Erotica author, aka Elspeth Potter, on Writing from the Inside

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Art of Waiting

Publishing is all about waiting. Waiting for editors to respond to your submissions. Waiting for agents to respond to your queries. Waiting for your agent to call with news of your latest deal. Waiting to hear back from your editor on a submitted manuscript; waiting for her revision letter. Waiting to see your book in print. Waiting to find out how well it sold. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

The worst thing about waiting is that you can’t control it. Writing the book is under your control, but once the manuscript is out of your hands, your control over it is limited. Agents and editors have many demands on their time, some within the publishing business and some without. They don’t have time to hold your hand with constant updates. If they did, they’d have even less time to look at manuscripts. It’s better for all concerned if writers can develop coping strategies.

My number one strategy for coping with waiting is distraction. Sometimes the distraction results from working on the next project, or the one displaced by a revision letter. I’ve become so involved that I’ve forgotten I’m waiting for long stretches of time. I might also catch up on internet publicity, correspondence, tax documentation, and the like. Other times, such as when I’ve just turned in a completed draft, I’m too mentally exhausted to seriously begin writing a new book. In those cases, my distraction might include copious viewing of DVDs, or reading piles of books, or going on a trip, or simply emerging from my writerly garret and calling a few friends. Sitting still, though, is not an option. All that does is turn my brain into a hamster wheel, whirling round and round but going nowhere. For me, it’s best to have a focus.

What about you?

Related post:

Letters from a Publishing Professional.


  1. I used to be in the army (a long, long time ago) and we used to joke about the old "hurry up and wait". We'd bust our butts to get somewhere and then we'd have to sit and wait and wait and wait.

    Yeah, I've learned the publishing world is no different. It's definitely a waiting game. So, like you, I find distractions once I've sent something out. Usually, I just start a new project but, yeah, sometimes just too mentally exhausted to do that.

    But, I agree, best to keep busy doing something other than mulling over the status of a submission or a query or whatever.

  2. Most of the time I don't mind waiting. I usually have something else I've been wanting to work on.

  3. I think it's best to have something to hand, but sometimes I'm just too burned out.

  4. I have to distract myself from the waits of this business. Usually by focusing on the next project and deliberately not thinking about it. I'm only partially successful, usually. :-)

  5. I'm only partially successful, usually.


  6. I usually take a "reading break" to get my mind off my work (either after submitting something or after finishing a first draft and needing that cool down time). Then I'll start outlining the next story.

  7. That makes sense--I tend to read a lot more in the interim, as well.

  8. So true, and how it easy it becomes to wish our lives away when we know we have to wait for that crucial news. And we thought this job was all about writing stories. Ha!

  9. I think this job is really all about psyching our neurotic writer selves into actually getting things written.