Monday, December 12, 2011

How to Survive WAITING

…and waiting. And…waiting.

Before you ask - oh yes. Agents wait too. Sure, we may be relatively calm about it - we resist the urge to pick up the phone and eagerly ask…well?? Resist the “just checking in!” emails until a reasonable amount of time has passed. Don’t DM our editor friends just PLEADING for an update.

But we are equally as excited about the work we put into the submission world as any writer – and we go equally bat s**t crazy with stalking urges during the “waiting to hear back” process (well…I suppose I shouldn’t speak on behalf of ALL agents…maybe I’m just terribly impulsive and impatient and oh god what if it really DOES suck and I’m just kidding myself here and would it REALLY be so bad just to email NOW or maybe I should start submitting some more just to even out the numbers again but what IF I get an offer and I guess I can wait one…more…day……)

Sound familiar?

Regardless of who you are in the writing world, waiting sucks.

So here are my tips on how to keep you SANE:

1.Start a new project. NOW.

Getting excited about something new will help ease the tension; it gives you something to look forward to, regardless of the outcome at the end of the waiting.

2.Talk to others going through the same process (NOT to others you’re looking to get an answer from, like agents, editors, etc).

It helps to realize…you’re not alone. Just because you’re waiting doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Word of caution: keep any griping private. Don’t post on your blog about how frustrated you are. Don’t bitch out on that writing forum you think is so safe and anonymous. Keep any correspondence and social networking appearances professional; don’t let it be obvious that you are completely eaten up inside about the waiting.

3.Scour the Internet for inspiring posts about others who survived.

I can’t say this enough: just because it isn’t happening NOW doesn’t mean it will NOT happen. It just may take a while. Listening to the heartache others had to go through will remind you it WILL end…if you persevere and continue to grow.

Here are a few posts to get you started:

Mandy Hubbard
Jessica Souders
Kristin Welker
Stephen King
J.K. Rowling
Dr. Seuss et al

4.Be Proactive.

Another fabulous “P” of publishing. Use your waiting time productively and positively – by being proactive. Research a new list of agents or publishers to submit to. Attend writing workshops and brainstorm revisions. Get involved in other writing community events, like contests, book review blogs, or social networking to build up exposure to yourself and your writing (ahem – phase one of the PR plan!)

Word of caution: DON’T JUST GIVE UP. Don’t fall victim to an “easy way out”; i.e., don’t just choose to e-publish because you’re frustrated with lack of progress. ONLY go those routes if it’s the way you WANT and are PREPARED to go. Sending out masses of new submissions may also be a temporary fix – but it will quickly turn to more frustration and disappointment if you aren’t reflecting on any feedback and possible new directions for yourself and your manuscript first. It may be best, in the waiting phase, to make LISTS of opportunities…and act later.

5.Finally: Allow yourself to be INSPIRED.

Pepper your writing space with inspirational posts to keep you going. Keep an open mind during your waiting process; you’ll be surprised where it will lead you. Don’t substitute griping for growing – ALWAYS think ahead to a next step; don’t get stuck on the bottom rung.


  1. What a fantastic post. I think waiting tends to be the black hole writers fall into. But this is a good opportunity to grow and develop. I'm using my waiting time to soak up information from blogs like these! Happy days :-)

  2. While waiting I tend to collect ideas for future novels I'll write, usually I immerse myself in trance music and just let the ideas come. Through that way I've collected ideas for the final novel in a long, ambitious series - I'll be looking at this blog in ten years and saying 'that's me, how little I knew then.'
    I think it's scary to be at the starting stage of publishing, and I feel the best agents can do is give praise to your samples, or merely write something that emanates warmth, leaving you strenghtened, even if they end up passing on your work. I'm not going to sugarcoat it, make your work worthy of praise - that's the best motivator in the query stage, for me at least. I had no idea of the world I was stepping into when I began sending out queries. Soon then you'll grow a crystal backbone and craft the best query letter ever which goes off in the sky like fireworks in an outdoor trance gig in Paris.

