Friday, 22 September 2017

Active Waiting For Writers

by Jeanette O'Hagan

I was seven and full of enthusiasm. After all, I loved paw-paws and this luscious, orange fruit was plump full of tiny, black, round seeds. Paw-paw seeds grow into paw-paw trees, which grow more paw-paws. What’s not to like? Armed with a little knowledge and a great deal of enthusiasm, I separated out a single seed, found a gardening spade and marched out to the back garden. I dug a hole—probably about 30 cms deep—placed the seed in the hole, flooded it with water from the hose, piled in the dirt, patted and shaped it into a mound (drawing on my uber-mudcake making skills), wiped my brow and waited.

Next day, I checked my tree-in-the making. The mound looked just as I left it. Maybe, little drier under the baking Mt Isa sun. I added some more water. The next day—nothing, just bare dirt. The following day—well, you guessed it, nothing. Frustrated and worried, I grabbed the spade and dug up the seed to see if it was growing yet. Nope. Buried it again. Dug it up the following day. Mum said, ‘Seeds take time to grow, it doesn’t happen overnight.’

My first venture into horticulture was, I confess, a huge failure, but it taught me something. That good things take time to grow. That patience is an important asset. And, as I learnt more about plant requirements, it also taught me that knowing what you are doing helps. 

Growing plants requires knowledge—what does the plant like in terms of soil, water, position, depth to plant the seed etc—and experience.

It also requires, active waiting. Passive or idle waiting is doing nothing and expecting something to grow. In active waiting, we plant, care for and tend the plant, but we don’t keep digging it up each day to see if it’s growing.

These are lessons I’ve had to re-learn when it comes to writing.

The first book I wrote came easily, it poured out of me. When it was finished I sent it to two publishers and one was interested with changes (a rewrite to make it more ‘Christian’) that I was reluctant to make. Then life took another turn and decades later I started writing again, studying a post-graduate degree, and relooking at the old novel, writing the prequels, starting on the sequels.

I can remember the elation of finishing the first draft of this second novel. I wrote the next one. 

Meanwhile, no one except my beta-readers seemed interested in taking up my opus. I was learning, getting feedback.

'Writing styles had changed.' 'The first line must sizzle.' 'Creative dialogue tags and using adverbs are literary crimes.' 'Pace and structure matter.'

I was learning and, I believe, improving, becoming a stronger writer, but it still felt like I’d never be published as year after year went by and the patch of dirt remained bare of even the tiniest of tender shoots.

Pundits advised writing short stories as a way to get published and improving one’s skills. 'But,' I said, ‘I’m am more comfortable writing long stories, like epic novels. I struggle with short stories.’ An opportunity came to submit to an anthology – maximum of 5000 words. I wrote three stories, the first two over 7000 words, before I managed to hit the sweet spot with The Herbalist’s Daughter. My story was published—and then some more stories were pubished in various anthologies and the acceptances began to flow.

Last year I published my first novella Heart of the Mountain—but my novel still languished. I’d edited it, sought feedback from editors, other writers, beta-readers and edited again, and again, and again. This month, I’ve finally published Akrad’s Children after six years of germination.

What I’ve learnt along the way is:

  1. Enthusiasm isn’t enough, knowledge and practice are vital. (Don’t bury a single paw-paw seed deep in the earth and cement it in with mud 😊 )
  2. Writing means waiting—waiting to hear back from editors or agents or publishers, waiting for feedback, waiting for a piece to be accepted, waiting for reviews (any reviews), waiting for sales, waiting to be noticed, waiting for the break-out novel, waiting …
  3. Good things take time to grow—but waiting doesn’t mean ‘idle’, it means watering, weeding, nurturing; it means continuing to write, to learn, to grow, to encourage others.
  4. We may plant and water, but it’s God that gives the true growth. 

When, we start writing a novel, we see typing THE END as the summit, but there is always another summit ahead however far along the journey we are. I’m learning to become more content with my Father’s timing while I wait.

How about you? What are you waiting for? What are you learning?


Jeanette O’Hagan is thrilled that her novel Akrad’s Children will be released as an e-book just days away on 22 September 2017 (available for pre-order).

Four young lives, a realm ravaged by war, a haunting legacy

Four young lives are bound together in friendship, love, rivalry and tragedy. A realm ravaged by civil war, a ruler scarred by betrayal, a legacy that haunts them all.

Caught between two cultures, a pawn in a deadly power struggle, Dinnis longs for the day his father will rescue him and his sister from the sorcerer Akrad’s clutches. But things don’t turn out how Dinnis imagines and his father betrays him.

Does Dinnis have a future among the Tamrin? Will he seek revenge for wrongs like his sister or forge a different destiny?

Jeanette started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic users.

Recent publications include her novellas Heart of the Mountain and Blood Crystal and short stories The Herbalist's Daughter and Lakwi's Lament. Other short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies, including Glimpses of Light and Futurevision

Jeanette continues to write her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements.

Find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on Amazon or on her websites or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes . if you want to stay up-to-date with latest publications and developments, sign up to Jeanette O'Hagan Writes e-mail newsletter.


  1. Thanks for the post Jenny. This is something I've been reflecting on for some time: writing (and the process of writing) is becoming more counter-cultural.

    What I mean is this: our society has lost the ability to wait. We don't wait 2 months for vegies to grow, we go to Woolworths. The media tells us a magic pill will help us lose weight in days. We buy holidays on credit so we don't have to wait to go.

    But good writing is about waiting, reflection and time. It's about testing ideas through the furnace of time.

    And counter-cultural can be hard to pull off when everyone around you is losing the concept and strength of waiting.

    1. Hi David. That is a good point. Our culture and times do expect instant results. Thanks for commenting 😊

  2. Great post, Jenny. Faith grows in the waiting. I'm sure that's one of the key reasons the Lord has us wait. But as you point out, we don't just sit doing nothing while we wait, we need to keep leaning into Jesus and follow His lead as to the work He wants us to do.

    Interesting your seed analogy as the seed has to die before it germinates ... we do too.

    1. Hi Ian. Yes, so many people had to wait in the Bible - it's often not that comfortable, but good to know our waiting is not in vain. Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Congratulations on the release of Akrad's Children!

    I like your analogy of writing and gardening. I have to admit that I'm not a patient gardener. I'm also not good with the nurturing and watering ... Here's hoping my writing goes better>

    1. Thanks, Iola. I am sure your writing will 😊 Looking forward to reading your fiction 😊

  4. Congratulations Jenny. I've seen some of that hard work first hand, and I've been amazed at your output. You're so right about all those things that are important to learn in the waiting period. Now all of your hard work is paying off. I've really enjoyed your short stories and novellas, and I hope Akrad's Children is a huge success for you. I'm still in that waiting period and finding it tough sometimes, but I know I'll get there if I keep working. You've been a huge inspiration in that. Looking forward to seeing all the other things you have in the pipeline :)

    1. Thanks, Nola. I've appreciated your encourahpgement and feedback. And I know how hard you are working too. Looking forward to seeing your novel published.


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