A Few Thoughts on Waiting, Change, and Productivity (with just a tinge of Manic Laughter)

In the spirit of full disclosure, I  admit I’m not feeling very inspired to write today’s blog post. Nothing personal, loyal readers, of course I love you all. I’m just feeling antsy, and unsettled, and would rather check my inbox again. And again. And maybe once more, just in case.

Ugh! Waiting! It really warps the normal passage of time!

You see, I’m in one of the waiting phases of becoming published. I’m waiting for my editor’s next round of feedback and requests for revisions. This is one of the things that I, in blissful naivety, thought would all be behind me once I had a book under contract. Those of you out there shopping a manuscript know what I’m talking about–that awful inability to get it out of your mind, checking the email and mailbox obsessively, hoping for good news, bracing for bad news, wishing you’d just get some news, then being afraid to actually read the news when it comes, even though you’ve been checking for it every five minutes for weeks.

Isn’t that a great feeling? And don’t you just love sarcasm?

When my manuscript was acquired by McElderry,  I felt a surge of relief that, at least for this novel, I would not have to go through that again. I remember that lovely day in November of 2010 when I, in the rosy blush of my tender youth, thought to myself, “at last, my manuscript has a home! No more wondering and worrying about it’s fate!”

Now if  a friend were to post those words as a  Facebook status, I would reply with slightly manic wisdom, thus:


Okay, so I’m not really mean enough that I would write that comment–just mean enough to secretly want to.

Mind you, I’m not ragging on my editor. Of course I know that editors need time to read, thoughtfully consider, and comment on a manuscript, whether or not they’ve acquired it. And of course that means unavoidable episodes of waiting. I just somehow thought it would FEEL different post-contract. I thought I would feel more professional and more certain that I was doing the right things. I’d feel more confident in the merits of my work and less desperate for an editor’s approval.

Go ahead, my friends. Say it with me. Better yet, friend me on Facebook and write it, and don’t forget that tinge of hysteria:


The truth is, I feel pretty much the same. No Golden Mantle of Professional Wisdom has descended upon my shoulders because of that contract. Heck, I haven’t even gotten a Slightly Yellow Hankie of Basic Competency. I still wait and wonder about my novel’s fate and worry about my own skill as a writer. It really doesn’t feel all that much different. You may think that the fear of rejection has been removed from the equation; not so. The difference is that now I fear rejection from someone with whom I have a long term relationship, as opposed to rejection from a total stranger.

Curse that Mike Jung and his fabulous cover! Hey, maybe I could just photoshop my title in where his is... Bwahahahahahaha!!!!

And as for that jealousy I used to hate myself for feeling when peers sold their manuscripts in the past? Now I hate myself for thinking “Darn that J Anderson Coats, why does SHE have a final title, while I don’t!” or “Why does Mike Jung have a cover? I don’t have a cover yet! Curse that Mike Jung!”  Sorry, fellow EMU’s. With friends like me….

So yeah. It’s not much different in this greener pasture than it was in the other one, at least not yet. I’m not complaining. It is better, where I am than where I was, and I wouldn’t go back for anything. But I am still on the same journey as before; I’ve just passed a major landmark on the way.

So for myself, and for other writers out there struggling with waiting, I’ve come up with a list of

Ten Things To Do To Pass the Time Productively

1. Keep writing. Because nothing says, “I’m a real writer!” like having a second manuscript on submission and/or acquired before the first book comes out! (Not that I know this for sure, but I sure plan to make a stab at finding out.)

How could I avoid gaining wisdom in this crowd? L to R: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Audrey Vernick, Natalie Lorenzi, Liz Garton Scanlon (standing), Cate Tiernon (seated), Laura Resau (seated), Zu Vincent (stading), Kathy Duval, and Jeannie Mobley

2.  Seek advice from more knowledgeable friends in the industry, who can keep me sane with wisdom and/or commiseration. When I wonder, “should this be taking so long?” it is nice to hear a calm voice of experience answer truthfully, “It’s only been three hours since you mailed it, so yes, I think it should take this long. Maybe a little longer.”  I’ve found these wise and generous writers through critique groups, listservs, retreats, and through my agency client base. (You know who you are. Thank you! I love you all and apologize for the manic laughter. )

3. Start building a positive public presence. For me, this has involved blogging, expanding my writerly presence on Facebook, getting professional photos for publicity purposes, developing (and redeveloping) my website, and introducing myself to bookstore owners and librarians.

