Always the waiting..... What to do as the wheels of the Publishing Industry grind.

The wheels of the publishing industry grind slowly—sometimes I don't think they grind at all. So, if you are going to stay sane as you try to work your way into this business, {me: Lisa, I'm still sane, right? Lisa: Sure, whatever you say, peter (as she finishes hiding the steak knives)}, you need to find constructive ways to spend your time as you wait for the responses to hit the inbox. Therefore I am dedicating this post to what to do as you wait for the Beta-readers or agents or editors or publishers to reply.

1) Read.  Number one for a reason. So often, writers forget about the thing that got them where they are to start with. You were a reader long before you started writing, and you should remain a reader. I could go on and on about the benefits of reading, but I don't want to bore you. (I haven't bored you already, have I?) As a corollary, try reading something in a different genre. If you, like me, write thrillers, read some literary fiction—it just might help you develop your next set of characters. If you write literary fiction, read a thriller; I bet your pacing improves. If you read strictly prose, try reading poetry and watch how your writing voice deepens. 

2) Write.  There is an old saying, practice makes perfect, and it applies to writing as well as any other discipline. Don't let your skills gets rusty and out-of-practice as you wait: make them better instead. The best thing to do is to work on your next book, so you will be ready when your agent inks a three-book deal for you, (Liz Kracht, I assume you read that!), but if you are not in a position to write your next book, there are many other options. 
 a) Enter the blogisphere. Blogging has many advantages besides honing your writing skills. For starters, you are creating a following, and that following is attractive to agents and editors. Secondly, when your book is published, you have an established means of promoting it, the bigger following the better. And thirdly, you can make a lot of connections through blogging. In an upcoming post (I am sure you can hardly wait) I will be discussing the writer's use of social media, and one of the aspects will be networking. In my case, I have made dozens of great connections that have helped me along the way—the method to my madness will be revealed soon.
 b) Write a short story, using the main character from your book. If people like the MC, they will be likely to buy your book. The exercise will hone your skills, help develop the MC, advertise your book, and you can publish it on your blog as well.
 c) As I alluded to above, write a poem. Think about the poems you have read and liked; why did you like them? I suspect the reason was the way the poem sounded to you. This is what I refer to as voice, and it is very important in poetry and prose as well. For instance, even this blog post has a voice—my intent was for a light, mildly humorous tone with an undertone of self-deprecation. Writing poetry is the best way to help you with your voice, make it more distinct, richer, deeper. 

3) Work.  Unless you are a lot further along in the process than I am, you are going to need to work to pay the bills. Working will push the mental image of your wonderful manuscript sitting in the slush pile out of your mind and put you in a better financial position to write your next book when the time comes.

4) Exercise.  I know, you think I have gone off my rocker (there are a lot of people that concur with you) but I maintain that exercise helps you endure just about anything, and it helps your writing as well.

5) Live.  Get away from your computer. Meet a friend for coffee, take a loved one out to dinner, take a walk with your mother, push your daughter on the swing. Please note all the previous examples involved spending time with another person. Writing is a solitary undertaking, yes, but it is hard to create meaningful, true-to-life characters when you don’t interact with people on a regular basis—and I mean non-virtual interaction. You need to watch the way your daughter’s brow furrows when you say something wrong (I have a lot of experience with this), to hear the mirth in your friend’s laugh when you are unexpectedly funny, to feel the sadness if your mother’s body when you hug her goodbye. If you don’t experience these things, you won’t be able to write about them either.

Ok, I have droned on long enough. Thanks for listening, and please visit my website/blog at


  1. Peter, I have noticed that many of your excellent posts, despite their brilliance and even the sliver of a silver lining (sorry, I'm an editor) have no responses. I am laboring under the impression that if there are no comments, it means that few people have read your words of wisdom. How would you fix the problem for your own blog - and inspire people like me to start blogging again?

  2. Great advice all the way around.

    Excellent post.

  3. Great Post! For many authors seeking representation they don't realize the necessity of reading other books and continue writing to improve their writing skills.


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