QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Enjoying The Wait

How many of you choose the longest line at the grocery store? The one behind that woman whose hair is coming out of her ponytail and has three children, two of which are bawling and the third is in serious need of a Kleenex? Really? You don’t choose that line?

Why not? Is it because you don’t want to wait? (Can I write another question? lol)

I’m just going to get this out there: waiting is hard. Waiting is not my idea of a good time. I don’t think to myself, “Yes! The light turned red! Now I get to wait.” Or, "Sweet. The parking lot at the post office is packed. I'll get to wait in a long line because I have nothing else to do this week."

I’ve always had a problem waiting. I remember in college how mad (yes, physically angry) I would get when the bus was late. That woman up there on the right side with the black leather jacket? That's how I look when waiting.

Question: So what did I do keeping this whole I-hate-waiting-for-the-bus incident in mind?

Answer: Threw myself headfirst into the publishing industry, where 90% of my time is spent, get this, waiting.

My journey has looked something like this. Is this road familiar to any of you? (Please say yes, please say yes, please say yes!)

1. Writing (the fun part)
2. Waiting to hear back from beta readers
3. Waiting to get feedback on my query
4. Waiting to get advice on my synopsis
5. Researching Agents (I have a post coming up on this if this item caused your panic face to appear)
6. Sending queries
7. Waiting to hear back on sent queries
8. Waiting to hear back on sent queries
9. Getting requests for more material
10. Waiting to hear back on sent queries
11. Sending requested material
12. Waiting to hear back on sent queries
13. Waiting to hear back on requests
14. Waiting to hear back on requests
15. Waiting to hear back on requests
16. Waiting to hear back on sent queries
17. Waiting to die from all the waiting

Publishing is one massive waiting game. So how do you make the game one worth playing? Because let’s face it, if it’s not fun, why are we doing it? Maybe some of you like self-inflicted torture, but me? Not so much. So I made myself a Waiting Toolkit.

Packed carefully in the Waiting Toolkit are the following diversions and/or tactics for enduring enjoying the wait.

I know we’ve all heard this one before, and yes, it’s the largest thing in my toolkit.

1. Write. Something old, something new, something, um, not borrowed, and/or something blue. Just write. Jessica Faust’s post is one of the most brilliant I’ve read in a long time. I’m taking her advice and at some point, I know I’m going to be able to give up the waiting game. At least on the agent-front. Publishers are a whole new ballgame. It’s sort of like graduating from the minor leagues to the big leagues.

2. Read. There’s nothing like a good book to pass the hours/days/months spent waiting. Email me if you need a list of must-reads. I have stacks and stacks of books to read. And I actually enjoy it. And reading will make you a better writer. Or at least more familiar with what's out there already.

3. Help someone else in their journey. Beta-read. Help with queries on the QT forum or Rick Daley's blog where he posts queries for critiques. Or somewhere else you feel comfortable. There are plenty of sites to find and give help.

4. Research. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it would be a good idea to research more agents, flesh out new ideas, learn the ins and outs of publishing. I’m totally counting my blog reading in this category. And if you’re reading this blog right now, you can count this as research! Go you!

5. Be a real person too. Enjoy the twittering of the birds, the rain as it dances on the eaves, the spring breeze wafting off the Rocky Mountains…. No seriously, take a step back from the computer. Enjoy your real life. Your family. Your job. Just being alive. Nathan Bransford had a great post about making sure writing doesn't become your identity. I tucked it away neatly in my toolkit.

I'd love to hear how you endure The Wait. What tips and tricks do you have in your Waiting Toolkit?

Elana Johnson writes science fiction and fantasy for young adults. Besides a serious addiction to the Internet, she can never get enough reality TV, Dove dark or reasons to laugh. Click here to visit her blog.


Anonymous said...

I love the list..'cause, yeah, that is sure how it looks to me...waiting and waiting...and oh yeh, more waiting. My tricks on enduring the wait are te same as yours. Read, go for a run, hang at the beach, write and chat with friends - writers an Non-writers!

Thanks for the great post!

Anonymous said...

Waiting for a response, be it for query, contest, acceptance of a submission, etc., means I'm waiting for someone besides myself. That means I must have sccomplished something to further my career and that's the kind of waiting I like.


Stina said...

Loved this post, Elana. Especially the added emphasis on the waiting to hear back on queries and submissions.

I run. A lot. I read. A lot. And I write. Unfortunately it's not until I start to work on the second draft that I can forget about my outstanding queries and submissions. And then I literally do that. The whole querying process for the previous book gets forgotten as I delved into my newest creation and try to make it better than my last. Okay, not the best approach for gaining an agent (except for the getting better part), but at least I'm not longer waiting. ;)

Amanda Bonilla said...


Great, great, great post!! Waiting is TOTALLY the hardest part and everything you listed has worked for me one way or another to get me through. It can really bring you down when you don't hear back from an agent day after day, but distraction is the best way to fight past it and networking with other writers and making new friends that can totally empathize is one hundred percent the best remedy for the waiting blues.

Elana Johnson said...

Christine - run, beach. Added to toolkit. (But let's face it, I'll never run. ;) )

Stina, you run too? Ack! Maybe this is something I will have to do at some point in my life.