4. Reread random sections of the manuscript and obsess about how horrifically dull and awful and predictable and unprofessional and generally abominable it is, and decide that I am doomed forever by the complete and total flop it is going to be! Okay, maybe that’s not so productive. Move quickly to #5.

5. Scrape myself off the cellar floor and revisit #2 above. (My choice of phrase here came from Victoria Hanley, a wonderful source of writerly advice!) Then proceed to #6 without revisiting #4.

When your kid is a bass player in a rock band, it is a little easier to remember there is more to life than the quiet world of writing.

6.  Take my dog for a walk, cheer my son on in his athletic and musical endeavors, call my daughter at college, and remember that life away from the desk is full of many joyful things.

7.  Attempt to achieve inner peace and spiritual enlightenment through the ancient principles of Buddhism.

8. Use Photoshop to scandalize friends and blogging associates, while simultaneously indulging in maniacal laughter.

9. Support  fellow writers in the steps along the way in which they are engaged, because this writing life is and always will be a journey, no matter what landmark we’ve just passed, and we all need a hand from time to time.

10. Keep writing! Because after all, that’s why we’re all here to begin with.

Good luck, my friends! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go check my email.


Filed under Editing and Revising, rejection and success, Writing and Life

21 responses to “A Few Thoughts on Waiting, Change, and Productivity (with just a tinge of Manic Laughter)

  1. The “Slightly Yellow Hankie of Basic Competency”? You are brilliant!

    And as a recent recipient of #9, I do thank you. May we never lose sight of that, no matter what stage of the journey we reach. 🙂


  2. I was just about to praise number 9 (though I’m a big fan of some other numbers, and a frequent victim of number 4). But really, take some time to revel in the fact that you seem to do #9 with great ease and comfort, where many writers with many books under their belts haven’t even thought of #9 yet. You’re way ahead of the game.


    • #2 and #9 are really two sides of the same coin. I think a lot of the support and comfort comes from just spending time with other writers and discovering that “it’s not just me!” That they are feeling the same things, going through the same experiences, etc. that I am. Hopefully, they find some benefit in those interactions as well!

      I also believe in paying it forward, though. I remember you, Audrey, telling me that you had gotten rejections like I was getting, and that the ms. eventually sold. Hearing that made such a difference for me and helped me ride out those rejections! I remember how much of a difference that made when I talk to other writers who are in a similar place to where I was then, and I hope I can support them in the same way.

      It’s amazing that we are all in this solitary pursuit of writing, but we all have so much we can offer each other!


  3. Cynthia Levinson

    Jeannie, this is a fantastic post! My debut writing/publishing experience is not so different from my many years of experience as a bureaucrat. Not only do I put in at least as many hours sitting at my computer as a writer that I did in my office job but also both entail a lot of hurrying up and waiting–repeat cycle ad nauseum. It took me over a year to realize that while I was waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting, my editor was doing, basically, one of two things–(1) working on my project without my knowing it until, out of the blue, she sent me a huge revision, (2) working on revisions on somebody else’s project that had earlier deadlines. Both of these, I figured out, are what she’s supposed to be doing and keep her perpetually busy. Now that my project is the one with the hurry-up deadline, I feel sympathy for her other authors who are wondering what on earth she could possibly be doing instead of working on their projects AND I’m very grateful that she’s paying pretty much full attention to mine. If she buys another ms from me, I’ll feel all of these ways all over again.


    • You make some great points here, Cynthia. I wanted to point out that there HAD to be some waiting, because at the bare minimum, the editor has to take time to read and comment. But of course, editors have other things to do than just work with my manuscript. When I think of the sheer numbers of manuscripts they work on over the course of a year, I begin to suspect superhuman powers!


