Someone just asked me what the worst thing about being a writer is. Took me less than a second to answer:


I’m always waiting for my editors, or agents, or publicists, or someone to get back to me. Yes, all of mine are miraculously fast. Yes, I’ve never had to wait more than a week for notes on any of my books. But when you’re waiting for notes a week is an eternity! Sadly, my middle name is not patience.

But the wait for money to show up is genuinely interminable, and the wait for my books to finally come out already? Ditto. I finish the bugger in, say June, and it doesn’t come out until March of the following year—if I’m lucky! In publishing land, that’s fast. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

One of the longest waits is between finishing a book and getting reader responses, finding out if people other than Scott and my editors think it’s unchunderiffic. That’s partly why I send out my early drafts to so many first readers. Otherwise I don’t find out till the end of time what people think of it. But most of them don’t get back to me, or they do much later than they said they would. And because I do exactly the same thing to them I can’t get cranky. Not fair! (Well, okay totally fair, but bloody annoying!)

The following true stories have random pronouns attributed to them in order not to reveal who the waiting writers are:

Right now I have one friend waiting on an editorial letter. He was supposed to have it weeks and weeks ago. He’s going insane, unable to concentrate on other tasks because he knows the minute the ed letter comes in he’ll be thrown into convulsions because he’ll only have ten minutes to do the rewrite and it will probably involve having to throw out the whole thing and start from scratch. Editors can be cruel that way.

Another friend has a proposal out for a series of book completely unlike anything she’s written before. She loves this project more than anything else she’s ever worked on. She’s in paroxysms waiting to see if it sells. What if it doesn’t? Will she be stuck writing books like the ones she’s been writing and is now bored of? Will it torpedo her entire career if this new series doesn’t sell? Aaaarghhhh!! She is in a total state and the proposal’s only been out a few days . . .

And then there’s the waiting when you get given fabulous news and you’re not allowed to say a thing about it. That’s kind of a delicious yet frustrating waiting.

I am waiting on one of those right now. It’s doing my head in. I know the trick is to put the waiting out of my mind and keep writing, but that is so so so much easier said than done.

I am a much more patient person than I was ten years ago. And massively more patient than twenty years ago. But I’m still not patient. Gah!


  1. Dess on #

    i hate waiting too. like waiting for a very important email. when ill it ever show up?!?!?!?!

  2. Dess on #

    ooo i was the first commenter! fun! i could never be a writer. i can’t wait for anything. i’m to impatient. and i can’t spell. but i guess that’s what spell check and editors are for.

  3. kevin wignall on #

    oh yes, a thousand times, yes.

    firstly, i hope you’re waiting to break great news. if it’s the middle one, i know exactly how you feel – my ya book was finished just over a year ago and has been out with some uk editors for eight months. it’s the first of a quartet that i’m passionate about and i hate to even think about it because it drives me mad.

    meanwhile, my next adult book was finished and handed in january 06 and will come out in the usa this coming november, just shy of two years later.

    it’s always the waiting that kills you.

  4. Dawn on #

    I know what you mean. I’m one of the most patient people in the world, but when it comes to things I absolutely LOVE…or really care about…I’m VeRy impatient! Agh.

  5. The Bibliophile on #

    Waiting is hard on us readers as well. It drives me to distraction knowing the the next book in a favorite series won’t be out for a year, or more! Or the next book by a favorite author! Argh! Speaking of which, I can’t wait for your next book to come out!!

  6. Ally on #

    justine!! i love the pictures of you on maureen’s site! it looks like yall had a ball at the spiderwick party!

  7. Karen on #

    gad, you said it. i just finished sending my first revision back to my editor … after waiting months to hear from her in the first place. and yeah — no ability to concentrate while waiting. must learn that one.

  8. Danica on #

    That’s a shame. Justine Patience Larbalestier has a nice ring to it. I also LOVED the pictures on Maureen’s site, and can’t wait for your news!! Gah!!

  9. Rebecca on #


  10. orangedragonfly on #

    okay, i know i’m a broken record………..but waiting for active labor to start is driving me mad (especially since i’ve been in painful early labor since friday!!).

    (honestly, can you expect a woman pregnant for the first time to be thinking of anything else??! 😉 )

    i will add, though, that waiting for a new book to come out has gotten worse since i moved to germany. sure i can order it from amazon to be shipped to me when it is first released….but that still means i have to wait an extra week to get it because the mail takes longer! alas, maybe i’m learning patience. (probably a good thing with a baby on the way….)

  11. Doselle Young on #

    Yeah, that old devil. Waiting sucks. Waiting two years for a book proposal to get the greenlight…waiting for notes…waiting for money…waiting to start the next thing…waiting for the fog to rise so you can see the forest for the trees…waiting for inspiration…there should be some phases of waiting chart like the whole anger, bargaining, acceptance deal with death. Someone should get on that.

    We’ll all be waiting.


  12. Elmo on #

    Well, here’s a waiting game that, tonight, is paying off:
    The last time I can remember having rain, proper rain that you can fall asleep to while its thrumming on your roof, is way too long ago. (this year our summer was the driest in our recorded history)
    And tonight, from the time when I started reading Maureen Johnson’s ’13 little blue envelopes’ (it might very well be a good luck charm, it was definitely a good book) to the time I finished it, so at least 2 hours, it has been steady, wonderful, fresh smelling rain.
    And the waiting for it has honestly made it so incredibly awesome!

    Orangedragonfly: patience is good, I’m one of five, I’m pretty sure my mum is an angel or something. Congratualations, by the way! I hope everthing goes wonderfully well for you!

    Long post…I think I’ll go to bed now…

  13. Elmo on #

    comment really, but post has less letters, oh well, the incorrectness is killing me, therefore, I must correct…

    …Really, must go to bed.

  14. carrie on #

    i am *so* not a patient person. whenever i have proposals or query letters submitted i have to set a date that i’m allowed to start freaking out and wondering about responses. until that date arrives, i just have to put it out of my head. but once that date is here – watch out cause i become a huge worrywart with nothing else on my mind!

  15. Chris S. on #

    Waiting bites. I wait patiently only when I have nothing else to do… and I always have something else to do. I mean, I have regrouted the bathroom tiles yet, have I?

  16. Ysabeau on #

    Patience is a virtue they say. How virtuous we are all then! Being in the same boat as your friends, I feel their pain. I think I shall go lie on a deck-chair, request a bowl of bouillon, and while away the time reading the latest issue of GODEY’s LADY’s BOOK. Do join me…

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