A Word About–Wait For It–Waiting

Waiting is hard.

For those of us who participate in Pitch Wars and similar pitch contests, the waits of several weeks seem endless. We wait for requests from mentors and wait to see if are works are chosen. Again, this is only the beginning of the waiting.

Even those of us who are not prone to high anxiety become anxious. All this waiting is nothing but torture, even though the wait is one of the shorter ones we’re likely to experience on our road to publication.

Waiting tends to raise anxiety. Self-doubts are more likely to creep in while we wait, and time seems to pass more slowly when it’s empty.  Whole articles have been written about the psychology of waiting.

For writers, though, waiting is a way of life, whether we like it or not. The length of time it takes to write a story or book, plus the even longer time it can take to revise, means we have to long a time between the start of our projects and their ends.

But when we finish, the real waiting begins. It can take weeks, even months, to get a response from the agents we query, if they respond at all. I recently got a response to a query I sent two years ago. The wait for validation that our hard work is loved by someone else is endless and excruciating. And it’s a wait we might put ourselves through dozens of times, maybe even a hundred or more, before we find an agent. IF we find an agent.

Then, even when we get our agent, there’s more waiting. We wait for an edit letter. We wait for a response to our edits. We wait for our agent to prepare her submission package for us. When our book is out on sub, we wait for editor responses.

If we are lucky enough to find a publisher. There’s more waiting. More revising, followed by more waiting. If a writer were to sign a book deal today–September 22, 2018–that book probably won’t come out until well into 2020.

There’s no way around it. We have to wait. All the time.

The best way to wait is to fill the time. Empty time feels like it passes more slowly than filled time. There are many ways to productively fill our waiting times:

  • Take some time off for self-care.
    Take a vacation or do something fun that takes your mind off the wait.
  • Start a new project. Participate #WriteTheWait activities.
    If you can get your mind on a new project, you’ll think less about the one you’re waiting for.
  • Research agents.
    Prepare a list of potential agents for this project, or for another one you’ve written.
  • Read. A lot.
    Reading is an essential activity for writers, one that tends to get neglected while we’re writing. Research your next project. Read for fun. Work through that TBR pile next to your bed. Just read.
  • Participate in writing communities.
    Twitter, Facebook, web forums, and local writing communities can help you get through your wait. They can help you learn your craft, help you find new books to read, lead you to new critique partners, and help you find friends.
  • Critique the work of others.
    When you’re waiting, it’s a good time to exchange manuscripts with critique partners and help each other develop your skills.
  • Take a class.
    You might take a writing class, or learn about something else you’re interested in. The class could be through a local school or library, an online service, or it might be one you design yourself from books and websites.

There are many more ways to spend your wait in a productive way that helps build you up as a writer and a person.

The one way you shouldn’t spend your wait is as a helpless ball of anxiety. If you let your anxieties take over, you’re more likely to develop doubts and negative feelings about yourself and your work. You might even start to post negative comments on Twitter feeds and other public places where the people who can help you in your career might see them and become less likely to work with you.

People in the publishing world, including potential crit partners,  want to work with writers who are positive and professional. If they get the impression that you might be hard to work with, they’ll find others to work with who are more pleasant to be around. They’re probably dealing with their own writing-related anxieties, and prefer not to add yours to their own piles of troubling thoughts.

I wish I could say there was some other way, but the fact is, we have to learn how to live with waiting. The best thing to do is to make the wait work for you.

Whatever you do, don’t let the inevitable pain of waiting kill your dreams. Stay positive, and have fun.