While U Wait

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

A few years ago I talked about what a writer needs to do while he or she waits for publication. I thought of it again while I was in Minnesota recently, stressing how important it is to build your database from day one. I think this concept of what to do While U Wait deserves to be repeated.

I grew up in the Mission District of San Francisco. It was a magical place for a child to live– corner stores on every block. Many of our neighbors lived above retail establishments. The closest was a Chinese laundry owned by our friend Honey Lee’s parents. They had a big sign in the window that offered dry cleaning and alterations “While U Wait.” On a table inside was a box of old Mahjong tiles in case anyone wanted to play while they waited. We rarely saw anyone take them up on their offer, though we often teased about the possibilities. To a pack of ten-year-old kids nothing seemed funnier than imagining a man in his drawers waiting for his slacks to be stitched.

That While U Wait sign stayed with me. I was not very good at waiting and yet, I’d hate to try to figure out what percentage of my life has been spent waiting for something or someone. Seeking to be become a published author is the grandfather of all waits.The good news is, there’s plenty that can be accomplished during the wait. Let me just highlight a few things:

  • Hone Your Craft— Never again will you have the time to lavish on a manuscript. Learn everything you can now and enjoy writing sans pressure.
  • Build Your Network of Peers— This is the time to get to know other writers. These are the people who will help influence, endorse your books and commiserate with you along the journey.
  • Gather Your Tribe— It’s true you have no readers until you have a book out there but identifying your readers and beginning to “hang out” with them online is one of the best things you can do. If you are writing, say, in the field of productivity, find the blogs and networks where productivity aficionados hang out. Participate. Give much more than you receive. It is all part of earning a readership.
  • Learn to Harness Technology— How I wish I had learned to build a website and mastered every feature in both Quark XPress and Photoshop before my life got so crazy busy. Now is a time when you can seriously learn to use the tools you’ll need in a digital age.
  • Create a Unique Social Network Persona— Spend time online. With your book and brand in mind become memorable. Gain a significant following by offering valuable content. These days nothing outside of a knock-em-dead book will help you get published faster than if you are the go-to blogger on a subject that connects to your book. By go-to blogger I mean the name everyone thinks of when your subject comes up.
  • Develop Your Website— Your Online Base. This is as important to your business as a compelling storefront used to be to a retail establishment. Be innovative and always keep your reader in mind.
  • Meet Editors and Agents— This is a significant part of the professional network you are building. Where do you accomplish this? At writer’s conferences. Online. I see many writers connecting in a meaningful, appropriate way to agents and editors on Facebook and other social media. Never has it been so easy to get to know professionals.

I know those are just a few of the things that you can do While U Wait. Once you are published, you’ll never again have enough time to do what needs to be done.

So, your turn. What are some other things you can do While U Wait? If you are already published and find you’re moving from one book to the next with marketing, edits, galleys, proposing new books and writing the contracted ones. . . what do you wish you had done during those waiting years?

34 Responses

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  1. What else? Pray!
    Pray for wisdom.
    Pray for opportunity.
    Pray for stamina.
    Pray for help.
    Pray for your helpers.
    Pray for readers.
    Pray for your readers.

  2. Thanks for these ideas, Wendy. I’ve been considering changing the direction of my blog. You mentioned being the ‘go-to’ person related to your book. Do you mean in fiction? Or can we pull our blog followers to our fiction stories when we are published? Thanks!

  3. Hmmm…what could I be the “go to person” about. Ah, I could be the go to person for when your sons mix seven packets of pudding with the dish soap and create a “craft” by stirring it into the carpet while you are on the phone! Or the “go to person” for when you take them on a walk and they go to investigate a frog pond and come back wet from head to toe, covered in tiny lily pads, and carrying two handfuls of salamanders and are discussing whether or not they saw leaches on each other and where those leaches that they didn’t see might be attached! Hmmm…it might be too small a niche, but I bet it would be all mine!

  4. The first two “while you wait” additions that popped into my mind are:
    1) Develop a speaking arm of your business/ministry.
    2) Possibly begin a podcast that parallels your blog & go-to status.

  5. Great ideas. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. With only so much time, would you suggest building potential readers through a personal blog, first and foremost? Or would you say social media is the best way to do that? Maybe it’s all of the above, but I’m wondering the best place to start. I want to be proactive, it’s just a little daunting at the outset!

  6. Wendy, you made me think of my daughter’s situation–her best friend left for West Point a month ago. For the first six weeks, she can only write letters to him and actually mail them. She won’t see him in person until Thanksgiving. I knew we had to get busy, busy our minds. The wait hasn’t been easy for her. It was especially hard at first. But she and I started working out together, every morning. We’re going to tone ourselves, building muscle in the wait. She’s been staying under my feet more, helping clean house with me, etc. We play Uno every day together and work on excelling in math. She writes him every day. She’s received lots of letters from him and three unexpected phone calls … blessing in the wait. 🙂 In only two more weeks, she’ll be able to text him and FaceTime. 🙂

  7. Many thanks for all prayers. Dire, but ain’t over.
    * While you wait, Jesus has suggestion – Matt. 25:34-40
    – 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

    – 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

    – 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

    – 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

    – 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

    – 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

    – 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

  8. Jerusha Agen says:

    Great ideas, Wendy! I’ll be passing these along to a writer friend of mine who is just getting her feet wet in the writing business and beginning work on networking, platform building, etc. I need to keep several of these tips in mind myself as I wait for the next thing. Thanks!

  9. One thing I’ve been trying to do over the past few months is to develop a good routine for social media interaction. I’m thankful for Hootsuite, where I can upload tweets and Facebook author page posts in advance. it’s getting this into my daily routine that I’m working on right now. I’m trying to learn how to be effective with my time so that when I am (Lord willing) one day published, this is a part of the routine, not one more to-do to work into an already hectic time.
    *Building relationships with (hopefully) one-day readers on my blog is also something I’ve been intentional about in my pre-published days.
    *I appreciate your great suggestions here, Wendy!

  10. I’ve been told by those in the know that relationship building within the Navajo community is critical. Yes, there are nuances to learn that I didn’t know that I didn’t know.
    One discussion I had, 5 years ago, just at the beginning of this writing gig, had a profound impact on me. It was a treasure bestowed on me that I doubt I’ll ever forget. An elderly Navajo lady said to me “We didn’t tell the anthropologists, the missionaries, and the historians everything. We kept many of our stories to ourselves so that we owned them, and no one else. But I will tell you one. It is about my grandmother…” Then she told me about the love that two brothers kept alive for their stolen sister, and how they found her again, 5 years after she was sold, and brought her home.
    I’ve heard many of those stories, often from elderly people who were weeping. Then they’d take my hand and say “God chose you to tell about what happened to us.”
    Totally no pressure at all.

  11. Angela Arndt says:

    Great post, Wendy and just what I needed. A writing career is so much more than writing. Several of us are building a brainstorming Skype group to discuss plot, craft, marketing and whatever else we need at the moment.

    There’s no better way to break through to the next level than to have a group of creatives throwing out ideas, bouncing thoughts off each other.

  12. Mary Kay Moody says:

    Such good encouragement, Wendy. And at the rate the tech world changes, I think we will always have new tools to harness, new skills to learn.

  13. Linda Jewell says:

    While I Wait–From years of wandering around with God in His Waiting Wilderness, I have a stronger, personal relationship with Him. He’s also giving me other precious gifts–like more trust in Him, His will, and His ways and more patience with His timing.