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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

If you’re a writer, then you know about waiting. We wait for inspiration, for story ideas, for the perfect word, and the next big opportunity. Published authors quiver over release dates and upcoming reviews while unpubbeds wait for The Call.

Most writers have a plan for waiting. Send it and Forget it is my motto for submissions. Rejections sting less when you are submerged in your next project. The correct response to a rejection is mailing another round of query letters (to different agents, of course!) Keeping busy is the easiest way to avoid the yo-yo emotions that plague most writers.

But every once in a while, an opportunity comes by that’s so big it defeats even your best waiting strategies. Last week was one of those times. On Tuesday, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards (ABNA) announced quarterfinalists. Thursday, RWA announced the Golden Heart finalists. Since I strongly believe in taking advantage of every opportunity, I had horses in both those races.

Both days, I started with a survival plan:

  1. Log in editing hours for Nanoedmo.
  2. Catch up with my critique partners’ work.
  3. Clean my much-neglected house
  4. Run all those frequently-postponed errands.
  5. Bike the river.

Any one of those things would have occupied the greater part of the day. But it was one of those miserable weeks where wind, snow, and rain intermingle, to make you dread stepping outside for even one minute. Stuck in the house, I couldn’t seem to focus on anything for more than ten minutes.

My waiting strategy failed. Miserably.

By 10 AM, I was glued to my computer, unable to concentrate on anything other than hitting the refresh bar and emailing my fellow contestants for updates. In the end, I wasted two days waiting for results that would have come anyway. I could have written ten pages. I could have edited another chapter.

Tomorrow, the Sourcebooks Teen Fire contest will announce its finalists. I am determined not to waste another day hitting the refresh button. And yet I know I will be tempted to spend the entire day staring at one web page.

Please help me out by sharing your best waiting strategies in the comments section. How did you wait out the big ABNA and Golden Heart announcements? Is anyone besides me waiting on the Teen Fire results?


  1. Gail, we are so much alike! My strategy has always been to 'Send it and Forget it' too. And like you, when I've been involved with something big, the refresh button was my very best friend, or my worst enemy.

    So - I'm going to suggest something that usually takes my mind off anything. Go to the movies for a few hours. Don't watch something on TV - it's too easy to pause it or just check email one last time. No, no, no - get in your car and head to the cinema. You'll be in a darkened theatre, where the story and the loud sound system should be able to take your mind off the contest for a few hours. And hopefully the experience will be enjoyable at the same time.

  2. Hi Gail! I was also a semi-finalist, but I've pretty much given up on the idea that I made it to the finals (like my glass is half-full attitude?).
    You, on the other hand, may be a different story. Georgia posted your great opening on her blog and even made a statement that Dan liked it too, so it seems like she gave you a clue, no? At least that's how I took it. So yeah, I'd be freaking out a little if I were you.
    So my advice? Set the timer for 60-90 minutes and pretend like Dan already asked for your opening or full. Start re-reading and revising anything that stands out to you that he may question. But maybe you already did that.
    Anyway, that's all I got! GOOD LUCK!!!!!

  3. Ahhhhhh. I hate waiting too. I'm super impatient so it's ironic that writing makes me so happy. I don't think you have anything to worry about with the finals announcement tomorrow. Though, I'm in the same boat:)

    I'm just hoping, being an example of Georgia's, that wasn't my hint that I'm not a finalist. Are you biting your nails off too?!

  4. My strategy in both ABNA cuts so far was to not think about it until the day of. Fortunately, the announcements are always on weekdays, so my students kept me busy and preoccupied, for the most part. Nothing like attempting to explain calculus in American Sign Language to keep your brain busy. ;-) (Doesn't mean I wasn't hovering over my computer during every break, though.)

  5. Christina and Candyland,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It's good to know I'm not the only one waiting.
    Good luck to both of you. I'll be looking for your names. (Although I'm guessing Candyland used a different name for her official entry. :)


  6. Hi R.C. ! Thanks for the comment. You are right, keeping busy is probably the best strategy. Maybe I should learn ASL to distract me. Good luck in the next ABNA round. I'll be watching for your name.

  7. I talk big, but ... you should see the post on my blog about waiting for an agent. I need more time-killers to add to the list. Ten really isn't enough.

  8. Ha! Why yes, yes I did:) I'm the 9:59 Rewinder...
    Here's to a fast twenty-four hours so I can relax a little (yeah right).

  9. Gail, great blog. I'm like Lydia - when I am waiting on something that I know likely won't come for hours, I have to get away. Otherwise, I sit there hitting refresh all day.

    So I'll go to a movie with my mom, or I'll head over to spend some time with my nephew, or anything else I can do to get me out of the house and away from the computer.

  10. Wish I could help, Gail. But it doesn't seem that I wait any better than you do. My only real "strategy" is to try to pour all that angst and anxiety into writing new material. Some days, that works very well. Others...not so well. I have to keep reminding myself that waiting is as much a part of publishing as the writing itself. Doesn't help that I am horribly Type A and judge all my success by what I've achieved.

    Hang in there and keep writing!

  11. While waiting on ABNA results, I'm enjoying reading other entry excerpts and sharing short reviews with the authors. While I did this regularly as a junior high writing teacher (now retired), I'm finding reviewing my peers is truly educational and quite exciting. It's an honor to me to be part of such a community!

  12. As an unpub I have plenty experience waiting. But it's not a bad thing. I figure if I have something out there, there is always the possibility of a final, a win, or the brass ring-- THE CALL. So I try to keep something out there. But to me the most important part of waiting is to keep moving. I write, everyday, pretty much without fail. If I don't make the final cut in a contest or I get a rejection I still have hope because I'm working on the next project. I've been doing this an embarrassingly long time.(over 10 years--apparently I'm a slow learner) I've been through all of the steps from no response, to form rejections, to personal well thought out rejections. (I got a two page letter from Scholastics) There are so many times I've wanted to quick banging my head against the concrete wall. But even if I didn't submit, I'd keep writing so I might as well chip away at that wall.

