This morning, Valerie Khoo and I recorded the 100th episode of our So You Want To Be A Writer podcast. At the end, as she always does, Val asked me what I was going to be doing this week. I joked about making time to write my new Making Time To Write course (coming soon-ish to the Australian Writers’ Centre), but admitted that what I would mostly be doing would be waiting.
There is no getting away from waiting when you are a writer. I spend my life waiting to hear from my agent or my publisher or a beta reader or a magazine editor or an interview subject or [insert anyone you can think of in the known universe that is related to writing]. It’s a writer’s lot to wait. I’ve written before about it here and here, so you can see that I am no amateur in the waiting stakes.
But this time, while I’m waiting to hear about two separate manuscript submissions, I thought I’d make a useful list of things that a writer can do while they’re waiting.
Usually these lists begin with ‘write the next book’, but, being semi-professional in the art of waiting I understand that diving into a new manuscript is not always the number one thing that you want or even need to do. Generally, I need at least a week or two* to recover from the rewriting process, so I do try to take a deep breath in this period. Which is not to say that I’m not doing useful waiting-type activities…
1. Tidy your desk. If you are anything like me, the creative journey is usually a messy one. Take the time to clear the decks, dust off your computer (literally) and wipe the slate clean for your next manuscript.
2. Update your blog/website. Make sure your online home is looking as spruce and as up-to-date as it can be. Get that ‘About’ page tidied up and succinct, and make sure you’re putting your best foot forward for any agent or publisher who might come wandering by…
3. Spend some time on social media. I emphasise the ‘some’ simply because this could become a black hole of procrastination and despair if you’re not careful. Make sure you’re keeping your platforms updated, but beware of posting ‘still waiting’ posts every five minutes. It’s frustrating, wondering what’s happening, I get it, but try to keep your anxiety and desperation off the internet.
4. Read. Waiting time makes for excellent reading time. Dive in to a wide range of books in a diverse range of genres. Read within your market, but try different authors and different sections of the bookshop too. This will not only take your mind off the adventures of your own manuscript, but will refill that creative well, opening up new ideas and, possibly, avenues for your own writing.
5. Watch. Movies, plays, ballet, opera, art galleries, Netflix… whatever your bent (or discover new ones!) go and see things. Take your mind out of the every day. With any luck this will not only stop you from checking your inbox every five minutes (trust me, it’s too early, he/she hasn’t read it yet…) but will show you different forms of story telling. All fodder for that next Big Thing you’re going to work on.
6. Try a new platform. You know how you’ve been meaning to get on Instagram, or Pinterest, or Snapchat or whatever? Now’s the time. Share your story with a new audience. You’ll be so busy trying to work out how it all works and pinning pictures of beautiful bathrooms that you’ll have no time to fret.
7. Start a blog. If you don’t already have one, this is a great time to start your author blog. Not only will it help you to develop your voice, but it will give you something to do every day (or few days or week, however often you decide to post) that feels useful. You can’t control whatever is happening to your manuscript, but you can control this. This is where you give readers a glimpse into your life and process, write about your love of orchids (or whatever your passion might be) and, as a bonus, add fresh content to your website on a regular basis – and if there’s one thing we know about Google, it’s that Google loves fresh content. [More tips here]
8. Start making plans. Let’s allow ourselves to imagine for one sweet moment that the agent or publisher that you’re waiting on is reading your manuscript THIS VERY MINUTE and loving it. They’re going to call you in ten minutes to say ‘we love it’, and then they’re going to ask you a whole bunch of questions. An agent might ask questions such as these posed by Maria Vicente on her blog:
• Why do you want an agent?
• Are you willing to make changes to the manuscript?
• What is your writing process?
• What are you working on?* (see tip 10)
Or a publisher might ask:
• Who do you see as the audience for your book?
• Are you willing to make changes to the manuscript?
• What are you willing to do to help market your book?
Now is the time to think about these kinds of questions. Have your answers ready when that email or call comes through.
9. Talk to other writers. The only thing that keeps me from floating around the ceiling the entire time that I’m waiting on a manuscript is my writer friends. People who’ve been there, who know what it’s like, and who will hold my hand. This stuff never gets old and I have friends who have been published over and over – we still have the same conversations. A network of writers is invaluable for one million reasons and this is a big one.
10. Start the next book. Now that you’ve done all this procrasti-waiting, the time has come to get on with it. Your manuscript might sit on an agent’s desk for months. It might be in the slush pile at a publishing house for MANY months. The only cure for caring deeply about the fate of a manuscript is to start with a bright, shiny, glittering new idea that is SO absorbing that you’re almost like ‘which manuscript? oh, that old thing’ when you finally DO get that call or email.
Are you waiting on something? Feel free to share below so we can help to ease the pain.
*may be longer
Also published on Medium.