  4. I’d like to add a “buah” to that “hahaha” ie. “buah-hah-hah” which is what I’m normally doing – a bit like a half-deranged, middle aged, female count chocula with a good dose of Lady MacBeth thrown in (wringing of the hands, manic gleam in eye).
    Great post! Particularly enjoyed #7 – because I always achieve spiritual enlightenment, and allow sense of inner balance and peace to restore peace and harmony to a troubled world before breakfast. Don’t we all? (you don’t? oh, no wonder the world is in such straights…) In all seriousness, love that #6 and #7 are together…
    Yeesh, I’m in such a waiting waiting state right now too it’s giving me an ulcer – thank goodness I have such smart, talented and generous agency sibs to learn from! 🙂


    • I hope your waiting goes quick and painless, Sayantani. Actually, I just read that, and thought it sounded a bit morbid–I don’t mean I hope it dies a quick painless death, just that the waiting is brief, and the end result makes it painless :-).

      I must, however, forbid ulcers! Ulcers were not on the list of productive time-uses! Get thee to a bhodi tree and meditate if it is getting to the ulcer stage (but you don’t have to do so before breakfast.)

      Also, I would like to point out that once one adds Buah (or Bwa) to the front of the laughter, it has evolved from merely MANIC to MANIACAL. Do you see the difference? You will also noticed that my laughter did, in fact, make that evolution in the course of my post (see point #8, and the caption to Mike’s book cover).

      Finally, I would like to add that if the manuscript you have out on submission right now does not sell, I think you should fall back on a story about a half deranged, middle-aged, female count chocula with a good dose of Lady MacBeth mixed in. That sounds like a great picture book concept to me. Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha!


  5. J. Anderson Coats

    I queried four books over ten years before I finally wrote one that sold. Waiting stinks, no matter how you slice it. Back then, though, I didn’t have any fellow writers to keep me sane.

    Explains a lot, doesn’t it?


    • I queried three books over seven years before the one that sold (counting the earlier version of the one that sold, which was pulled from submission and completely rewritten). And yes, from where I’m sitting you look completely sane.



  6. I have often threatened to write a BOOK called “Waiting For Soon” –but now I don’t have to, because you just said it all… And to your marvelous list I will add #11: Compartmentalize! Yes, yes, yes! That way you can convince the part of you that isn’t caught in the waiting web that you are still sane! BuahahahahaHA!


    • Good point number 11, although since two of my points were a repeat, and a couple others might not have been legitimate points, you are welcome to tack that one on and we can still call it Ten Tips. After all, people who put “BuahahahahahaHA” at the ends of their online communications are probably to crazy to count to ten anyway, right? Bwahahahahahaha!


  7. I’ve been trying to restrain myself from spending too much time online while I finish my latest draft, but I’m so glad I made an exception to read your post, Jeannie. This is a fantastic read! Honest and funny and inspiring. I hope you’re moving on to the next landmark in your journey soon!


  8. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    What a great list! I’ve never seen #9 on any list of ways to make waiting easier. You’re a gem, Jeannie. 🙂


    • Keeping busy makes time pass better, so you might as well be doing what you can, right?

      One of the most wonderful things about our agency is the amount of mutual support it provides. I had no idea I would get that when I signed on with Erin, but even if I had never sold a novel, I would be eternally grateful for the support received and given in this group!


  9. Gwendolyn McIntyre

    Closing her sound-proof door and tower windows to block out the manic laughter echoing throughout the city, Redo Fphen, Scriptmistress, drew her Smith&Wesson bolt action quill and dropped in a red-ink cartridge, and readied the manuscript before her.

    ‘Right then, Mistress Mobley. Let’s see what you’re made of.’


  10. You don’t scare me, Redo Fphen. I’ve got a Stet, and I’m not afraid to use it.

    Gwen McIntyre, on the other hand, now there’s someone who scares me. I wouldn’t challenge her in a manic/maniacal laughter contest for anything in the world!


  11. Pingback: Hurry Up and Wait: The Life of a Writer | EMU's Debuts

  12. beckylevine

    Get #4 off that list!


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