Tricia - I like your outlook on it. Waiting for someone besides yourself. Thanks!

Mandy - networking. Hmm...I'm filing this under "Research". :D

Unknown said...

I love this post! I try to read every day while I'm writing, although I usually pick a book in a different genre than what I'm writing. The "Be a Real Person" is key - it keeps you focused on what's important.

I also think having children changed my impatient nature by leaps and bounds. Asking a four-year-old to put on his socks involves more "waiting" than I ever could have imagined. By the time I started writing, I was already an expert on waiting!

Michelle McLean said...

LOL Elana, you are just too awesome. I love this post! And it is just another reason one of my main "get through the waiting" tactics is talking to you :)

Oh, by the way, I choose the shortest line at the grocery store because I AM the woman with her hair coming out of her ponytail with 2 (not 3) screaming kids :D

Anonymous said...

Great post! So true. Those are fantastic things to do while waiting.

I like to road bike and trail run. Those always help pass the time too. Oh, and they are good for working out new story ideas for the writing while you wait option too! :-)

Katie Salidas said...

Awesome post. Yep waiting is tough, and I don't know a single person who likes it.

Great Ideas to help pass the time.

Tess said...

I agree - keeping super busy in other areas makes the wait more tolerable. It takes focus and planning!

Andrew Rosenberg said...

When I was a kid, Sesame Street had a jingle:
Waiting, waiting, waiting, so much fun!

I think there's more but I can't remember or google it.

Unknown said...

Enjoy being a person? Is that allowed? What a great post! I loved your list.

Rebecca Knight said...

In your words, #17 made me *snarf* out loud! ;)

I've been sloooowly letting go and trying to enjoy the wait more and more. What a joy it is to be writing again, instead of just biting my nails and starting at my inbox.

Also, I actually took a day or two recently where I didn't write or revise or query... I just sat there and watched TV with my husband.

It. Was. Awesome!

Thanks for the great post :).

Anonymous said...

I've done like Rebecca and just watched TV with my husband. With no laptop appendage growing off me. He feels better because I'm actually talking back to him instead of his attempts at conversation bouncing off my head. And after the initial withdrawal symptoms of twitching fingers in need of checking the various four or five or ten sites, I am able to relax and enjoy the downtime.

Rene said...

I confess, I do sometimes pick the longest line at the grocery store if there is a good "National Enquirer" on display. Also, I am the mom with hair coming out of her ponytail with three kids.

But as for waiting during submissions, I can only say it gets easier and your patience grows. My first go around with a book was brutal. I lived and died by the mail box (equeries weren't done back then). The next time it was jumping on the computer as soon as I woke up (I'm on the west coast and the agents are all on the east coast). This time around it is easier. One thing I found is that I need to be fully engaged in a new project. While the completed ms is making the rounds I am already a third of the way through a new project.

I'm also involved in so many other things, I don't have time to worry. Try being a team mom for a little league team. That'll suck the free time right out of you.

Elana Johnson said...

Lynnrush, biking (I don't have a bike, bummer!)and more running. Srsly? Is every writer a runner except for me?

lapetus999 Now I'm going to spending some of my waiting time either A) watching Sesame Street hoping the song comes on or B) looking it up on any Internet site imaginable. Yay! Writing Distractions - wait that should have been one of the things I have in my toolkit!

Rebecca, thanks for the snarfage! LOLOL.

Sharla, yeah it is nice to take a day or two away from the whole writing game every now and then. I recently did that this weekend too.


Dutch Henry said...

Funny post, Elana.

I used to teach waiting. Or patience. In my other life. I've worked a long time helping problem horses. Which means helping - Problem Owners. The first thing I teach is, people need to remember when working with a horse to shift into the horse's thinking speed. Horses, if they are not panicked, think things through, a little slower than we do. So folks need to shift to what I call, Horse Time, and give the horse an honest chance.

Sounds like we just need to move into what I reckon we could call, Writing Time. And learn to accept the waiting, happily as part of the whole.

My tricks, riding of course, writing, reading, and just living…In Horse Time.

Gitty up - Dutch

lisa and laura said...

Great post, although I'd qualify enjoying the wait as something of an oxymoron.

And for the record, I am totally that woman with the the kids and the pony tail in the check out line.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Sigh. I always move away from the line with the mom and three kids, only to get stuck in a line that seems shorter, but has the putzy person who has to argue the price of every item and then decides to write a check as s-l-o-w-l-y as possible until it all makes me crazy!

I do not like waiting, and am constantly impatient. The worst is queries and sent materials - working on other writing helps though, and it also keeps me close to the computer for obsessive email checking:P

Lynnette Labelle said...

Ooooh! The waiting! How do we ever manage to keep our sanity? LOL

Lynnette Labelle

Rachael said...

I hate waiting, but I'm used to it by now. First there was waiting for beta readers. Then queries which I've been sending for a month now. I'd actually prefer a ten-minute rejection to waiting because then the mystery is over. The mystery is the worst part. Thinking 'maybe this one will be the one.' And then so often it's not.

I spend a lot of that time writing or reading. I've been doing a lot of reading lately. :) So many awesome books that I need to read.

amberargyle said...

What do you mean you don't want to get behind me in line?

Bunny Hills said...

I don't run! Yipes!