Thursday, July 18, 2019

When Being Proactive Becomes a Vice

"After sending queries you will have to endure long periods of helplessness where you cannot take any action toward the agents you queried without harming your prospects. Plan accordingly."

I'm used to being proactive. In everything else I've ever done being proactive is a virtue. At restaurants the management motto was, "Time to lean means time to clean." Amazingly, studying in college caused better grades. The Army beat the necessity of being proactive into me so well I get antsy without an ongoing crisis because that means I'm missing important information (really).

But after I hit send on a query/pages being proactive becomes a vice. All I can do is wait, drive myself half mad trying to read twitter tea-leaves that I know are likely meaningless, and send the occasional email to that one agent I haven't queried or somehow irritated into ignoring me yet. It's one of the hardest things I've ever done. Even when some jackwagon was shooting rockets at me in Iraq I could choose to take cover or ignore it.

Maybe if I'd known up front how tough not being able to do anything was going to be I'd have had a plan to use some of the angst-generated energy constructively. As it is I'm just now coming to terms with productive ways to cope, a year in. Or maybe I'd still have driven myself nuts anyway.

 I'm glad the jackwagons had bad aim.

I bet the blog readers have some coping mechanisms.

Here are three of mine.
You can guess which one doesn't belong.

What are your coping strategies for The Long Wait?

"cin cin"

Yum Yum

Hubba hubba

yea right


nightsmusic said...

Why are you waiting? Do you have another book in you? You better if this is what you seriously want to pursue. So start writing that next book! Do your research. Lots of rabbit trails there to keep you busy. That would be my first thing. When you're writing, it's hard to worry about other things. At least for most people.

You can't change the way some things work, no matter how much you want to. So rather than alienating those agents you've subbed to, write another book. That's about as proactive as you can get in the publishing world, beyond marketing yourself. And if you don't have something published yet, find out how to market yourself being pre-pubbed. And do it! That will keep you proactive as well.

Mister Furkles said...

Well, not saying I'm doing this, but you could write short stories and submit to various publications. And if published (and paid), your shorts will enhance your next set of queries.

Of course, that means waiting for the publishers' rejections--er, responses. And, unfortunately, unlike agents, you may submit a short to only one pub at a time. So write lots of them--accepted or rejected, it will keep you busy.

K. White said...

According to my friends who are traditionally published, learning to wait is a necessity in this industry.

We wait for agents to respond. We wait while the book is on submission. After it's bought, we wait for it to be published.

The one piece of advice I hear repeatedly is to spend the waiting time writing another book instead of twiddling your thumbs.

Katja said...

I'm also glad that the jackwagons missed you, OP!!

Regarding coping strategies, I have no tips today. I could do with some myself, please ;). I'm having my book launch event tonight (7.30pm UK-time) and my hands are wet with sweat as I am typing this. I am SO nervous, even though I have rehearsed everything several times. But the speech bits turn out differently EVERY single time...

The reading should be all right. Cross your fingers, please, if you can, thank you :).

Kitty said...

#1 I don't drink.
#2 Lead me not into that temptation...
#3 I don't know who that guy is.
#4 Exercise? Y'gotta be kidding.

Personally, I'd watch a Jesse Stone movie or a season of LONGMIRE.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Write another book. That's the best advice. The waiting is the worst. I like the yum-yum strategy but that might mean you have to run too. Glad you made it back to wait...glacier pace - yep, traditional publishing is slooooowwwww.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Yep, writing and waiting are the same thing with only one letter different.

I'm not at that stage yet but I know that I will spend the time writing the next book and maybe some poetry surrounded by chocolates and bubble tea.

Katja, good luck on your book launch tonight. You'll do great I'm sure :)

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I don't really have anything brilliant to offer, OP, other than to agree with the "keep writing" advice. However, after reading your note to Janet, I'm eager to read your book.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

What do I do while waiting? More writing, typically. Reading, if I can. Watching stuff if I can't (movies, tv shows, anime, etc.). Playing video games (which frequently also involves reading; Bethesda games in particular like Morrowind, Oblivion, etc. have books containing poems and little short stories, that also give you stat boosts).

