Five Ways to Win the Waiting Game: An Impatient Writer’s Guide
By Shayna Krishnasamy
Coming to the end of your book, crossing that last T, typing that last period, is incredibly satisfying. You feel a rush of triumphant joy. You’ve done it! You’ve finished your novel! You want to leap out of your chair and hug everyone you see, then tell them what you’ve done and see the look of impressed envy on their faces. You want to sing and cry and sleep for a hundred hours. There’s really nothing quite like this feeling. You want to feel it forever.
Once this joy-fever runs its course, you sit down at your computer to take the next step: sending your book out to whoever you send your book to, be it your husband, your agent, your beta reader, or your writing group.
And now the time has come…to wait.
If waiting for news, particularly news that could crush you to bits, isn’t your forte, this part of the writing and publishing process can be especially painful. Your moment of triumph fading, niggling doubts about the quality of your manuscript may begin to flood in, making every passing hour excruciating. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
If you have the end of your book in your sights and you’re worried about what comes next, here are 5 Ways to Win the Waiting Game.
If you did your job right, the manuscript you sent out was spell-checked and fact-checked and read over and over until you couldn’t see straight. You may have even used a professional editor to make sure your book was in the best shape it could be before sending it off. And yet…no matter how positive you are that your book is perfect when you hit send, a moment later, your outbox clear, your confidence in your manuscript might/is likely to/will falter and you’ll have the urge to read it over one more time.
Resist this. This is a path of pain.
Your book has been sent and there’s no getting it back. The last thing you want is to find three glaring typos in the first chapter of your book and start frantically typing the words “how to retrieve an email you just sent” into various online search engines. Though the re-writing process is an ongoing one, and it’s by no means over for you, now isn’t the time to get down to it. Don’t torture yourself.
Don’t Be a Pest
It’s been one hour since you sent your book to your friend Julie who said she was dying to read it. You naturally assume dying means she started reading it the second she received it. One hour is long enough to finish a 150,000 word manuscript, right? There’s nothing wrong with calling her up right now and asking her how she likes it, right?
Wrong. Very, very wrong.
Even if your first reader is a close friend, and especially if it’s a professional contact like an agent, there’s no excuse for this kind of impatient harassment. Everyone has their own life, their own commitments, their own worries. Believe it or not, your book might not be at the very top of your reader’s priority list. So, give him or her some time. Depending on the length of your book, a week to a month might be appropriate. If you know patience isn’t your best quality, try getting your reader to agree to a timeline ahead of time. At least then they won’t be surprised when you contact them, eager for news.
You’ve been slaving away at your manuscript for weeks or months on end, maybe even years. That can take a lot out of you. Now that you have this small, limited-time break from the re-writing and editing process, why not take the opportunity to get some rest? Check in with the people in your life you’ve been neglecting as you burned the midnight oil trying to finish your book. Kiss your husband. Play with your kids. This is the guilt-free, nothing doing time you were yearning for just last week. Take advantage of it, because as soon as you get the comments back from your reader it’s back to work for you!
Though you’re hoping for the glittering praise your brilliant book deserves, not all the comments you’re soon to receive will be positive. Depending on the reader, you can expect some constructive, or maybe some not-so-constructive criticism to be coming your way. Are you ready for it? It’s a good idea to prepare yourself for the possibility of some negative feedback (though you should try not to panic-spiral in this direction). Remind yourself that your book is a work in progress, and you should welcome the opportunity to fix the problematic parts before you get further in the publishing process. Also keep in mind that you have the final say about any changes to your book. Just because your reader thinks your main character is an arrogant jerk doesn’t mean it’s true. Don’t let one person’s opinion break you. (Although, if multiple readers come back with this “arrogant jerk” comment, you might want to look into it.)
Start Something New
If writing is your passion and nothing else can fill that void, you might find yourself feeling empty during this time of pause. Why not take this time to start writing something new? Immersing yourself in a new writing project is a great way to keep the creative juices flowing while you wait to get back down to work on your book. But keep in mind that in a few weeks you’ll be pulled back into your manuscript, so starting another huge project like a novel might not be the best move. A short story or a series of blog posts would be a better choice.
Waiting around is never fun. Waiting to hear someone’s opinion on the work you’ve poured your heart and soul into is even less fun. We’re talking sitting on death row level of fun. Luckily, this wait won’t go on forever, and the feedback you eventually get on your book won’t actually kill you. (Seriously, it won’t.) As you wait, and wait and wait and wait, don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for putting your writing out there at all. Not everybody is so brave. Not everybody is willing to take the chance you are. Which means, you’re already ahead of the game. Remember that. Even if your reader absolutely hates your book. Even if you don’t get a single positive comment. Even if you realize you have a huge re-writing job ahead of you, remember that none of it matters. In the important ways, you’ve already won.
Shayna Krishnasamy is a Montreal author of literary and young adult fiction by night and the merchandiser for Kobo Writing Life by day. Shayna’s books are available on Kobo.