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13 Ways How Writers Can Survive The Dreaded Waiting Stage

Note: This post is by Gemma Hawdon. Gemma lives in Melbourne, Australia. She writes articles, guest posts and short stories and has just completed a MG children’s fantasy book. She also writes a blog, Top Of The Slush Pile, which documents the adventures of writing a book and trying to get published. T: @gemmaleehawdon

We’re told writing a book is the easy part. ‘Pah!! Wait til you try and publish it!’ they warn us.

And then, after months or years of carefully honing our precious stories we emerge from hibernation, with arthritic fingers and hunched backs, and realise we’ve reached that stage. It’s judgment time…


We spend endless hours waiting for agents and editors to get back to us. Sometimes it can take weeks, months even. In the meantime, we have to continue our lives, our daily duties, paid jobs, all the while trying to remain down-to-earth, yet secretly hoping… hoping.

I’m currently slap bang in the middle of this process and I’ve learned you have to hold strong, keep real and avoid the following behaviours at all cost.


1. Race to your computer every time you hear the ping of a new email.

2. Dissect your blog stats to determine whether an agent/editor might have visited to check you out.

3. Stalk them on Twitter in the hope they’ve mentioned your manuscript.

4. Email them the next day to ask whether they’ve had a chance to read it.

5. Shower them with gifts of smelly soaps and chocolates. Whilst they might appreciate the gesture, it will do nothing for your manuscript.

6. Dream of six-figure advances, velvet carpets, champagne and book launches in Paris.

7. Read published books in your genre that you don’t rate highly to convince yourself yours is a sure thing.

The good news is, you don’t have to sit about twiddling your fingers. There are things you can do to make the waiting easier.


1. Keep busy! Start a new writing project. There’s nothing like distraction to make time fly.

2. Send out other material or enter competitions so that, should the rejections roll in, you always have something else to look forward to.

3. Read! If you’re the kind of person who likes to take a break between projects, fill your writing time with reading. After all, in Stephen King’s words:

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” SK (Click to Tweet)

4. Research other agents and editors that you can send your work to should it be rejected on the first round of submissions.

5. Throw yourself into your day job. Organise a party. Train for a marathon. Anything to keep your mind off those responses.

6. Be social! You’ve probably spent months in hibernation, immersed in an imaginary world amongst imaginary characters. This is a great time to catch up with your real friends who’ve probably assumed you’ve joined a cult.


The writer’s journey is not a quick one. It’s tempting to try and find a short cut, but we have to remember that waiting is part of every writer’s career.

Editors and agents are busy looking after their clients and honing through mountainous slush piles.

It’s only natural to feel agitated at times; you’re feeling exposed, judged, the future of your work balancing in other people’s hands.

However, if you keep yourself busy and active, fill your life with alternative interests and projects, the time will pass more quickly.


Tell us your stories and tips. How do you cope with waiting periods? Share in the comments.

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Like a good friend, Bryan guides you through the process of facing your inner demons, conquering the craft, and creating work that matters. ―Jeff Goins



  • This is a great post. Very useful lists. Thanks, Gemma!

  • After sending out a story or my novel (I have a novel out there now searching for a publisher) I do much of what Gemma advises. I also write a lot of haiku and other Japanese short form poetry. This gives me a needed break from the rigors of writing fiction. Poetry requires a different way of thinking and writing, and, if you are writing a poem to a specific form, then that requires a much different discipline than writing fiction. .

  • Gemma, this is awesome. Waiting is so hard and I’m glad you’ve posted a list of things you can do instead of just wait — with baited breath — for an approval… Or disapproval.

    • Gemma Hawdon

      (I know. It’s Agony, Devani)

  • Really enjoyed your post Gemma, and I especially agree with the suggestion to get started on other projects. If we don’t do this then we’ll experience such lows after one project is completed. We have tons of ideas, if we just open our minds and let them float out. Good post.

    • Gemma Hawdon

      Thank you, Anne. To keep going and keep writing – it’s so important. It gives us strength and distraction all at once.

  • Catherine North

    This is a great post. I am so guilty of the email-checking! But I’m trying to always have other agents or competitions lined up – new horses to get on when one throws you off…

  • Amy Hale Auker

    Write. While you are waiting, you should still be showing up at the page and writing. Like 98% of a musician’s notes are played to no listener, so 98% of a writer’s words should never be read. Write and write and write. Practice your craft. Start something new.

    • Wow, I love your gusto, Amy!!

    • Gemma Hawdon

      Yes! Write! First and foremost. The most pleasurable distraction of all. Thanks Amy

  • Rita M. Gardner

    Thanks so much for a great post. I find myself “not having time” to think about submitting new pieces to writing contests, or reading that book I’ve been wanting to get to for months…while instead I am guilty also, of spending waaay too much time on email, Twitter, FaceBook. Thanks for the reminder! My book will be published in September, so it’s not like I don’t have time to the the “YES” things; just gotta make that choice! Rather than asking folks to like me on FB and visit my website; both of which are (of course) noted below. Rita

  • Read and run. These two things do more for my writing than anything else. Reading fills my mind with ideas. Running empties my mind of the clutter.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing.

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  • I usually write. While I’m working on a new project I’m concentrating on that instead of waiting for “the call.” However, I still find myself running full speed to check the caller ID every time the phone rings. I am waiting again now. It’s not easy, but it’s part of the journey.

    • Gemma Hawdon

      It certainly isn’t easy, Susan. Good luck and hope you don’t have to wait too long!

  • Lene Fogelberg

    Great post! I can totally relate, thanks for sharing. To get going on next writing project helps me through the waiting, as well as connecting with fellow writers via social media. It helps to know you’re not alone 🙂