Though really, it's hard not to obsess over these things, whether it's agent queries or story submissions. I spend a lot of time at The Submission Grinder, trying to figure out where else to find stories that haven't found homes, trying to figure out when I'm going to hear back, just....all of those things.

julie.weathers said...

1. Read a good book. You should be reading anyway.
2. Start a new writing project or continue one that is on the back burner. I usually have more than one. When I get stumped on what I'm writing, I work on something else until the boys int he back work it out, then go back to the main one.
3. Do some research for a new project.
4. I don't watch the inbox. That way lies madness.

Katja, good luck.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I don't drink.
Cookies are keys to dressing rooms from hell.
Last hubba hubba was in 1978. Married two years later. (NOT to Hubba)
Yea right? hahahahaha no freakin' way !

Waiting? I am doomed and glued to my keyboard. That boys and girls is all I got.

Jenn Griffin said...

Namaste, my friend: the divine light in me honors the divine light in you. We are all, in every moment, perfect. And flawed. So are those agents! And you can't control them at all. Take a deep breath, and get back to shining your soul onto your pages.

Lennon Faris said...

The wish to control which you cannot. It is the most agonizing feeling.

I know good advice is to write the next thing, but when I was querying, it sapped the creative energy from my bones. I might try reading next time, or maybe geometry for fun.

OP, best of luck! and congrats on getting to the querying process.

And Katja, you too! No matter what happens, the Reef is rooting for you!!

Megan V said...

Thanks for the laugh QOTKU!

OPI generally write and read other books through the wait. And I've got plenty of day job work and at-home projects to keep me occupied. That said, all you can really do is do things that really draw you in and take your mind off other things. Sometimes I get hyperfocused on the novel I've sent out and just spend some times preparing for the worst (I make a cheer me up plan and gather the necessities for all those incoming rejections). Sometimes I find it easier to cope when I talk to others about it. Slushies Anonymous can be found somewhere between the hinterland of Twitter and the nearest 7-11.

Those cookies though. Man I could use some of those. I could use the exercise too but, well, I much prefer the cookies.

Katja Your book launch will be amazing. Go get 'em!"

Jennifer D. yey! Another Bethesda fan. Speaking of waiting...any predictions for how long we'll have to wait for Elder Scrolls 6?

Theresa said...

Write something new.
Watch t.v. and movies.
All three not only pass time, they keep the focus on stories.
Katja, Happy launch!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Katja Have a great launch. You got this.

french sojourn said...

Great post, and

Katja, we're all here for you in support. You are part of a great community, to echo the thoughts above...

"You got this!"

Jennifer / Megan V ...fallout fanatic here.

KariV said...

What everyone else already said, but also:

I proactively planned a three month break to get back to living for a while. My 2018 wad consumed with my novel. In 2019, I determined to set up my queries and send in batches and do nothing else writing related. I slept in, played with my kids, caught up on home projects guilt free becausr this was a PLAN. I also had a PLAN in place to draft another novel when the break was up, but refused to let myself think about it until it was times. Those 3 months did wonders for my mental health.

KDJames said...

I've heard a rumour that some writers venture forth into the world, to cocktail parties or gym classes or PTA meetings, where people inevitably ask, "What do you do?" Let's ignore for a minute the implied "for a living" part of that.

And, being a writer, you reply, "I'm a writer."
People say, "Oh? What do you write?"
If you're brave, you say, "I write fiction. Novels."
Or if you're a chickenshit like me, you breezily wave one hand and say, "Oh, I do a lot of freelance work." Which is not untrue, exactly. But no one ever asks awkward follow-up questions about freelancing.

What you never say? "I'm a querier. I write queries. I pursue them until I get an answer or until I give up. I drive myself crazy waiting. Because I'm a querier."

No. Hell no. You do not say that. If you ever do, meet me after class so I can kick your butt into the middle of next week.

You're a writer. Fucking write.

[Unless you can spend time drinking wine and eating cookies with Idris Elba. OBVIOUSLY. But even then . . . between cookies? You fucking write the next thing.]

