would end my anxiety. It didn't. Because then I would have to wait for edits and feedback on a short story that had been accepted. What if they asked me to rewrite more than I wanted to? What if I wasn't good enough to do the revisions? And what if they changed their mind? That actually happened to a friend. And not because of a change of editor or editorial policy. The editor just had a change of heart and decided "This isn't the sort of thing we want to publish." My poor friend who had told everyone about her first short story acceptance was mortified.
Waiting took on ever more insidious forms after I had my first book published. Once, I waited a whole year for an editor who'd already published a book of mine to get back to me about the manuscript of my second book. I was too nervous to push him about it in case he'd get pissed off and reject it. After all, I was just a newbie, and he was a famous New York editor, and he knew it. When I finally did muster the courage to contact his assistant and make sure my manuscript hadn't gotten lost in the mail, I did hear from the editor, who was very cavalier: "I didn't think you were in a hurry." I was stupefied.
The waiting continued even after something was accepted and edited: When would it be published? When would I see the cover design (if it was a book) and would I like it or loathe it? I knew enough to move on and work on other projects, but I still felt like the unpublished piece or book had somehow gone from being a treasure to an albatross. And then there was the agony of the pre-publication reviews and the other reviews, some of which I'd hear about in advance, like rumors reaching the Hapsburg Court in the 17th Century of a battle with the Ottomans. Victory? Or defeat?
My life changed radically when I took up freelance writing and started reviewing for The Detroit Free Press, The Washington Post, Jerusalem Report and other publications. My assignments were constant and deadlines were tight. Sometimes I'd have to "turn" a book in twenty-four hours: read it and write a polished review. I loved not living in a welter of delayed gratifications. My sweetest gig was being the crime fiction columnist for the Free Press for about a decade. I focused on books in translation, paperback originals, books that weren't necessarily best sellers or by famous authors, and I got lots of feedback. People would see me around town, in the gym, at the supermarket and tell me they'd read my reviews.
Better still, the gig got me invited to a Club Med mystery conference with Dennis Lehane, Paula Woods, George Pelecanos, Marilyn Stasio, and lots of other heavy hitters in the biz. All expenses paid. For me and my spouse. I even got a book out of it: Tropic of Murder (nothing's wasted on a writer, good or bad).
As a reviewer, I learned to edit and revise my own work quickly, efficiently, and ruthlessly when I needed to. Every review I did went through sometimes a dozen revisions of my own. And I even learned how to edit defensively with one editor. Having realized that she like to cut for space rather than content, I anticipated what she might do to my reviews and made them as tight as possible without changing the core of what I had to say. That's because this was an editor who could cut the one graf that was negative in a generally positive review--or the reverse.
But that was a minor frustration when I could see my name in print so soon after I wrote the review! Waiting? What was that?
I've now been blogging for The Huffington Post for over three years, as well as for GetitWrite, a group mystery blog of Perseverance Press authors, and occasional guest blogs at sites like Mysteristas. I devote as much time, energy, and focus to each blog as I did to my reviews, but they often come out faster than my reviews, sometimes with only a few key clicks. It's a wonderful change.
Lev Raphael is the author of the suspense novel Assault With a Deadly Lie and 24 other books in genres from memoir to mystery to Jane Austen mash-up. You can read about them at http://amazon.com/author/levraphael.