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Saturday, June 16, 2018

What Do You Do While You Wait?

I recently saw Leslie Odom, Jr. on a news show. He's one of the stars of the blockbuster show Hamilton. At one point he was considering quitting the acting business. His father-in-law told him that he should "try" before he quit.

Odom was surprised. He figured he'd be trying all along, to no avail.

The father-in-law said, "Well, when the phone rings I think you show up and you're prepared, you do a great job, you're an affable guy. If the phone didn't ring today, what did you do for yourself? Did you read anything? Did yo write anything? Did you call anyone? Did you send an email?"

It made me think. What do I do as I wait for the James Patterson-sized check for my not-even-published-or-even-accepted-manuscript to arrive? How do I spend my time as I pine away for the next acceptance email? What am I doing while I wait to topple Jodi Picoult off her pedestal?

What in the world am I doing? The answer, sadly, is not even close to enough...

Here is the run-down on my current "big" WIPs, so you can understand what a slug I've lately been:
  • I'm polishing up a NaNoWriMo from 2016. I've written a synopsis (a short one--500-800 words in length) and have gotten feedback on it... but not the manuscript yet. In fact, nobody has seen the manuscript (except for me, of course). I've also worked on a query letter, but that's still in the closet--no one has seen it either.
I've found a couple of publishers I'm considering gracing with my submission  offering my 3rd        born to (although who'd a child from a 58 year old egg? sending a query.

What should I be doing while I'm waiting?

Well, I could hire a professional editor to look at it. This is something that I've been reluctant to do (after all, I'm a poor classroom teacher) but I found a great deal that editor Margo Dill is offering, so I'm taking the plunge.

I could work on my elevator blurb. You know, the blurb I'll rattle off when someone asks what my book is about, so I don't just stand there with my mouth simply opening and closing like a fish.

The other thing I could do is read any books that are similar to my manuscript, so if grilled, I could speak with some authority. ("My book and such-and-such book cover the same event, but my book is for middle-grades and _______ is for high school readers.")

What else do you think I should be doing?

  • I wrote a NaNoWriMo in 2017 (written alongside my students, like the one the year before) and it's still not finished. I'm worried it's too teachy-preachy and not enough story. I'm fretting over the teacher character, who was important in the early part of the book, but seems to have just vanished. I'm worried that it's boring. 
What should I be doing?

Well, duh. I should finish the first draft. When it's finished, then I can look at the story and history balance, the characters, and check to see if it seems like a compelling plot. Why make problems out of a WIP that's still very much in progress? First drafts are always poopy, after all.

What about you? What are you doing while you're waiting for your multi-million dollar advance? Let me know, and when both of our checks come in the mail, we can go on a cruise together...

Sioux is struggling with balancing small writing projects with the daunting task of completing a novel. She's a classroom teacher, a dog rescuer and grandparent, so her spare time is limited. If you'd like to read more of her writing, check out her blog.



  1. Sioux, your post is so funny. :) What else should you be doing while waiting? Stalking literary agents and drinking heavily, of course. Wait, I meant "researching" agents, not stalking... with or without cocktails. Check out Publisher's Marketplace periodically and keep up on what agents are selling to which publishers in your genre, and build a target list. Start developing your social media platform because they'll want you to have one. And yes, work on your manuscripts. Find a writer's group in your genre if you aren't in one already.

    And don't be so hard on yourself! You're doing great. At least you haven't abandoned your manuscripts like I have. I have three novel-length manuscripts I wrote over ten years ago that I consider my practice novels. They are straight up embarrassing! So I don't know if I'll be going on a cruise anytime soon. But you, awesome woman, should keep at it! :)

  2. I am just as bad about my first drafts! I have one right now, and I keep thinking: Why are you writing this crap? For a while, I didn't even have a plot. My critique group would say: Well, where are you going with this? And I would say: Well, why don't you tell me? :)

    Anyway, I've calmed down about it now and decided I will finish it, and then decide what to do with it.

  3. Angela--Well, I know I'm awesome at spreading the manure. ;)

    Thanks for the encouragement.

    Margo--Yes, I think you can't tell how hot the "hot mess" is until you finish it.

    Finish it.

  4. Sioux,

    I think it is AWESOME that you have so many writing-related options of things you could be doing while you wait. And I think you zeroed in on the right one.

    I'm right there with you in the waiting game now. I heard back from the editing service at WD today and instead of the four to six weeks I thought I'd be waiting on feedback, she said it would be done by June 29. What the what? That barely gives me time to get back to line editing the rest of the thing! And she asked me if there's anything I'd like her to pay special attention to. Would it be wrong for me to say, "Can you please just honestly tell me if you fell asleep during the first five pages?!" So for now I'm going to focus on line editing. And then polishing up something for a new flash fiction contest that came to my attention today (1,000 words or less).

  5. Sioux, you always make me think. I have some of the same issues with first drafts, in addition to not doing enough to push my writing forward or read books similar to my WIP! Thanks for the reminders!


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