If you’re like me (and I bet you are), when you are in the midst of submitting your novel/short story/query to agents or editors your day goes something like this:
Wake up, check your iPhone for emails before you so much as roll out of bed, go to your computer to check the response times of agents/editors at the Blue Boards, compare with your excel spreadsheets, brush teeth/do hair/try to act like you are about to be productive, go check inbox, check blogs, check inbox, open your Word document, check inbox, stare at screen, check inbox, hit refresh, hit refresh, hit refresh…
Ok, so first thing’s first. Take your mouse off the refresh button. Navigate away from your inbox. Close the entire window. Yes, I promise it will be ok. Your emails will still be waiting for you in an hour’s time. I swear.
Now, here’s how we can better spend our time:
1. Edit. You might be too wound up to write anything new. Fine. Sometimes that happens. But think about what you can do that is productive. I mean really, really productive. Editing! Go back a few pages and read. Fix any glaring errors or maybe flesh a scene out. This activity is well worth your while, somehow feels less intensive, and is completely guilt free.
2. Grab your notebook. Not your laptop, the kind that involved killing trees. Thanks. Now, go sit on a couch, away from your computer and work out a plot point. If that’s too intensive for your little, wound up mind, think of snippets of dialogue. Again, this takes fewer brain cells, removes your from temptation, and yet is an activity related to your next WIP. Feel good about it.
3. Research. Anything to add realism or depth to your new project. Unfortunately, this places you closer to your computer, but, luckily, your inbox is not just minimized but closed, so resist! Plus, research is fun. Who doesn’t like to learn new things? Plus, the knowledge needed to write novels is usually the useless kind and that’s the best stuff to know anyhow. Take notes.
4. Storyboard. This takes a bit more brain power, so to do this activity you’ll need to not be entirely consumed by the anticipation that comes with waiting for an agent/editor’s verdict. Get a big piece of cardboard and a bunch of post-its. Use different colored post-its because that’s more fun and a ruler to draw the lines because it will look prettier when you finish. Make it look like a weekly calender. A margin on top and then divide into smaller column units. The smaller column units will be labeled as chapters. Different colored post-its should signify different things like characters introduced, clues given, or red herrings thrown in. This way you can visualize how everything is coming together. Plus, with post-its you can move things around as necessary. This will help you to identify plot holes and to see where the story climaxes and mini-climaxes.
5. Go to the library. I know, you probably already have your coat, keys, and are halfway out the door. But, really, reading within your genre is incredibly important and should never be considered a waste of your time. This is also the best way to forget about the milliseconds passing in which you’ve received no emails from Dream Agent #1. Read the book for fun, but pay special attention to what worked in the book and what didn’t. Note what scenes you loved and the ones you hated. As you read more within your genre, try to figure out the trends. You shouldn’t necessarily write for the market, but you should understand it. Of course, if you can afford to do this all at the bookstore, then more power to you. But, hey! We’re trying to decrease stress, so if spending a billion dollars on books doesn’t make you feel great, don’t feel bad. Use the library, it’s the American way! (Also, libraries are great customers for publishers and therefore your favorite authors because they often by multiple copies in hardcover. A great way to help your favorite authors is to request that the library order the book if they don’t have it already!)
6. Finally, if you really can’t handle writing related activities–Attend to Real Life. Writers always complain about real life getting in the way. Well, maybe washing your socks and running the dishwasher is exactly the diversion you need.
Status: Just got back from Happy Hour and am about to do some reading. Waiting, waiting, waiting for a page from SCOUT. I’ve got ants in my pants and probably need to take my own advice.