If you've been around the publishing business for more than 5 minutes, you know a couple of things:
(1) it's about half work and half waiting and (2) publishing has its own time dimension. A slow....motion....thenquickmotionrightnow dimension, with its own rules.
It's no one's fault--it's just the nature of the beast. Publishing is an extremely collaborative process, so EVERYBODY has to wait for other people at some point. Agents wait. Editors wait. Sales, Marketing, Design...all of us. And, of course, writers. We often wait for long stretches, hope soaring, doubt clinging stubbornly to its tail. You don't have to enjoy it, but you do have to get used to it.
But there are Things that you can do--and that you shouldn't do. I've listed a few ideas, but please feel free to chime in with more!
THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU'RE WAITING:
No matter how this process goes, no matter who you're waiting on, this truth is always the same: you're going to need a next book. Maybe not the sequel of the book you've got out there, but something. New, different. Something that excites you. Something to remind yourself that as a writer, you WRITE. And you're learning things every day about craft, about people, about characters and plots and the world around you...so it's very likely this new book will be even BETTER than the last one. Make it so to the best of your ability. Work like nothing else is going on, like it's your first try. Always, always, keep working.
You write because you love reading, right? Right? See what your colleagues are doing, the books that made it onto the shelf or the Kindle/Nook/thingum. Read great books, entertaining books, bad books. Read all those books by your friends that have piled up, and books you've stumbled across. Read in your genre and outside of it. Read. Pay attention. Absorb. (Enjoy.)
3. Look around you.
Oh my gosh, did you know it's summer? A lot of people are outside doing things under that yellow blazing ball. Try it, instead of chaining yourself to your email refresh button. Go for a walk, a drive, a swim. Hang out at a cafe without your nose being stuck in a computer, and watch people. If you don't get out and watch/interact with people, you won't keep learning, and your books won't get better. Maybe even play. If you have family, do something with them! (gasp)
4. Be bad.
This just means let yourself do stuff you normally wouldn't do...in moderation. Watch reality TV marathons, or go get ice cream, or play video games all night. You're under a lot of stress. It's okay to relax and treat yourself sometimes, and this is one of those times.
5. Remember that it really won't be forever.
Even when it feels like it. Also, good things take a while and are worth the effort AND the wait.
THINGS NOT TO DO WHEN YOU'RE WAITING:
1. Don't harass people.
Just don't. Whether it's agents you've queried, or your agent, or editors or whoever, leave them alone. Let them do their business. They are NOT focused on you--your manuscript is a very small part of their very busy lives. Wait in line like everyone else, with grace.
(I interrupt this post to note that one of my BIGGEST pet peeves is line-jumpers, in any form. Hate it. It is so rude and disrespectful. I think it's my British ancestry.)
Note: It is TOTALLY OKAY to harass your writing friends a little bit during this waiting time. They get it, and they have either been through it themselves or they will. Just remember to be patient when it's their turn to harass you.
Second Note: It is always okay to ask respectful questions too, especially of your agent. Absolutely. Just don't go over the line to harass. You can feel where that line is. You know. Be professional.
2. Don't whine about waiting.
You know how I said above that we all have to wait? It's true. It's not going to endear you to anyone--or make them want to work with you--if you're the only one out there whining about it. Be a grown-up and be patient. Be positive, at least in public.
(It is still TOTALLY OKAY to whine to your friends. That is part of the reason they are there.)
3. Don't give up.
I mean it. Don't. Give. Up. You will never ever ever make your dreams if you give up. (and this is from someone who tried...it didn't stick.) If you keep a good attitude, are professional, keep working and improving your writing, and ARE PATIENT, you'll do it, whatever your goal is.
Those are my thoughts. What are yours?