I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, February 11, 2011

While You Wait

Right now I’m in the waiting room. Well, not literally. I’m actually at home on my couch in my pjs, frantically trying to make sense of the notes I scribbled for this post. But as a fellow writer, I’m sure you know what I mean.

Writing is a waiting game. You send your baby out into the scary world, and then you get to just sit there. Is your coping method devouring an entire box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts? While that might sound tempting right now, you’ll be in need of a new wardrobe when conference time rolls around, so I’d like to offer a dozen alternatives.

1. Work on a new story idea. Look through newspapers. Do some research. Write! The best way to beat the waiting room is to get lost in a new story.

2. Brainstorm ways to keep your project alive if it’s rejected. Did you run into an editor at a conference who might be interested in taking a look? Or, with just a little tweaking, could the story fit as a sequel for your newest idea? If you get rejected, the sting won’t be as bad if you have a plan already in place to be excited about.

3. Work on your online presence. Go ahead and write some extra blog entries for emergencies or to schedule in advance. Spruce up your blog design. Update your website or, if you don’t have one, surf the web to get some ideas for what you’d like on your own site when you do get one.

4. Tackle a non-writing-related project you’ve been putting off. Been wanting to paint that yard sale table a light turquoise? What better time than while you’re waiting? You’ll have a new surface on which to sign your contract when it comes. :-) Or maybe you need to hold your own yard sale or do some deep cleaning or organize your photos. Stepping away from the computer can be refreshing.

5. Read one of your favorite novels again. Dissect it. What does the author do that pulls you into the story so much? Is there a way you can incorporate that into your next wip?

6. Spruce up your proposal essentials. It’s too late to change what you’ve sent in, but is there a way to make your bio more intriguing for the next time? Have you had any brilliant marketing ideas come to you in the middle of the night? Go ahead and work them in. Your proposal will look that much better next time.

7. Organize your writing materials. What about making a character notebook? You could keep lists of names you like for main characters, for villains, for last names. You could make a list of names you’ve already used. I remember not really getting into this one book I was reading because I was halfway through and still wondering whether a secondary character was the heroine from another of that same author’s story. Nope. Just the same name.

Hunt for the perfect picture to use as your inspiration for your hero. Post it where only friends who understand the whole weird author thing will see it. Otherwise things could get a bit awkward. (Yes, I do know this from experience.)

8. Write an article or short story to submit to a magazine. Yes, you’ll be waiting again, but they don’t take nearly as long to write, and those Writer’s Market books are so inspiring to look through.

9. Do you know a teacher? Or are you brave and willing to call a school? What about seeing if they’re interested in you giving a creative writing workshop for one of their classes? Hey, it would give you something else to put into that awe-inspiring bio of yours. And you just might have fun while you’re at it!

10. Reach behind you. Give a less experienced writer a hand. You could offer to critique something, do some extra brainstorming, take them out for coffee and talk shop.

11. Read great novels, craft books, writing blogs, archived classes from ACFW, etc. If you’re always striving to be better, you won’t have time to fret over the proposal or manuscript that’s out there in the wild blue yonder.

12. Get the focus off yourself. Write notes of encouragement to other writers. Send thank you notes to those who have mentored you. Let your parents or spouse or pastor or crit group know how much you appreciate them. You’re a writer. Use the written word to bless others.

Remember, once you hit “send” or drop your manuscript into the mailbox, it’s no longer up to you. Your story is in someone else’s hands…and Someone Else’s. What better place to leave it?

So let’s discuss! What are you waiting on? What do you do while you put in your time in the waiting room?

~ Jenness Walker


  1. Jenness, I'm in the waiting room too--sitting across the aisle from you, pretending to read that magazine, but haven't turned a page in the last five minutes. Instead I'm scoping out the other occupants and creating a scenario and characters for a new story line. :)

    Great suggestions, and so much healthier than a dozen Krispy Kremes. I've been reading terrific novels and working on my current project, but in the back of my mind, my toe is still tapping as I wait. I know God is strengthening me, but it's still hard.

  2. This helpful post is more delicious than a Baker's Dozen of Krispy Kreme's (and easier on our physiques.) Thanks for these great tips to streamline our writing success.

  3. Great post, Jenness. While it sounds contradictory waiting is an active verb. Just like waiting on God...while we wait for his answer, we do the tasks he's given us. You've given us some really good suggestions for our waiting time!

  4. "Hunt for the perfect picture to use as your inspiration for your hero."

    It's so funny that you say this, Jenness, because seriously just this week I was thinking of looking through mags for a photo of my new story's male POV. But then I started worrying that anybody who sees the photo hanging up would wonder...:)

    Great post - practical and so helpful. And, um, the photo of donuts is making me hungry. Oh oatmeal, sometimes you're just not enough...

  5. Jenness, what great, practical ideas. :) I'm nowhere close to being in the waiting room with you and Lisa, but I am going to file away your ideas for my day(s) of waiting. :) I love how you encourage us to get our eyes off of ourselves and onto others. May God use your days in the waiting room to draw you closer to Himself. :)

  6. ROTFL at #7!! Oh boy. We won't even go there. I'm still trying to find Luke. Had a few good possibilities yesterday, but, yeah... he is just one of a kind I think.
    Why didn't you send me any of these ideas before, huh?

  7. Great post! I'll be tweaking some of these to fit my own particular "waiting room"!

  8. Thanks for the ideas and reminders! I'm waiting too and find it more difficult to focus. So I make lists and then do what I can to follow through on the goals therein. Helps to have supportive communities around. :)

  9. Love #8 because so many writers focus so hard on writing a book--and only a book--they overlook writing for magazines. While you wait, build up some credibility and some writing clips by submitting to magazines!

  10. LJ, does that mean I'm in your next story? :-)

    Melissa, I do get teased a bit by my husband about the pictures. But it was worse when he borrowed my laptop and some of his students happened to see the picture that I'd posted as the background. They, of course, didn't know it was my computer, and he had an interesting time trying to talk his way out of that one.

    Jeanne, thank you. I really appreciate that.

    Cathy, I still think I found the perfect Luke. You just need to see the light on that one. And don't worry. You'll have plenty of chances to use the list. :-)

    Reina, I love me some lists. :-) Good luck with yours!

    Just for the record, I didn't say I was doing all these things. Just that I should be... :-)

  11. Waiting right there with you while my next proposal is in someone else's - and Someone Else's - hands.
    Thanks for the creative list of tips!