Humming The Waiting Game, to the tune of The Crying Game…
My manuscript is with an agent right now. Could be waiting in his inbox, or perhaps on screen as I type this blog. Don’t you wish you could send a little spy camera along with your queries or partials or fulls? O.k., that might be borderline stalker…maybe a meter or something that lets you know your manuscript is being read, what the response is each page, that sort of thing. Anything to keep the waiting jitters in check. Because let me tell you, those jitters have me…well, jittery. I’ve hit two happy hours this week trying to take my mind of it. Yeah, real hardship. If nothing else, I can say my husband and I found a new place to enjoy a glass of wine and take in the sights of Portland.
It’s been a challenge to work on the second book in my series not knowing if the first one will be well-received. I know they say not to think about that, to just keep writing. But it is hard to keep the spirit high. And there’s a part of me that wants to go back to my manuscript and make changes! Not good when you’ve sent it out, of course – but still, that mind keeps churning over ideas and lines and scenes…
My protagonist is a guy who never stays in one place for more than a year. The first novel takes place in Baltimore, the second one will be – well, somewhere else. I’ve decided on a city, but want to do more research to ensure the place has the right feel for the story. Ok, that’s a lie. I’ve already picked the setting for each novel in the series (there will be five). Just not ready to share, I guess. I’ve even prepared a blurb for each novel and a first draft of the next three opening scenes. That’s my ‘keeping things optimistic’ side showing through.
So what do you do when you’ve got the nerves? When you’re in between hearing back from an agent, or if you’re agented – from publishers?
Happy hour is always nice, but here are a few other ideas because a writer cannot live by house wine and discounted appetizers alone (though the yam fries were really, really good).
1. Visit library and read back issues of Writers Digest. Then sign up for subscription. You’ll probably want to read each issue in one sitting, the information is that good. You may also be able to find issues of local writing journals, such as the Willamette Writer (WA, OR). Check them out for local events, ways to meet other writers, writing opportunities and how-to articles.
2. Go somewhere new – a coffee shop other than Starbucks, the local mall, a park – anywhere you can observe others going about their day. Take notes on mannerisms, clothing, snippets of conversation. Now, don’t get all freaky and invade someone’s personal space. Just observe and be open to seeing/hearing things from a different perspective. You never know what tidbits you might use down the road in a story.
3. Attend a writing workshop or other event. I’m considering an upcoming Fire in Fiction two-day workshop in Seattle. It is relatively affordable (hotel aside) and a mere three hours away. Plus, Donald Maass knows more than a thing or two about helping writers improve their craft. It would give me the opportunity to get away from my routine for a few days, which is a great way to spark your creative muse. Bet I can do some cool people-watching in Seattle. Last time I was there, Pike’s Market proved a breeding ground for…ecclectic.
4. Catch up on social media – Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, what have you. I have to admit staying on top of such things has proven difficult. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my time on twitter or working on my blog, but there are days when other duties beckon me. The time ‘in-between novels’ might be a good time to work on those things. And you can pick up so much inside information by following agent blogs and tweets.
5. Do something that has nothing to do with writing. Yeah, I’m not sure that’s actually possible. It seems that whatever I’m doing, my writing self is simply there. An idea, a line, a twist – you can’t help it when those just happen, nor should you try to stop it. Keep a recorder or notepad/pen handy, jot down the idea, then go back to what you were doing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at the gym, on the treadmill or something, and an idea hits me.
Same thing happened last night – during my happy hour jaunt. There I was, sitting at Three Degrees, enjoying the view of the water, sipping my white wine (I usually prefer red, just so you know), spending time with my husband. When wham, I noticed a harmless looking couple walking by the river. It was around 7:00, the water had that ripple of lights from the bridge you get in the evening – serene, hopeful. And all I could think of was wouldn’t it be cool to have something come out of that water and drag the girl into the river so fast no one but the guy saw anything? And then of course no one would believe him, because really – have you ever heard of the Willamette Water Monster? So he’d be arrested, all the time frantic with worry over his gal and his own skin, most likely. Looking around to see if anyone else saw what happened. And he’d see someone, someone sitting on the deck of a boutique hotel, sipping a glass of wine, eating a yam fry. And they’d make eye contact. And he’d know that the other person had seen it all, but wasn’t going to do a thing about it because sometimes people are mean that way. Or because maybe the person was in on it, knew what lurked beneath the calm waters of the Willamette River where laughing families learn to kayak and many a well-toned collegiate takes his turn sculling to and from the bridge. Where a few homeless sit and wait for a better day, and maybe one or two go missing but no one has noticed because sometimes people are also blind that way. This couple’s whole story played out in my mind while I was sipping my second glass of white. The couple walked on – and away, but still the idea lingered. And lingers still. Hmmm…I think I’ve found something to do while playing the waiting game.