Check out these five ways to keep your motivation and hopes high, because it can take forever to see things happen…
“It took a year for my agent, Christopher, to find a publisher,” said J.K. Rowling. “Lots of them turned it down. Then, finally, in August 1996, Christopher telephoned me and told me that Bloomsbury had ‘made an offer.’ I could not quite believe my ears. ‘You mean it’s going to be published?’ I asked, rather stupidly. ‘It’s definitely going to be published?’”
While you’re waiting for agents and publishers to give you the good news, you could start planning your “I sold my book!” party…but I wouldn’t if I were you. I had to cancel mine.
Instead of planning parties, there are better, more fruitful things to do while waiting for your book to move to the next chapter, such as keeping your motivation high by reading 73 Ways to Fire Up (or Just Fire) the Muse. It contains tips from successful freelancers, published authors, journalism professors, and novelists — it’ll give you all the motivation to write you could ever need.
Before the tips, here’s one of my favorite quotations from Margaret Atwood:
“As for writing, most people secretly believe they themselves have a book in them, which they would write if they could only find the time. And there’s some truth to this notion.
A lot of people do have a book in them – that is, they have had an experience that other people might want to read about.
But this is not the same as “being a writer.” Or, to put it in a more sinister way: everyone can dig a hole in a cemetery, but not everyone is a grave-digger.
The latter takes a good deal more stamina and persistence.”
Part of having the stamina and persistence it takes to run a successful writing career is knowing how to wait with grace and cleverness…
5 Things to Do While Waiting for Publishers and Editors to Decide
“We’re talking about an industry where it can take 12 to 24 months for a book to get through the editing process and ready to be shipped,” says David Cristofano, author of The Girl She Used to Be. “Let’s say you come up with an idea for a novel today. It may take you a year to write and edit it. Add six months to find an agent, and another six months for that agent to sell it. Then comes the publishing sprint. That means it may be three or four years from the moment you get the idea to the moment you see your book in Barnes and Noble…and that’s if everything goes right. It takes some authors a decade. Some never get published at all. This industry requires time and patience.”
Are you waiting for a response from a literary agent, magazine editor, book publisher, or your writer’s group (or all four)? Good for you! That means you’ve sent your work out. But it doesn’t mean it’s time to pack up, sail to Hawaii, and wait for the royalty checks to be shipped over while you surf.
Remember that even “outliers” aren’t successful overnight
Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers: The Story of Success, insists there’s no such thing as an overnight success – even when people appear to become rich and famous overnight.
“And that’s my concern with a show like American Idol,” he writes. “It encourages the false belief that there’s a kind of magic, that you can be ‘discovered.’ That may be the way television works, but it’s not the way the world works. Rising to the top of any field requires an enormous amount of dedication, focus, drive, talent, and 99 factors that they don’t show on television. It’s not simply about being picked.”
Fellow scribes, don’t just sit and wait to be picked and published! Stay busy while you’re waiting on publishers and editors.
Keep several irons in the fire
The chances of success (your manuscript plucked from the slush pile) increase with the number of articles, book proposals, and manuscripts you complete and circulate.
“I always have several projects going at once – a dance article for Art Times Journal, a poem I’m polishing, a story I’m writing or outlining,” says Francine L. Trevens, who has written two poetry books. “I can push myself to do one and it helps me get in the groove to do another one. The main thing is, I don’t sweat it. If I don’t feel like writing, I don’t, but I think about whatever I am working on…”
Blog for instant gratification
“Nothing tests your patience like the publishing industry,” says Cristofano. “If you’re after instant gratification, blogging is more likely to fulfill your need. Or, you can satisfy your sense of urgency with smaller successes: writing short stories, guest blogging, writing articles for related periodicals and webzines.”
Blogging may be more than “just” a way to fulfill the need to write; in fact, most publishers encourage writers to blog. Writing online increases visibility, which increases your chances of getting published and selling lots of books.
If you want your blog to start pulling its weight, read Tips for Turning Your Blog Into a Business – Not Just a Hobby.
Do what you haven’t done
Are you beating your head against a brick wall with that manuscript that you’ve been trying to sell for 10 years? Let it go, my friend. Find a different route. For example, I mostly dreaded the idea of getting a book contract for See Jane Soar, which my literary agent tried to sell for several months (he gave up, which simultaneously broke my heart and set me free). I think a print book with a traditional publisher is a dream come true for most writers, but I don’t want to slow my blog roll – I love building “Quips and Tips”! So, I’m letting go of the traditional publisher route for awhile, and focusing on writing and publishing my own series of ebooks.
What about you – if you’re frustrated with your writing journey, what can you do differently? Don’t just wait for literary agents, editors, and publishers…keep your forward momentum going.
Surround yourself with Motivators, Reality Checkers, and Role Models
Do you need inspiration to keep plugging away, or do you need a kick in the pants? Surround yourself with the right “peeps.” Motivators are cheerleaders who believe in you no matter what, encouraging you every step of the way. Reality Checkers have your best interests at heart, and won’t hesitate to tell you when it’s time to move on (e.g., send your manuscript to a different publisher, or write a new book altogether). Role Models – whom you don’t necessarily have a personal relationship with – are the published authors you study, the biographies you read, the successful writers you cherish.
Also — stay as healthy as possible, fellow scribes! Read 7 Health Tips for Writers Who Don’t Get Enough Exercise.
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What have I missed – what’s your favorite thing to do while waiting for publishers or editors to decide on your submissions?