Writers and horses have more in common than people might realize.
Writers and Horses
Writers have long memories. They remember the bad reviews, just like horses remember people who mistreat them. Writers often want to hang out with others, but need to be able to run to the far end of the pasture and get away from the group as well. Like horses, small groups are often preferable to a large herd. Horses are actually “band animals” not herd animals. They want a few pals who understand them, but not too many or the pasture gets crowded.
Pastures can be a lot like attending a writer’s conference. Within a day or two, small self-selected groups are hanging out together in various corners in the bar.
Horses and Time
One thing horses can definitely teach writers is how to think about time.
Horses are both patient and in the moment, two things writers would do well to learn.
Horses are Patient, Writers are Not
Writers often rush to publish or submit to agents and/or editors. Rushing to publish or query never helps an author. Horses understand this. They don’t settle in immediately to new surroundings. They are vigilant as they assess any situation. They may be open to change, but they know that time will tell if the new environment is safe or not.
Time is on a writer’s side . . .
Writers should sit with their manuscripts and fully assess if it’s ready before they start to query. There’s nothing wrong with getting a wishlist together of agents, nor is it bad to start working on the query letter and synopsis as the writer completes the manuscript, but that’s not the same as writing “The End” and then sending out query letters the next day. Writing is rewriting and writers would do well to keep in mind if they haven’t done several rewrites, they aren’t ready to query or publish.
Letting a manuscript sit for a month (or two) is often the best way to determine how much work is left before it’s query ready. Even better, send it over to a beta reader and ignore it while they have it. That way the writer comes back to the material fresh with the beta reader’s notes. There’s nothing worse for a beta reader than to send notes back to a writer, only to have them respond with “Oh, yeah, I caught that and fixed it already.” That’s disrespectful to the beta reader’s time. It sends the message that their work isn’t valuable or necessary. If a writer plans to keep rewriting, DON’T send it out to readers at the same time.
Writers and Time
One of the biggest mistakes I see writers make, time and time again, is querying before the manuscript is ready.
Unlike the horse, who will do things on their own time, writers often feel like waiting isn’t worthwhile. But once an agent has been queried, that door is likely shut. If a writer realizes they should do major rewrites on their manuscript, they can’t email every agent they queried to say, “Oops, I really should have queried with this one.” It just doesn’t work that way.
Writers would do better to pace themselves. Better to wait and get it right, then hurry material out and regret it later.
Horses Are In The Moment
Even though horses have long memories for bad things, they also live in the moment. When horses have a disagreement, one horse will kick at another, then a minute later, they are grazing peacefully as if it never happened. This is because the horse is an honest animal who lives in the moment. The kick was clear communication, but it wasn’t personal. The kick said, back off or move over or I’m in charge. Once that message was delivered, everyone in the group moves on.
Writers struggle to be in the moment. Their imagination is either already seeing the book on the shelf, after writing only one draft, or convinced the manuscript will never be finished.
Neither one is the most constructive to focus on all the time.
It’s fine to picture yourself landing an agent or signing your book. But that also skips over a lot of steps to get to publication. Further, believing it will never get finished will likely become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the project will never get done.
Even more importantly, once a writer begins to query, the writer has to learn to live in the moment. A “no” isn’t personal. It’s just not right for a specific agent at that time.
Writers need to let it go. Take the no, learn from it, and move on.
The Query Process is Slow
The query process is a slow one. It can take months to get a response, if at all, from agents. Then it can take months to hear back after an agent requests a partial or full manuscript. Even then, the writer may need to make changes before an agent agrees to represent them.
And a writer may never get a “yes” for a particular project. The most successful writers are already working on their next book while querying.
All of that is easier to manage if the writer can live in the moment. Work on the new manuscript. Don’t obsess about how long something takes, focus on what you can control, which is basically, working on a new book, building an author platform, and learning from responses to the query.
Just like a horse assessing the new environment. Take it all in, graze when you can. Find a few pals to support you, but have safe places to be on your own.
There will always be the next agent to query, the next manuscript to finish, the next pasture to graze.
Elena Taylor is the author of All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio book format at all your favorite bookstores and on-line retailers.
For more information on All We Buried, click on the link here to visit the home page.
Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator 2020
Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery 2020