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How to Survive Being on Sub aka The Neurotic Writer’s Guide

So you did it. You landed your dream agent, they love you, your book, and the laptop you wrode in on (Wrode = rode, get it? Heehee. Okay, you are looking at writer’s brain up close and personal right here people.). So you’ve made a few revisions and that baby sparkles like a vegetarian vampire in sunlight. (Um yeah, couldn’t resist and it just never gets old! LOL)

So then your agent shows you a list of editors and imprints. When you wake up from your fainting spell, you double check to make sure you weren’t dreaming. Then wipe the drool off your chin and sit back with a cold one, imagining all the ways you’ll spend that cool million headed your way.

After your brain can’t process anymore imaginary trips around the world fighting off adoring fans who have tattooed your name on their bu…well you get the idea. Anyway, then it sinks in somewhere around drink number 5 that EDITORS ARE READING YOUR BOOK. Important editors. The ones who publish your all time very favorite book OF ALL TIME. *cue more fainting followed by the same feeling you had when you ate 3-day old take-out from that questionable Chinese place down the street.*

So, you very methodically devise a freak-out plan. Written down, it requires little effort to follow. You can even post it on your fridge.

Without further ado, I introduce to you my personal list of how I have survived being on sub thus far. (Okay, I admit I’m only on week 7, so I have yet to reach the Higher Level of Angst and Worry which I have heard about from veteran authors.)

1. Vodka. The advantage is that it is colorless and odorless. You can fill your reusable water bottle and no one will know the difference. I recommend not indulging while writing though. Vodka has this strange ability to make you think you are being brilliant when no one but a fluent Pig-Latin interpreter could understand what you wrote.

2. Chocolate. It’s a proven fact that it is an endorphin, and if your brain is running around acting like a 4-year-old on Smarties, well then it won’t remember to angst. A constant steady stream is best to avoid the post-endorphin crash, which could drive you to sit in a corner, rocking back and forth, mumbling something about vodka.

3. Start a new book. That’s a popular one. In theory, this is supposed to take your mind off the book out there in Editorlandia, but really all it does is reinforce the voice in your head telling you that YOU SUCK. You fight past it, open Word, format the page and even type Chapter One. Then the cursor mocks you until you resort to number 1 AND 2 combined.
**Visit Kristin Miller's recent blog post about suckage. It’s awesome.

4. E-mail your agent every five minutes asking if you secretly suck and should you just go ahead and rewrite the entire book now instead of waiting because it has to suck and then wonder if your agent really meant to call you that day or if he/she was on heavy cough meds and dialed a wrong number. Generally your agent will assure you that they dialed the right number (Man, I hope so, cause how awkward would THAT conversation be! Agent-No actually, I meant to call another author. You do suck.) And not to tear apart the book just yet until they get some feedback. I’d recommend sending some vodka and chocolate next day air to your agent before you begin the e-mail barrage. Then at least you’ll both be on the same page.

5. Hang out with your pets, kids, significant other, friends, or a stranger at the Post Office and generally express all your angst about this entire process, including detailed verbiage of potential revisions and ask their opinion every five seconds. A word of advice: your pet will listen to you whine for hours as long as you scratch behind their ears while you talk. (Not that I know from personal experience or anything. And no, I don’t have 2 dogs and 3 cats specifically for angst related outbursts like this.)
** Your significant other may react the same way as your pet, but maybe try buttering them up with Vodka and chocolate first. It does wonders.

So now, it’s your turn. Whether you are still at the querying stage, or like me, on sub and waiting, what’s your best distraction technique? Hey, I’m always looking out for new and improved ways to angst!
Lee Bross

Lee lives her happily ever after on the coast of Maine where she has written Tangled Webs, her historical YA debut, and fantasy YA books Fates and Chaos under pen name Lanie Bross. She also writes contemporary books for New Adult under the name L.E. Bross, debuting with Right Where You Are.

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  1. I love this.
    I feel like when waiting for anything, in general, be it sub news, query news, a visit you're excited about, etc, it's impossible to forget entirely that you are waiting. (Unless maybe you go a little overboard with distraction #1!)
    But distractions do help! I swear, humans were just not made to wait for things. Which is why patience is such a valuable skill :)

  2. Ha, this is great. I've been on sub off and on for almost a year with a couple of projects (revising, re-subbing, revising, etc.) I've been doing a cross of #2 and #3 - chocolate and working on new projects. I can't say it's kept me terribly sane, though. Maybe writers are meant to be in a constant state of freakout?

  3. Great post, Lee!

    I just tried to forget I was on sub, pretended it didn't exist and that my book would never sell and that if it did I wouldn't know for a year. So I wrote another book. Such, such, such a good idea, dude!

  4. First off, YA authors the world around thank you for inventing the verb "to angst". WE LOVE IT! Two thumbs way up!

    Also that illustration? AWESOMTABULOUS!

    My distractions are anime and reading, expecially books that are in a completely different genre, and totally laughoutloud and rollalloverthefloorforreal hilarious.

  5. LOL. Great post! My greatest distraction is Twitter and awesome blogs like YA Highway. :) While I'm waiting to have my dreams crushed and/or revived, I like to read about the good fortunes of my fellow writers.

  6. Hilarious! All this to look forward to, one day.

  7. Great post, Lee. Always good to know that you're handling the sub process just as neurotically as others. And you're so right about writing another does nothing for me, lol.

    Death by chocolate has been awesome for me...just not my waistline

  8. Great post! I don't know how I'll manage if I ever officially go on sub! Those tips may help! Especially #1.

  9. OMGosh - this is a great post!!! And so darn true! Distractions are definitely the key.

  10. know, I have the answer. There's a shop a few blocks from me that sells vodka flavored truffles. Who's in?

  11. Very funny! I'm on week 5 (or 6?) and I'm on chocolate and red wine, trying to work on other books as a distraction, and my DH is wondering why I'm so cranky all the time all of a sudden....

  12. Too funny! Awesome post. And great advice. Now if I could only achieve that sanity thing.

  13. Dead on with #3. Great post, Lee!

  14. Haha. Loved this!

    I just signed with an agent this week (eek!) and I still have a mountain of revisions to do... But I will definitely bookmark this post so I can read it again when I finally go on sub!

    Until that time, I will start stashing vodka and chocolate. :o)

  15. Dude! I so feel this. Being on sub is so hard. And writing something new is awful! AWFUL. I don't recommend it during submissions. Why? Because, a FIRST DRAFT SUCKS. And as you said, you already feel sucktacular while on submission, so reminding yourself by writing a first draft is not a good combo.

    I recommend revising instead. :)

  16. Hee! I love this.

    Also, I want to know where my vodka and chocolate is.

  17. Oh crap, busted. But I have yet to email in a raving lunatic way (Geesg, at least I hope so!)

    So beware if you receive vodka and chocolate out of the blue!! LOL

  18. I find driving a great distraction.
    That, or watching a 'Supernatural' marathon. There's just something about the Winchesters that get your mind to stop worrying.


    also, great post Lee. you crack me up.


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Item Reviewed: How to Survive Being on Sub aka The Neurotic Writer’s Guide Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lee Bross