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A Note to Writers in Quarantine

Many people think that editors spend most of their time by themselves reading and marking up manuscripts with red pencils. And we do get to do that. Occasionally. Our job is about books, and it does require reading and editing and spending time lost in stories. But books are written by people, and being an editor means spending a lot of time talking to, meeting with, and working with many different people—authors, artists, agents, other editors, designers, marketing and sales teams, publicists, and other publishing professionals.

Publishing is about people, and not even COVID-19 can change that. Even from quarantine, I still spend a lot of my time talking to people, and over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself saying the same thing over and over, so I wanted to take a second to share that message with you as well.

We are living in a very strange time and it’s affecting everyone in different ways. Some of us are more isolated than we are used to, while others are learning (or relearning) how to share limited space with their family and friends. Some people find that the current quarantine leaves them with time on their hands that needs to be filled, while others find that there’s never enough time to get anything done. Some people are tearing through their To Read list, while others dream of having the time to just sit and read. Some authors can use their writing as an escape, and find this time to be incredibly productive. Others find the stress and ever-changing circumstances paralyzing, and are having trouble focusing enough to write anything at all.

And I’m here to tell you all, “That’s Okay!”

For the writers who find themselves with extra time and are racking up the word count: That’s wonderful! I’m happy for you, and you should continue to write and try to enjoy the process as much as possible. Use this time to stockpile new work or to go back and revise an old project that you’ve shelved that maybe needs a bit more love. Just remember that other people might be a bit stretched and stressed at the moment, so if you are waiting for agents or editors or readers to get back to you, give them a little more time.

For the writers who are scattered and stressed and dealing with new family dynamics and full time childcare and just the sheer overwhelming nature of the neverending news cycles: It’s okay that you are having problems focusing right now. Don’t add more stress to your load by trying to force yourself to be creative, especially if you are already feeling overworked and frazzled. Writing is hard and takes effort and concentration, and if you don’t have those things to spare right now, that’s fine. Take care of yourself and your family first. The story will wait for you, and we—your editors and agents and readers—will understand.

The world is weird and strange right now. Much stranger than fiction really, although I’ll admit I’m still waiting for the 17-year-old heroine to show up with her found family of crack scientists to save us all. But in the meantime, breathe, remember to be kind to one another, and go easy on yourself.

Author spotlight

Holly West

Senior Editor at Swoon Reads and Feiwel & Friends. Giant geek. Dedicated fangirl. Half-Elven Rogue Cleric. Also answers to That-Girl-Who-Reads-A-Lot.

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