Ask the Editor: What Can I Do While Waiting for Editorial Feedback?
If you’ve been part of a writing workshop, then you know how anxiety-provoking it can be to get feedback. We don’t like hearing what’s wrong with something we’ve created, even if we know the piece will be better for it.
The good thing about a traditional workshop, though, is that constructive criticism is presented to us anywhere from immediately to about a week after we’ve submitted a piece. On the other hand, when a writer works with a professional editor, it can be weeks or perhaps even months before they get constructive criticism. In the meantime, all sorts of negative thoughts (“Oh, god, why did I leave in Chapter 5?” “Is it clear what my protagonist wants from her best friend?” “Is my writing worth all of this?”) creep in.
As a professional freelance editor, as well as a person with general anxiety disorder, I am intimately familiar with and sympathetic of the negative feelings a writer might face while waiting for feedback. Recently, I worked with a novelist who, at the beginning of our time together, called and emailed me regularly, asking how things were going with his manuscript. When I observed to him that he seemed anxious, he mentioned that I was the first non-family member to see his work.**
**I strongly encourage first-time authors not to submit a manuscript to a professional editor if no one besides their family has seen it. There is often much that can be done for free before an editor comes upon it.
Bottom line: whenever you turn in a manuscript, it can be difficult to hurry up and wait for your reviewer’s feedback. Instead of melting into an anxious puddle, here are several constructive things you can do while you wait.
Work on Your Author Platform.
This is crucial in the publishing world of the twenty-first century. Whether you’re angling for an agent or self-publishing and self-promoting, you need to build clout so that readers are interested in what you have to say.
To do this, you might tinker around with an author website. If you’re self-publishing, you might sketch out a publicity and marketing strategy for (ideally) six to eight months down the road when you launch your book. You might try to network with other local writers or book a few readings around town.
Writing, but Make It Fun.
Guess what? For now, all of the hard work you’ve done drafting your monolith of a manuscript is over. All of the research, the writing, the self-revision, finito.
So, stick to your regular writing time—it’s a good way to keep in top form for when you get your critiques—but remember that you get to have fun! Maybe you can noodle around on a short story or other project. Let loose and get creative.
Read a Craft Book.
Hone your writing knowledge by reading a new craft book and/or by familiarizing yourself with a new narrative theory. There’s a wealth of good books on the craft of fiction and nonfiction writing. The examples below can get you started:
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up, Lee Gutkind
Negotiating with the Dead, Margaret Atwood
Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style, Virginia Tufte
Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, Roy Peter Clark
The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, Christopher Vogler, Michele Montez
Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, Jeff VanderMeer
Start Your Agent List.
Eventually, a beta reader or a freelance editor will share those six magic words with you: “This is nearly ready for querying.” When that happens, you’ll need to be ready. In addition to drafting out and tweaking your query letter and one-page synopsis, start looking for literary agents that would be a good fit. Good places to look include Publishers Marketplace, Manuscript Wishlist, and the acknowledgments sections in the books you love.
My rule of thumb is that you should query no fewer than eighty agents before you throw in the towel, so get cracking with that list!
Focus on YOU.
You’ve spent months hunched over a keyboard. Now is the time to honor your physical wellbeing. Give your strained eyes and cramped neck a break. Go for a walk. Learn to meditate. Make plans with friends. Catch up on a good TV show. Get some sleep.
When your manuscript is returned to you and you launch into revision, your renewed creative spirit will thank you.
So, you see, you don’t have to spend your waiting period as a nervous wreck. Instead, relish this time when you can’t work on your manuscript. After all, it’ll be back before you know it!
What do you do to distract yourself while waiting for feedback? Share in the comments below.
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