One Important Thing Many Writers Neglect To Do While Waiting

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Most writers who've been writing for any length of time learn the mantra, "Persevere, persevere, persevere."

In fact, you've probably heard statistics like these about famous writers who persevered long and hard before getting published:

Agatha Christie went through FIVE years of continual rejection before landing a publishing deal; her book sales are now over $2 billion.

Louis L’Amour garnered 200 rejections before a publisher decided to take a chance on him; his book sales are now over $330 million.

Janet Evanovich wrote for TEN years before getting published; she now makes millions every year.

Yes, we all know we need to persevere. That's a given in the publishing industry.

Sometimes we have to persevere because WE aren't ready. Our writing techniques lag, our story-telling skills aren't honed, and we simply need to improve.

Other times the INDUSTRY isn't quite ready for us. Agents and editors have varying tastes, needs, and constraints. And sometimes it just takes time for our book to land in the hands of someone who loves it and wants to champion it.

There are even times when the READING PUBLIC isn't ready for us. Perhaps our genre or niche isn't commercially appealing, yet. The public doesn't see the value in what we're writing since they're still in love with the current trends.

Whatever the reason, many published authors can attest to the years of waiting before getting their big breaks. I wrote for about seven or eight years before I broke in to traditional publication. I had written at least seven books by the time I landed my first publishing deal.

In addition to persevering, most of us also know that we need to continue to write while we're waiting. It does us no good to pour our lives into one book and then sit back and wait for something to happen to our darling. We must keep on writing.

Continuing to write takes our mind off the waiting (mostly!). And it gives us more practice along with more books to potentially sell when we finally garner attention.

Yes. Persevere. And write, write, write. As I said, most writers get that.

However, I think there's one thing many writers neglect to do while waiting and writing . . . and it could be a factor for why some writers end up waiting for so long. They forget to MAXIMIZE practice time.

You see, it's not enough just to write. Anyone can continually write and have an enormous quantity. But quantity doesn't equate improved quality.

I liken the writing process to running (which I attempt to do with some regularity). I try to run every day at the same pace and the same number of miles. Over the past couple of years, I've accumulated quite a lot of miles on my Nike Running App. Such a regime means that I'm not getting worse, but it also means I'm never getting any better. I'm certainly not ready for any competitive races. If I really want to improve, I'd need to challenge myself to run a little faster or consciously push myself in small increments to go a longer distance.

The same is true of our writing. Yes, we need to keep steadily writing. But if we want to improve, we have to consciously challenge ourselves to take small steps forward by being intentional, incremental, and inspirational.

Be Intentional:

Analyze our words and sentences. Examine our weaknesses. Let others point them out to us (through critiques, contests, or writing partners). Then look for "coaches" either via writing books, blogs, or mentors who can help us improve our techniques.

Be Incremental:

Make a plan to implement new techniques in our writing. Take those small incremental steps to try something different. Practice with conscious effort (whether that's improving dialog or eliminating over-telling or any number of weaknesses).

At first we may have to go slower as we catch our mistakes and retrain ourselves to write differently. The process may feel cumbersome. But eventually, we'll find ourselves utilizing that new technique smoothly and even effortlessly.

Be Inspirational:

Find ways to draw new inspiration, to invigorate our writing with freshness, vivacity, and uniqueness. (See my recent post on 15 Ways to Find Inspiration in 2015).

How about YOU? Have you had to wait? What steps are you taking to make sure you're improving and not just staying in the same spot?


  1. errific post! I have had to learn to write as I wait and it's hard but not impossible. I'm waiting for my third book to be released, so as I wait, I'm writing and sending chapters to my editor. Ugh!! Waiting is the hardest part.

    So I will challenge myself this year by writing in a new genre and by writing some nonfiction, too.

    Lord willing everything will work out!!

    God bless

    1. Thank you, Ruth! Waiting is often one of the hardest things we do, isn't it? I find that continually having writing projects going keeps me from obsessing too much over any one thing! :-) Wishing you all the best on all of your projects!

  2. Great advice, Jody! And of course we can keep reading awesome books by awesome authors, who teach us great writing lessons while we enjoy a wonderful story.

  3. I couldn't agree more!! My writing didn't really start improving until I buckled down and got intentional with the craft. I still do. I reread Donald Maass's The Fire in Fiction this winter and picked up more tips. We can always learn!

  4. This is something I strongly believe, too. Contrary to the adage, practice *doesn't* make perfect unless we're constantly striving to improve as we go. I know I write better non-fiction than fiction, but I really enjoy the fiction. Since publication is my goal, I figure my options are to either stay with non-fiction, or improve my fiction (I'm working on the latter.)

  5. I needed to read this today. I have submitted a couple of short stories to two different devotional magazines/books, and I tried to keep writing while waiting to hear from them. However, the longer the time that passed, the more I found myself procrastinating about writing anything else. I think I felt like I needed at least one of these to accept my stories to validate my desire to be a writer; to prove that I actually write items of value.
    Well, yesterday I received my first rejection email. It was kind and polite, but after reading it, I felt like it would've been better to never have heard from them than to have received a rejection email.
    Thank you for sharing this post.

    1. Ah, so sorry to hear about your rejection, Kelly. I know from personal experience just how depressing those are. I feel for you. The sting really never does get any easier, no matter how long we write or have been published. But I really do think one of the best cures for rejection and waiting is to continue to write. If we hinge all our hopes on a couple of our stories, then our discouragement is all the greater. But if we have our eggs in lots of baskets, then we can work at keeping our hope alive better!

  6. Helpful reminders, Jody! Thanks so much for your insight. Judy Christie


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