Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Writer's Wednesday - Waiting

Our regular columnist Annie West ponders on the one of the often unspoken aspects of a writer's life.
When I began writing I didn't seem to have enough time. I was always trying to fit writing between other aspects of my life. That hasn't changed. If anything, it's grown a tad more hectic over the years. But one aspect of my time management has. When I was unpublished the waits seemed inordinate - to the next writers' meeting when I might get feedback on a new scene, on a contest result and most of all, on an editor's response to my proposal or manuscript. But, being unpublished and beholden to noone but myself, I could use those waits any way I wanted. If I didn't want to start a new project I could fritter a few months doing other things. Most often though, I'd be getting stuck into the next project while I waited to hear if anyone was interested in the last one.

As a published author, the waits are still there (sorry if that shatters any illusions!). They may not be lengthy as before, but they're still a factor in any writer's schedule. Most editors have quite a few authors to deal with and their time is sometimes spread pretty thin. Publication is no guarantee of an on the spot answer to your latest story proposal, your manuscript, revisions, or any other questions that might arise.

The difference is that now, working as an author trying to build a career, I need to make the most of that waiting time. If I were to just down tools during a wait, I'd be scurrying madly later to catch up. And I'm no longer just writing to please myself, sometimes it's best to wait for that editorial feedback before plunging into something new and completely different!

So, what to do while you're waiting? Here are some thoughts on ways to use this time, whether you're published or unpublished:

Work on your next project. Maybe write a proposal or two, or at least jot down plot ideas you might use later. You never know when they'll come in handy.

Tidy up your diary to list all your commitments so you don't miss any. Sometimes I find myself with a mass of scrawled notes I daren't throw out but with no time to organise them till I meet my deadline.

Revisit your writing plan. Are you on schedule to achieve your goals? What else did you plan to do this year that you haven't done? Maybe a short story or an article you've been meaning to write for ages.

Research your next story. A couple of days learning about marine archaeology or hospital emergency procedures or the ins and outs of wills and codicils may save you pausing in the middle of writing the next book to check details.

Get ahead on your commitments. When you're not writing your story, you could be drafting a blog for a month ahead or an article you promised that's due just when you're likely to have revisions. Or were you planning to send out a newsletter one day?

Sigh, it grieves me to say it but sometimes a couple of days getting your tax return up to date is a great investment of time. Or other admin things like getting in office supplies.

If you've done all that, write, anything!

I've saved the most important till last:

Catch up on your sleep. Meeting deadlines or getting revisions in quickly, while managing a household or a day job or sick kids or whatever life throws as you can be wearing. If you've got extra time, recharge your batteries.

Read. It's a perfect time to tackle your tbr pile and 'fill the creative well' by enjoying stories you haven't personally had to slave over.

Get some exercise! Good for the body but also good for the brain. Maybe a massage too as writing tends to kink you up. Or maybe, with this little extra time it's a chance to investigate the tai chi or yoga or kick boxing or pilates class you've been meaning to find ot about.

Spend more time with family and friends. When the deadline is looming you have less time just to have fun with them.

How do you deal with waiting? Where do you channel your energies when you hit a delay of some sort? Do you enjoy the down time as a chance to rest, or do you get on with other things?

Annie's going to spend at least some time this month drooling over her latest release! SCANDAL: HIS MAJESTY'S LOVE-CHILD is part of the DARK HEARTED DESERT MEN series and she freely admits to being smitten by her hero, Tahir. You can read about it on her website or buy it from Amazon, Amazon UK or Barnes and Noble. It's a June UK release and a July release in North America, Australia and New Zealand.


  1. Annie, what a great post. And I laughed at that skeleton sitting on the bench. I think we've all felt like that in our time! And what wonderful advice - I actually think reading is something we HAVE to do as writers. It really gives our subconscious time to stew on new stories and it inspires us. But it's something I think we sometimes neglect because we feel it's a waste of time. Anything but!

    By the way, huge congratulations on that fabulous 4.5 star review in Romantic Times for the wonderful Scandal: His Majesty's Love-Child! I'm not at all surprised. That's a great book!

  2. Annie! A fun post and some seriously GREAT advice from you here! I need to follow it ALL! Note to self - start immediately... well, after the manuscript I'm working on! (sigh)

    I loved all the pictures you've put up with this post and, like Anna, I got a chuckle out of the skeleton one!


  3. PS Let me add my congratulations on your 4.5 star review in Romantic Times! Can't wait to read Scandal:His Majesty's Love-Child


  4. Hi Annie
    I think I should print out your blog and pin it on my noticeboard--such good advice! And I love all your illustrations.
    I'm joining in the congratulations on your 4.5 star RT review for Scandal: His Majesty's Love-Child! I read the review and it sounds fabulous--as if I need any incentive to read one of your sheik books!
    Thanks again for the "timely" advice.

  5. Congrats on your 4.5-star RT review, Annie!

    I giggled at the skeleton on the park bench too--that summarises how I feel right now!

    Thanks so much for these awesome tips on how to make waiting times more productive. If I've got a bit of time up my sleeve, I learn a few new recipes. I've been cooking the same safe things I can do with my eyes closed lately and it's time to mix up the repertoire. And if I'm lucky, story ideas come to me while I'm stirring risotto or washing up my mess.

    Fabulous post!

  6. Hi Anna,

    Glad you enjoyed the blog. As for feeling like that skeleton - it's hard sometimes, isn't it? I think we'd all go mad if we didn't have so many other things to do while we wait.

    Thanks for the congratulations on SCANDAL's recent 4.5 star RT review. I'm still smiling over that!

