So you submitted your work to a magazine or agent or publisher, and now the long, long wait begins. Every day, you check your e-mail (maybe multiple times) or dash to answer the phone. The time drags out, passing so slowly it feels like it’ll take forever for that editor to get back to you.
Good news – there’s a way to speed up that process! Not the response time. I would speed that up if I could, believe me. But there are ways to make good use of the waiting period and, in the process, make the time go by faster. How, you ask? Simple. Fill the gap with activities that will improve your skills, prop up your support system, and make you a better writer. Here are my top five suggestions, last-to-first.
5. Take a writing class
Many cities have classes on different aspects on writing as a career, whether your genre is fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoir, or what have you. Many are non-profit, and offer classes in a wide variety of subjects of interest to (and for the benefit of) writers of all stripes and spots. Even if you know all there is to know about creative writing, you might enjoy networking with other writers and widening your community. Local colleges might also offer helpful workshops or training courses. Some even have day-long writer fests. Even if there are no classes near you, online sources offer a plethora from which to choose. Check out Lit Reactor, or peruse those listed with the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, or Writer’s Digest. A Google search will turn up dozens of others; be sure you check their value and veracity before forking over your hard-earned dollars.
4. Attend Open Mic Readings
This idea ties in with the local writing centers and college campus opportunities listed above. Why listen to someone else read their work? For the same reasons you read other people’s stories and books—to learn. At an open mic, you can hear what other writers are working on, get a feel for what POVs they use, get ideas for unusual takes on an old standard, and see firsthand the reaction of the attendees to the subject and style of that writer. Best of all, it’s fun! As writers, it’s good to mingle with and support other writers. After all, they understand what you go through when you’re sitting at your computer and trying to put that grand idea you had in the shower this morning down in words on the screen. Not sure where to find an open mic? Check with your local writing center, or your nearest community college or university. If that doesn’t work, start your own. Somebody has to do it, right?
Let me say it again. Read. All. The. Things. Read everything you can get your hands on. Books in the genre in which you write are especially important; put them at the top of your list. But read other genres too. See what other writers are doing with style and form. Read literary magazines, or genre fiction anthologies and magazines, or online short story forums. If you can’t afford to buy books, check out your local library or invest in a Kindle reader; digital versions of books and magazines are less expensive and take less space in your apartment. You can even borrow most books in digital form from the libraries now. There’s also a program called Kindle Unlimited through Amazon whereby you subscribe for $9.99/month and gain access to over 1 million titles in the Kindle store, including books, audiobooks and magazines. The program may not be suitable for everyone (check out this page for facts and tips you can consider when deciding), but if you are an avid reader, this might be a viable option for you. The point is, there’s no reason at all you should not be reading. Professionals in every major field consider it part of their job to stay current with what others are accomplishing in their arena, so if you want to be a professional writer, then reading should be on your regular list of to-dos. I’ve heard it said by People In The Industry that if you ain’t readin’, it’ll show in your writin’. It’s the truth.
More reading, yes! Read blogs about writing. Read blogs about the writing and publishing industry. Read blogs about self-publishing, even if you don’t think you’ll ever do it yourself. Read everything you can find about that publisher you’re drooling after, or that magazine in whose pages you’d love to see your work. Read magazines about writing (like Poets and Writers or Writers Digest) and read (or if you can, subscribe) to Publisher’s Marketplace where you’re sure to see up-to-the-minute news on what’s happening in the industry, as well as who’s published what. But don’t stop there. Read science articles that interest you. Read nature articles and find out where we are in the race toward sustainable energies. Read about prisons and the industry that supports them. Read anything that might possibly relate in any conceivable way to your genre, so that when the time comes to write your next short story, or your next bestseller, you’ll know where to start to back up your ideas with hard data. (There are even forums out there that will help you plan a fictional murder. Google it if you don’t believe me. Strange truth.)
And the number one thing you should be doing while you wait for that acceptance letter is:
1. Write your next bestseller
Why are you just sitting there? Get started right away on the next writing project. Don’t know what to write about? I’ll bet you’ve had at least five story ideas in the last week. If you don’t remember them now, it’s because you didn’t write them down. Pick up a small notebook you can carry with you everywhere. Even better, record the idea on your phone; almost everyone has mobile phones now, and even the pay-as-you-go models (like mine) usually have a voice recorder option. It’s quicker, more convenient, and easy to add to. Personally, I do both. I keep a blank book with me at all times, and I carry a small digital recorder in addition to my phone. I make sure I’m covered, because I’ve lost too many great ideas through having no way to record them when they occurred.
Here’s the thing. Querying and rejections and the waiting game are part of this process. Some magazines, agents and publishers take months to respond to your submissions. Don’t waste that time. There are plenty of other ways to creatively fill the weeks/months while we wait for that acceptance letter. These are only my top five. What are yours? What’s your favorite way to engage your creativity during the wait?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.