  13. On Golden Heart call day, I was up at 5 a.m. CA time, as messages came in about finalists from Australia. I knew no calls would come to CA until 10 a.m. Texas time (what?? they think we're SLEEPING??). So I went to work--with my cell phone in my fist, and my computer flipping between various websites posting news. Nothing. Nada.

    Within an hour of the 2 p.m. Texas cut-off time, every category but mine (Regency) was full. Regency was EMPTY. I started to think they'd cancelled the whole category. Still blank at 2 p.m.. Finally, at about 2:20, the list popped up. Sounds like the calls didn't even start going out til 1:59.... I had no coping strategy. I was a nervous wreck the whole time.

  14. Hi, Gail! I know what you mean about checking and rechecking. My book was a finalist in a recent contest. I got a phone call letting me know, but had to wait until this weekend to see where my book placed. I have to admit, I kept checking my email for the announcement.

    But generally, I try to send things out and concentrate on other things. I just got a rejection for a submission out of the blue, but since I have other things still out and more stuff I'm working on, the rejection only stung for a few minutes and now I'm ready to start revising, per the editor's instructions.

  15. Hi Gail, waiting is the hardest part of a writer's life. Fortunately for me, I always have several projects on hand. Right now, I'm working on the first draft of one ms, researching another, and working on edits for a third, as well as awaiting the release date for my second novel, and doing as much pre-release publicity as I can. And if that doesn't work, I start a cooking or baking blitz, so that when I do get busy, I'll have lots of food in the freezer for my hungry family!

  16. I, too, was waiting for the Regency Category in the Golden Heart...it was torturous.

    I'd determined not to watch it, but I was up at 6 a.m., refreshing internet pages like mad. I'd counted on my toddler to keep me occupied, but my danged iPhone defeated me! Internet at my fingertips...whose idea was that?!?!? :)

    Then my son decided to take an early and LONG nap for once, leaving me nothing to occupy myself. I tried to write, tried to take a nap, tried to clean the house, but I just couldn't step away from the computer/iPhone.

    Finally, at 1:30 p.m. CST (calls were to have been finished and finalists announced by 2), I called my critique partner and told her she had to hold my hand...still no Regency finalists announced.

    At 2:03, I was despairing because it was all said and done, but still hopeful because the entire Regency list was still blank. I was on a website, reading through comments and laughing about our category being cancelled when a fellow GH finalist popped up in Regency saying she'd just gotten the call. As I was reading that post to my CP, call-waiting buzzed through and my call came at 2:09.

    This was my first GH waiting day, and my plan failed miserably. I don't know what I'll do next time...maybe take my son out to the park, away from the computer, disable my browser...

  17. I hate waiting, and I have absolutley no strategy. I do tend to put sumissions to agents out of my mind right after I hit send, but a month into the waiting game, I start to wonder when they might call or write an e-mail. I have learned, as you said, the absolute best thing is to start on another project and become really involved in that project. Also, I always try to have something else out there be it a contest submission or a query just in case the one I'm waiting on is bad news.

  18. I'm cheering you on, Gail! And I understand all about waiting. The publishing industry in general is slow so there's lots of down time. I agree with the others. Starting a new project is a great idea, or brainstorming. And so is going to a movie or reading a book for fun. It will take your mind off the wait and might be inspiring. Best of luck!

  19. I went to work, kept the cell phone on my body as it had to be vibrate only, checked the lists at a quick lunch, then by 1 o'clock figured everything was done and over--they were supposed to post final results by 2--and ate my 'bummer, I didn't final' candy bar. Then at 1:59, the phone rang. I answered, rambled, hung up, cried and really wished I'd skipped that candy bar. I was sick with excitement the rest of the night. And I had to finish day job work, as well. :)

  20. Great blog agian Gail. Oh Gillian how terrible lol. 1:59? The torment. That's a great story lol, that would totally be my luck. I've just started to send my stuff out to contests, agents and editors, so we'll see how it goes. At least I'll have all this great advice under my belt, the question will be will I remember to use it lol.

  21. Gail,
    Great blog. I'm horrible with dates, so that helps a lot. :) I can't remember when I sent things or when finalists are supposed to be announced. I remember one time I received a rejection from an agent and I was thinking, "Who the heck is this?" I didn't even remember sending the query because it took so long to get an answer. I do keep records, but then there is the whole effort of actually looking it up. I'd much rather be involved in a project, and that really is my strategy. That doesn't mean I wouldn't be checking if I were waiting for GH results, though.

  22. Hi, Gail. I'm in the "polish the ms like crazy, then send and forget camp." Fortunately, I have an incredibly bad memory, which makes waiting for news much easier!

  23. Great post, Gail! Sorry I'm late chiming in!

    I used to be obsessive about submission responses, but over the years, I've adopted the "Send it and forget it" method as well. Sometimes I get a rejection or request and think, "When the heck did I submit to these people??" LOL!

    I think your wait was definitely worth it, though, huh?? :)

  24. Thank you all for sharing your wonderful waiting tips and stories. And congratulations to all those Golden Heart and ABNA winners who stopped by. Good luck in the final rounds!

  25. When I first started writing, the wait killed me as did the rejections. Now, I'm pretty laid back about it all. Just keep plugging along.

  26. Thank you, P.L. It's so nice to have a CBC chapter sister stop by!

  27. Gail,

    I'm not at the point of submitting anything yet, so I just find your blog and the responses fascinating....want to learn how to respond constructively when I do reach that stage.