  7. Hi Sharon! How terrific to think you found my advice terrific. Now, if I could just follow it all myself... Always harder, isn't it? Thanks for the congratulations. I must say it's been a great way to debut a book and between you and me I feel Tahir and Annalisa deserve it. What, me biased in favour of my own delectable hero? Never! (G).

  8. Kandy, it's nice to see you here. I'm wondering what you do when you have a long wait, but from the little I know about your life I'm guessing you may see it as a bonus in a very hectic world!

    Thanks for the congratulations. I'm really looking forward to your new release coming up very soon!

  9. Vanessa, what a great idea - trying new recipes while you wait. I have an awful tendency to try them when we're having guests to dinner. I do think you may be right about ideas coming to you when you're cooking. I've noticed that I can happily daydream about my characters while I cook (as long as it's not a rushed get-the-dinner-cooked-in-15-mins night). Same thing with gardening. I wonder if it's to do with using your hands and freeing up your mind at the same time?

    Sorry to hear you feel you're in a skeletal state right now. I hope you get great news that puts some life into you very soon! Thanks for the good wishes too.

  10. Annie, there's a fabulous saying about advice that I've always giggled about... "Take my advice, I'm not using it!" LOL

    BUT having shared that I must say that I WILL be following your advice on this blog! I need to so a bit of sanity can be restored!


  11. Annie, while I love that skeleton it's the picture of the guy face down on his keyboard that really had me sighing in empathy .

    What a great post! Waiting can be so hard... but I have to admit I sometimes find it a blessing too. At the moment when I'm between writing deadlines I'm working on my Masters project (which has its own looming deadline). But when THAT'S finished... man, you should see the tbr pile I'm building. And at the top of the list is your contribution to the DARK HEARTED DESERT MEN series -- ooh, I just love the sound of that! Can't wait to lose myself in it :-)

  12. Sharon, always assuming it helps to be sane while you write. Good luck!

  13. Hi Michelle,

    Yes, I had real fun looking for pics for this post. I can relate to the guy at the desk or perhaps the melting clock. Strange how time can go by so slowly on some things yet fly on others.

    Good luck with your Masters. I don't know how you juggle that with your writing. Hope you enjoy those Dark Hearted Desert Men!

  14. Hi Annie,

    Great advice!

    I'm one of those who cracks on with the next project. What's the point in sitting around waiting on a sub (nail-biting/tearing out hair etc). I enjoy writing, have always enjoyed it even when previously published and pushed to make a deadline after revisions.

    If writing becomes a chore it (does) show in the end product!


  15. Great column Annie!

    I am still struggling with the waiting game concept - I'm currently waiting on comments regarding my first post-publication proposal. You're advice was terrific. It was also nice to see I'm not the only one who struggles with impatience. I'm going to remind myself, as I wonder what to work on this week, of your column.

  16. Hi Annie,

    Thanks for the fabulous advice. Being unpublished, I usually get on to the next project while waiting. But I also relax by reading a lot and across different genres.

    Can't wait to read Tahir's story.


  17. Thank you for such a funny, encouraging post, Annie. Too bad I held illusions of grandeur once you publish your first book...:)

    Your list is fantastic, btw. I tend to stew when I wait too long.

    Thanks again for the lovely post!

  18. Hi Francine. I think you're right that our pleasure in a story can show through in the final product - or not. Fantastic of you to get on with the next project while waiting to hear about the first. It's always good to feel you're deep into another project that will hopefully hit the mark. Thanks for dropping by.

  19. Annie

    What great advice for writers as you know I am not a writer but I still need to get organized and find time for myself in between family and work and that time is when I love to curl up with a great book and loose myself in the romance and adventure of great heros and heroines.

    Have Fun

  20. Hi Barbara, I'm so glad the column was helpful. Isn't it such a relief knowing that you're not the only one experiencing something and that others go through the same thing? Being a writer is so solitary so I find it's good to remind myself countless others deal with these issues all the time. Good luck with your wait!

  21. Hi Sri, it sounds like you're so well organised - getting on with your next project and taking time to renew those creative juices. Interesting that you mention reading across a range of genres. I read a lot of romance but there's something about reading other genres that seems to make me look at things differently - always a good thing, don't you think?

  22. Hi Harper,

    Sorry to shatter those illusions! So glad you enjoyed the post. I know what you mean about stewing if you've got a long wait. That's why I find it's always better to be doing something with my time, even if it's a series of small things I've been putting off (argh - like my tax) so I feel that I'm achieving something. A good friend of mine talks of 'clearing the decks' - doing all the admin and duty things out of the way so she can get a clear run with writing her book.

  23. Hi Helen, it's lovely to see you here. That time is so precious when you manage to do something for yourself (like read a great book) in between all the other things you juggle. Hope you manage much more time like that!

  24. Loved the post, Annie!! Great advice and all very timely. I'm about to send my next effort off to my publisher - hopefully the wait won't be too long...

    Congrats on those 4.5 stars! Yahoo!

    I used to find the time waiting for results from competitions could really drag me down. My solution was to catch up on all the great books I hadn't had time to read. Of course then I needed to revisit everything I'd written because I'd realise my words needed some work...

    Loved the photo of the guy on the keyboard - that I can definitely relate to!!

  25. Hi Helene. What timing. Good luck with your new ms! Fingers crossed it's a short wait and good news.

    Argh - I know that feeling of wanting to revisit your own stuff after you've read something marvellous. I wonder if there's any writer who doesn't sit there sometimes and think 'I wish I'd written that.'

    Thanks for the congratulations. Believe me, that news has me smiling!

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