And someday, when someone says, "This is good. What else have you got?" (and someday, someone will), you'll dust off the cookie crumbs and say, "I'm a writer. I have all the things. Take your pick."

Amy Johnson said...

OP: Congratulations on getting this far with your writing, and I'm glad you made it back home. Regarding what helps with waiting, I agree with the advice to work on the next writing project. Also, live a rich life. It makes for better writing. Maybe explore a new interest or revisit an old one. Maybe set off to deliberately do some good in this world. I have my family and my garden. Those two along with reading and writing take up most of my waking hours.

Katja: I'm so happy and excited for you! I hope you won't let any nervousness get in the way of enjoying the experience. You'll do great. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

Craig F said...

I'm due to hitch a ride on a shooting star soon. Get a different perspective and maybe the ability to express that perspective lovingly.

Debating myself on bringing a board and surfing the Milky Way, counting the stars, once around Venus and twice around Mars.

To do that I need to get into better shape. A few health things have caused me to fall from grace with Na Maki K'ahi, so I have had to start over and have started building on that.

Part of that regime is avoiding politics. The smoke and mirrors of it obscure the vision of my writing world. Of course my job has wended it's way into another form of politics. Que Sera

Also am on the fourth dead-ended subplot that will eventually be the start of a new book.

Sam Mills said...

I'm in the query trenches too, my sympathies!

1) I'm working on a new book. I feel more stress this time because I'm no longer under the illusion that I'm writing just for me. I'm constantly wondering, "If that one doesn't sell, is this one better?" And rejections rattle me for a day, slowing things down.


2) I'm picking up old hobbies I abandoned for writing, to have a non-work-related relaxing activity before bed. First up: making a blanket for my kid. Too bad it's the middle of July though, I might need to find a cooler option. XD

Leslie said...

Besides all the great advice to keep writing, get going on the next project, etc., take a little time to slow down and refresh.

Watch a movie that's been taking up space on the DVR. Get a pedicure or massage, or something decadently relaxing. Read a book for pleasure, not for research or enhancing writing skills.

And congrats for making it this far! You've done far more than most people who want to write a book.

Kelly said...

Now might be a good time for you to read Julia Cameron's The Artists Way. I know people have strong feelings about this book, both positive and negative, but I'm on the over-the-moon love this book side of positive.

The thing is, the waiting is a chance for you to take control of something you can. You cannot control the agents or the industry and you certainly can't control how they will relate to and respond (if at all) to your queries. But YOU control what happens while you wait. How you wait and who you become along the way are excellent opportunities to define yourself as a writer.

So as many of the people here are saying: write, read, watch television, invest in new hobbies. As KariV said, have a plan. A plan is key to knowing what you will do each and every day. It's also good to have a rejection plan in place for when rejections come rolling in. Having to figure out what you're going to do with the emotions you're experiencing in that moment of rejection take more emotional intelligence than most of us can pull out when we're in the middle of it. But if you already know what song you'll play or what you'll eat or what you'll read or where you'll walk for inspiration or motivation or comfort then you have a much better chance of not letting the querying process kill your creativity.

Good luck with the waiting! We're all rooting for you.

Barbara Etlin said...

In addition to the excellent suggestions above, now would be a great time to set up an online presence--blog and/or website--if you don't already have one. Or improve the one you already have to ensure it presents you professionally. Reserve a domain name in your real or pen name.

Also cultivate patience. It sounds like an impossible task, but you'll be much happier if you try to be more zen over the course of your publishing journey.

Good luck, OP!

Fingers crossed for you, Katja!

MK said...

Like others have said, you get to work writing your next book. If the one you queried doesn't land you an agent, the next one might. Or even if it does, I was surprised that one of the first questions my agent asked was, "What else have you written?" Write write write!

Beth Carpenter said...

Yes, keep writing, and read. Read books about writing. Read well-written books. And maybe sometimes read some not-so-well written books so you can identify what went wrong. It won't really help with the waiting, but you'll have more knowledge and a new manuscript to show for it.

