Thursday, 19 July 2012

The Waiting Game

Once that all-important first draft is completed, writing is a bit of a waiting game. Especially if you're hoping to publish, you will probably want lots of people to read the manuscript: crit partners, beta readers, and eventually, agents and editors. I know from experience that the waiting is a strange time. After months and months of writing every day, making sacrifices to find the time to work on your book, all of a sudden it's gone. 

So, what to do while you're waiting? The first, and most obvious, option is to sit in front of your email inbox, hitting 'Refresh' on a regular basis. I'm not saying that this isn't a valid life choice - it's certainly one I've indulged in from time to time - but if, like me, you have decided to step away from the inbox, here are a few things that I've tried:

  1. Try a different style of writing. Explore different aspects of the writing craft by trying something completely new. Recently, I've started short story writing, and found that it's really helping me to develop my skills - the restricted word count means that I think harder and longer about every word, making sure that each line packs in as much intensity as possible. One of my favourite things so far is the freedom it gives you to make fundamental changes in style and POV. How would this read in the first person, I think to myself. To change a whole novel would take hours, if not days, but with a short story, twenty minutes later I can see for myself! If short stories don't appeal, what about poetry, haiku, feature articles, a blog? 
  2. Visit old friends. I have two NaNoWriMo novels stashed away that, on the relevant December 1st, I swore would never again see the light of day. But the characters from the first one pop into my head on a regular basis, and I know that one of these days I'm going to have to  write them a proper story. If you don't think you could revive a whole manuscript, is there a character, a location or a plot twist that you can use elsewhere? Or, on a related note, you could: 
  3. Plot your next NaNoWriMo novel. If you've not NaNo'd before - I can highly recommend it. But let's face it, writing a novel in a month is hard. It is a lot easier, however, if you have elements of plot, characterization, setting, etc. clear in your head and down on paper before you start. That way, if you start to enter a slump (for me, always after the half-way point), or the words start to fly, you don't have to stop writing to work out what happens next.
  4. Watch TV. And go to the cinema, read books - especially outside your usual genre, go for walks, overhear things in Starbucks. Load up your author notebook with so many brilliant story ideas that you can't wait to get back to your computer/notebook and start on the next project.
  5. Start your next novel. You knew this was coming, right? Because now you know you can write a novel, why wouldn't you want to do it again? You've lived through the ups and the downs, the moments of genius and absolute idiocy (maybe that last one's just me). You've found time to write on days when it seemed impossible. And even though, when you were somewhere around the middle, you thought you might just give up now, YOU DIDN'T! 
So, there you have it. Five things to try. Any other suggestions?


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