Posted in Writing

If You Want to be a Writer, Do This One Thing

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It took me seven years to sign with a literary agent.

I’ve spent the last year revising the book I signed with the agent on.

The book has been out to editors for two months, and I’m still waiting. Waiting for the first rejection. Waiting for a possible offer.

Every second of the day I’m in a state of anxiety, excitement, frustration, hope. When I stop and think about how my life could change at any moment, I lose focus on anything I’m working on, on the errands I need to run, on what I need to do to take care of myself.

I need to keep from going insane, because that’s the state you’re often in as a writer. When you first start querying your projects to agents. When you get your first request. When you get an offer from, gasp, two or more agents. When you get that first edit letter from your agent. And on and on.

If you want to be a writer, you need to do this one thing.

And that’s always be working on the next project.

You can’t sit around and revise your one precious manuscript to death. You can’t query that manuscript to agents and then sit around, glancing at your phone every ten seconds, taking every rejection to heart.

So much of your writing success depends on your willingness to move on to the next thing, whatever it may be. It can be a short story. A flash fiction story, even! If all you do next is slowly tool away for a few weeks on a 1,000-word story, that can be enough.

If you’re ambitious, you can start the next novel. Before I signed with an agent in 2017, that’s what I always did. For about six years, this was the permanent state of my writing schedule.

  1. Novel A on submission to literary agents. Anywhere from 20 to 50 query letters out at any given time.
  2. Novel B on the second or third draft. Slowly working away at the latest revision.
  3. Novel C on the first draft. There’s nothing that will distract you from waiting to hear news about your book on submission than to be deep into writing the first draft of a different book. And also have a third manuscript in a later stage of revision, so that will be ready for querying in the coming 4–6 months.

For about six years, I wrote two new manuscripts a year. And I queried two manuscripts a year. I always had novels on submission, always had an e-mail inbox revealing a rejection or two or three every single day.

Doing this one thing as a writer always kept me positive about my work when the rejections continued to pour in. It gave me a sense of clarity, working on the next thing rather than fixate on the last. It is pivotal to your writing career that you, at the very least, be working on some kind of second writing project while your first one’s out to agents or publishers.

Do this one thing, and I promise, you’ll stay a little saner.

And you’ll become a better writer, too!

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