Monday, April 4, 2011
What Do YOU Do While You're Waiting For "The Call"?
Congratulations! You have finished your manuscript. You have reviewed, revised, re-drafted, edited and polished like mad. And you have begun the query process, or actually sent off your baby to the agent or editor of your dreams: The vital step on the road to publication. So now you are a contestant in The Waiting Game. Be it for six weeks for a response to a query or six months – or more – for a response to a partial or full submission, you’ve got some time on your hands. Nothing to do but take up a hobby, watch some reality TV, wait and pray to St. Frances de Sales (patron saint of writers). Right?
Now is the most important time of all to be proactive. The time between now and an offer on your book is no time to relax. This is a crucial time, during which you can either learn to bake artisanal bread, finish that sweater you started in 1991, or prepare for the road to publication.
Okay. You know everyone says that once you submit you have to keep writing. And that is essential (no publisher wants a one-hit writing wonder, right?). But what else can you do?
Research: Rejection will be inevitable. (Unless you’re the lucky one in a million who hits it big with the first submission of your first novel – in which case, play the lottery, too.) So who will you submit to next? You want to be ready to go – no wallowing in self-pity. Research publishers, editors and agents. The titles and authors they produce. Study your query letters and hone them for new prey. Ditto your synopses.
Investigate: What’s the state of the industry you are in? What’s happening with technology? Business and trends? Legal and contract issues? Sales? Time to become well versed in the business of which you hope to be a successful part.
Discover: Opportunities to promote yourself in the writing and publishing community via contests, workshops, conferences, conventions and other networking venues.
Fine Tune: Your brand, platform and your presence – by working on your website, social networking, newsletter, and your marketing plan for the momentous day when you are a published author.
Read: Your genre to keep abreast of what’s being published; other genres; fiction – everything! Trends in publishing and reading are key to understanding how to position yourself amid the pack. Your competition is not just other romance authors. It is any writer, any book on which a reader will spend her money.
(And an aside here - be aware not just of trends in publishing, but of trends in entertainment. Someone once said of the railroad magnates that the reason they lost supremacy was because they thought they were in the "railroad business", when, in fact, they were in the "transportation business". As a writer, you aren't in the publishing business: You're in the ENTERTAINMENT business! You're competing for the time and money people are spending on entertainment, be it books, TV, film, sports or theme parks. What else is going on out there?)
Hone Your Craft: Get your do-it-yourself MFA in creative writing. Become a consummate storyteller – work on aspects of craft and technique, do exercises, read critically and take classes, workshops and panels. You can always ALWAYS improve your skills – which improves your chance at success.
Write: Duh, right? But it REALLY IS the best way to keep honing your writing ability, keep your momentum going, to evolve your skills and your voice and become the best author you can be – and have more material under construction so when asked, the publishers know they’re looking at the real deal: a writer looking for a career.
Embrace Your Bliss: Use the waiting opportunity to keep your life sane, organized, productive and joyful. Plant your garden. Reconnect with friends and family who’ve patiently waited for some quality time while you toiled over a hot keyboard. Remind your significant other that romance writers do it with creativity. Do whatever makes you happy to recharge your human batteries.
Explore: Everyone, everything, the world around you. Experience and stimulation are the sustenance of a writer. Use some time to refill your creative well and use everything as fuel for stories. Walk, watch, listen, taste, smell – FEEL.
This time of suspended animation offers precious opportunities to create a solid foundation for yourself, to be ready when you must move on to your next submission or – fingers crossed – publication. Think of yourself as a Writing Olympian. Only the writer who has trained to tip-top shape will be able to compete.
* No matter what stage of the business you are at, these hints can keep you sharp, productive and looking forward to your next achievement as a writer.