If you’ve submitted queries or other materials to literary agents in the past, you likely know how long it can take to receive a reply. Some agents will respond in a matter of days, while others take months. Considering the high number of queries received by agents on a daily basis, it makes perfect sense why it takes a while to sort through the slush pile, especially if they choose to respond to each query.
But what should we do while we’re anxiously awaiting that response?
Here’s seven ideas:
1. Write and Submit Short Stories
Short stories can be a great break after spending a length of time on a manuscript. If you want to explore a new idea, character, or genre, consider doing so in a short story. It’s also great practice for being concise and clear with your story elements despite a smaller word count.
If you do take the time to write short stories, you should also submit those stories to literary magazines. Publishing a short story will give you extra experience in the industry, and you can advertise that experience in your query letter to a future agent.
If you’ve queried agents, then you’ve clearly spent a lot of time working on your manuscript. Now take a break and read some books.
If you’re a writer, you should be a reader too. The more you read, the better you’ll understand how to tell a story. The more I learned about the craft of writing, the more I saw it in use while reading, and the easier it became to use it in my own writing. It’s a cycle that breaks only when you stop making time to read.
Not only is reading a relaxing and enjoyable way to pass your time, but it’s also important for a career as a writer. You should know your genre and stay aware of what’s currently on the market; that way, you know where you might fit in that market, and you can make that clear to potential agents.
3. Go on an Adventure
Although you might write stories while sitting on a couch or at a desk, your stories probably don’t originate in those locations. The world around you is an inspiring place, and if you want to make use of that inspiration, you need to interact with it.
You don’t have to travel to Cambodia or New Zealand to go on adventure (although I’m sure that would be inspiring). Go outside, take a walk, do something outside of your usual schedule. These moments push your brain off of its normal thinking track, and that might be just what you need to think of the next story—or at least distract you from thinking about agents.
4. Find More Beta Readers
Hopefully you found beta readers before you queried an agent, but it’s never too late to get more opinions on a manuscript. Ask new friends or family members that you didn’t think to ask before. Join a writing group or attend a conference in search of other writers willing to read your work.
Stretch beyond your original circle of comfortable readers. You can’t submit to every person’s opinion, but it’s worth seeing how your story comes across to a variety of people. It will help you grow and improve in the long run.
5. Check Your Email for the 50th Time
6. Make a List of Other Agents
There are plenty of fish in the sea, and the first (or tenth or fifteenth) agent might not be the one for you. That doesn’t mean you should give up! Querying is a very subjective process. You want to find the agent that loves your story enough to give it the attention you want it to have, and that might take some time.
Research other potential agents and start making a list. You can find agents through Query Tracker, MSWL, Twitter, and Writer’s Digest, to name a few sources. Find agents seeking your genre and save their names for the next time you send out a round of queries.
7. Write a New Manuscript
Here’s the most important—and time consuming—activity of all.
Don’t wait around to hear about one manuscript. Work on another. You should always be honing your craft in one way or another, and starting a fresh manuscript is a great way to do that. This way, when an agent asks if you’re working on something else, you have an answer for them.
After all, most agents want to see a career path for writers; they don’t want a one-hit-wonder. Let your previous manuscript rest for a while and put your creativity back to work.
I completely understand the impatience involved in waiting for an agent’s response. You might stalk an agent’s twitter or read through their website a dozen times for any clues of how long you might be waiting. But there are far more productive ways to pass the time.
Give literary agents a chance. They have a lot of work to do. In the meantime, hone your craft and open yourself to inspiration. Start a new story.
What are your thoughts? Do you have any other ideas for productively passing the time as a writer? Do you know valuable resources for finding agents? Let me know.
I write YA fantasy and contemporary fiction. This blog is dedicated to thoughts and advice on writing and publishing, as well as various interests related to the world of Young Adult.