    E-publishing or self-publishing, it seems to serve mainly already-published authors, not ideal for those without a strong platform. Besides, there's something about succeeding in the game of standard publishing, it's official and feels nice. It all comes back to money, doesn't it, like everything in the world? If I got wealthy from writing I'd spend most of my money on helping cats and dogs through charity. No point sitting on a mountain of gold.

    I sure loves my cats.

  3. Very rarely does anyone talk about the waiting involved in publishing; I was just explaining to someone how much of the writing job is really just waiting, because writers and readers alike don't seem to understand why the book isn't out right this second . . . there's been so much conditioning in our culture that we should have instant success the minute we produce something, because we're only familiar with the final product: not all the blood, sweat, tears and waiting that went into it before hand.

  4. Thanks for this post. I'll be jumping into the waiting world soon, and the butterflies of worry and doubt in my stomach tremble in their cocoons just thinking about it! Good thing I'll have a list of projects to keep me busy.

    But I'm guessing I should resist tweeting Vizzini's great line from the Princess Bride, "I'm WAITING!" ;)

  5. Love this post, Natalie. The reminder to make lists of OPPORTUNITIES is brilliant.


  6. Thank you for this fantastic post!I've actually started a new YA while waiting. I've heard that if an agent likes your work and they are discussing it with other agents within the agency that sometimes it takes longer. Is that true or just hearsay?

  7. Perfectly timed, thank you! May I add #6? It really helps with #1 (and I'm going to follow this advice in two minutes):

    6. Get away from the internet. Go somewhere that you can't check email every five seconds. And write.

  8. Ok, so I will step away from the phone, the internet so I won't bug you! he he. Now I'll go revise that new project. Then start on the next one... and so on.

  9. I find I get so caught up in a new project, I forget about my requested material that's out. Granted, I tend to forget to sent out more queries, too. It's amazing what a SNI will do. :)

  10. Thanks Natalie,

    I just read your post and it's awesome. I'm in the waiting phase. It sucks! It really does!

    My question is: a lot of the rejections I'm getting say that the project is good, but that is not good for them. Is that just a nice way of not destroying the self-esteem of new authors, or is it just that my work sucks.

    I'll keep waiting, and thanks again.

    ps. by the way, I just sent to your agency my query, to your attention.

  11. Yes. The waiting sucks. If I ever meet a writer who doesn't mind the wait, I'll... well, you know, throw a pie in her face or something. I second all Natalie's comments and recommend THE WRITER'S BOOK OF HOPE by Ralph Keyes.

  12. This is such a wonderful post--perfect timing. "Just because you’re waiting doesn’t mean it won’t happen." These are the words I needed to read. Thank you for sharing your angst. It's nice to know that writers aren't alone! :)

  13. I, too, am so glad I read this post...and thankful that a good writing friend thought to send it to me. Waiting is so so so hard. I think I may print this post out and start peppering my writing space right now. Thanks for the inspiration and great suggestions!

  14. That's what I always do -- just move on to the next project. Waiting is never easy, no matter what someone's goal is. Thanks for the great suggestions, and I'm seeing some comments that are inspiring, as well. I'm going to check out The Writer's Book of Hope!

  15. I heartily recommend #1--start a new project. With luck you'll have a second book to show when you get an offer on the first. Everything about traditional publishing can move at glacial speed. But don't forget about your submissions! After a few months, I have found it useful to call and politely inquire about where my submission is in the "stack." Assistants in professional houses are usually willing to tell you--they can just check their list. And never say die! Editors change, book lines change, times change; what doesn't work one year may well succeed the next. (I know!)

  16. Perfect timing for a perfect post-
    Kit Grady

  17. Looooove this post... so glad I stumbled across this... :D

  18. I thank you for this much needed message!

  19. As I am about to enter the querying phase of life, I appreciated reading this post so much. As another commenter said, I think I will print it out and put it up where I can refer to it regularly.

    Thank you.

  20. Great post - I am currently waiting - and it is so true, a new project during the waiting season is a great distraction, many thanks for your advice!