The waiting never ends. My editor takes my manuscript, sits on it for, oh, a thousand years or so, and then sends me notes for revisions due in about two minutes. Hurry up and wait.

Theresa said...

I'm going to try to remember KariV's advice next time around. Although reading and watching are forms of breaks, they are not total breaks. Adding in piano lessons (much lapsed) and maybe even something like yoga to gently nudge up my daily exercise (no marathons for me!) sounds like a good way to clear my head for 3 months.

Karen McCoy said...

Good luck Katja! You got this!

Daily exercise helps slow down the hamster wheel inside the brain. Also have a network of people (writers, especially) that you can commiserate with. They can also help you keep perspective. The Reef has always bucked me up on a rough day.

Craft books can also spark ideas. I am reading STORY GENIUS by Lisa Cron and it is brilliant.

Kate Larkindale said...

I can't really add much that hasn't already been said, but if you're not ready to start a new novel yet, writing short stories is a great way to keep that writing muscle limber (and submitting them is good practice for receiving rejection gracefully). I also try to watch lots of documentaries because those stranger-than-fiction stories often spark ideas for books I never would have thought of.

Claire Bobrow said...

Lots of solid advice has been given already, but I'll add one more thing: promote other writers' work. It's a great way to spend "waiting time" and is easily accomplished via word-of-mouth, social media, or borrowing/requesting books from your local library. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats. Plus, it's fun! Good luck to you, OP.

Katja: best of luck to you, too!

Katja said...

Dear Reef!


I just came back from my launch event and wanted to say THANK YOU SO MUCH, everyone!

It went so well, I almost can't believe it. All my nervousness was gone all of a sudden; I vos able to speak English vizout any problems, really. (At least *I* didn't notice any ;) - no verbal stumbling.)

I sold copies and all people were super nice. I even managed to enjoy it. Thank you for crossing your fingers and wishing me luck.


Fearless Reider said...

Congratulations, Katja!
I'm not ready to query yet, but I'm really good at filling up time. Three of my favorite methods are: 1) knitting something complicated while listening to audiobooks (lately, revisiting the Earthsea series by Ursula LeGuin, always astounding); 2) knitting something mindless while binging on Netflix; or 3) heading into the wilderness for a few days with my backpack stuffed with Janet's vices (well, two vices out three ain't bad).

Brenda said...

I was going to suggest that OP get busy and write the next book but then I saw the picture of Idris and now I’m all discombobulated.

AJ Blythe said...

Well done, Katja. I'm glad you were able to enjoy your moment.

I let myself check my email first thing in the morning when I am querying (cause overnight here is day in the US). Then, having given myself that moment, it's back to writing the next one.

Amy Johnson said...

Congratulations, Katja! :)

french sojourn said...

Great news Katja;

Thanks for the update.

NLiu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NLiu said...

Congratulations Katja! I am so glad it went well!! Yayyy!

Lance said...

There is no waiting, only writing and revising.

Beth Carpenter said...

COngratulations, Katja! So glad it all went well.

Sunnygoetze said...

I agree.

Sunnygoetze said...


Terri Lynn Coop said...

Why, I write another book!

Just kidding. I eat cookies and refresh my email.

I'm in the midst of the "long wait" right now and I've developed a twitch.


Brittany said...

My querying spreadsheet includes the date on which I should nudge (or consider it a pass). If that date hasn't passed, there's simply nothing for me to do, much like there's nothing for me to do once I put a cake in the oven until the timer goes off.

Well, there is stuff I can do, liking cleaning up or messing around on my phone. When querying that translates to focusing on, well, the massive list of other things in my life that require my attention. Last go-round that meant mostly transitioning from output to input and catching up on reading/TV/games. I'd check the spreadsheet once every few days to see if any dates had passed, but otherwise I genuinely did not think about it unless I got a response. (I kept a limited number of subs going at once, so a response of any kind or a date passing meant I queried the next agent on the list. After the first round, one out one in.)

"Proactive" just isn't the right mindset for things that are entirely out of your control, which is what happens to a query after you hit send. Stop opening the oven door.