What not to do when you’re waiting for a submission reply.

I’m currently awaiting feedback on a short story. It’s feedback I’ve paid for and it will be brief. Yet here I am, obsessing over my inbox. As soon as I sent it off, I wanted to know immediately if they (busy professionals, competition judges) thought it had promise. I dread to think what I’ll be like when I start submitting my novel.

Here’s what not to do while you’re waiting (and what to do instead)…

1. Obsess

  • Constantly refresh your email inbox, junk mail and their website in case there’s been some email catastrophe or company wide emergency and that’s why they haven’t replied yet. And, before feedback, keep re-reading the piece you’re waiting on, therefore, wasting your writing time.

Do this instead – turn your focus elsewhere and look around for writing competitions and deadlines. Make a plan of what to submit where. Actually write down your commitment. I use an excel spreadsheet with a tab for all the upcoming comps I’m interested in, a plan of what to submit where, and a nice wee tab for ‘published’ so I can keep track of what went where. If you’ve submitted a novel it can be refreshing, and a good flex of writerly muscle, to write for short story or flash fiction competitions. And if you win, it’s another bit of evidence of brilliance for your writing CV and submission letters. If your really don’t do short fiction, start another book or write a blog.

2. Doubt

  • After sending it off happily, quite confident in the quality, allow yourself to wallow in tortuous self doubt, shame and over-thinking about the recipients opinion. My favourite is that the recipient is taking awhile because my work is so bad they don’t know where to start. Cue depths-of-despair-level self pity.

Do this instead – look at work that’s previously been accepted, or commended and remember that you can do this. If you have written a novel – be proud of the volume of your output. It’s taken time, commitment and a lot of effort to get to the doubting place you are now. And – you’re in good company, most of the greats were tortured by insecurity. My favourite Ernest Hemingway quote is I write 91 pages of shit to 1 page masterpiece.

3. Stop writing

  • Develop writer’s block. You feel like you can’t move on or write anything now. Maybe it’s because you feel like you’ve given all your creative energy away already.

Do this instead – perhaps you need a wee break from writing. Read, write book reviews. But don’t let a small break become a long-term situation. I don’t believe in writer’s block. Sure, you might not be able to think of any stunning ideas, or produce Pulitzer worthy pages but you can still write some of those pages of shit mentioned above, they might lead to a new masterpiece.

Things to write about (when you cant think of anything to write about):

  1. Everything that’s in your head – even if it is just submission worry
  2. Whatever you can hear/see/smell/feel from wherever you’re writing
  3. Try the above but from a different point of view (eg a small child)
  4. First, or strongest, childhood memory
  5. Open a dictionary at random, try to write a short story that includes at least 3 of the words.
  6. Or check out dictionary.com word of the day
  7. Go to https://thewritersacademy.co.uk/writing-101/writing-prompts/
  8. Think of your favourite friend, write down all the things that make them endearing to you (good character prep)
  9. think of the most annoying person you know and write down all the little habits and phrases that make them so irritating
  10. If you’re able, go outside and walk. I don’t know why, but it helps. Stephen King walks all the time, particularly when he has a writing problem. And if there’s a writer that doesn’t have any output issues, it’s definitely him. If it’s good enough for the King it’s definitely good enough for the rest of us.

Happy waiting, happy writing!


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