How To Keep Calm and Carry On During the Writing Life’s Limbos



Maintaining your sanity while waiting is not an easy thing. If you follow my blog, you know how hard it’s been. I think years of dealing with a herniated disc taught me one thing: LGO (Life Goes On).

I waited weeks to get an MRI done and then another week or two for the results. Why? Because I was one of many, many people with injuries. And there were people with far more life-threatening conditions ahead of me. My condition wouldn’t kill. It would just cause unrelenting pain that I could survive.

This isn’t just something that happens in the medical field. It happens in every industry. Decision makers (like agents & editors) prioritize based on criticality. And what matters most to you usually matters least to them.

How did I deal with this reality in my writing world?

I checked email relentlessly, I stalked agents’ and editors’ social media accounts, I cleaned and organized everything around me, and nearly drove myself nuts.

Until I learned to fill the waiting time with another project. There is no better way to kill time than by immersing yourself in something else that matters to you.

As I queried one book, I drafted another. I went to conferences and entered contests. I did everything I could to get my work out there.

Even now, as my young adult novel is in negotiations with Harlequin, I’m promoting the heck out of my indie-published adult speculative fiction novel, The Six Train to Wisconsin.

If I don’t have revisions to work on for Harlequin soon, I may start drafting the sequel to Six Train. If revisions come first, I’ll focus on that.

The trick to surviving the waiting is to make that time count for something else. It isn’t just the time I waited to hear back from the agent. No. It’s the time I started drafting a new novel. Or the time I researched indie publishing. Or the time I revised an older manuscript. Whatever else you do, make this time matter.

Because time is the only thing we can’t make more of. Don’t sit around waiting for the email or the call. Keep querying. Keep writing. Keep revising. Keep reading. Keep attending workshops. Don’t ever stop and wait for things to happen. Make things happen all around you.

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69 Responses to How To Keep Calm and Carry On During the Writing Life’s Limbos

  1. Sequel ey…. * rubs hands together in glee *

  2. I’m terribly impatient so I don’t do ‘waiting’ very well, the only way I can cope with waiting is to forget about whatever it is, and as you say, immerse myself into something else. I find actually I cope much better with waiting if I have no idea how long I’m going to have to wait – I’m guessing that might sound odd to some people, but I find it easier to not think about the thing that way. The worst thing for me (if it’s something exciting or important that I’m waiting for) is if someone says something like “You’ll hear from me by the beginning of next week” or something like that, because then I can’t bear the waiting for that time to arrive, and then if it arrives and I still haven’t heard, it’s awful! I much prefer to not know when the answer is due and then it’s a surprise when it comes!

    • I agree with you there. If you know when an answer is coming you can’t help being anxious and mildly obsessive about it. When the timeline is 6-8 months or unknown, it’s easier to switch to another project because you don’t want to waste huge quantities of time. A week can go excruciatingly slow when you know the info is coming at the end of the week. 🙂

  3. Great post, Kourtney, and so very true! 🙂

  4. I am with you on trying to keep busy during breaks or worse when a block hits one project. I try to keep two to three projects in some form going all the time. It keeps each one fresh and gives me an out when I hit the wall.

    • Hi Dennis! Thanks for stopping by to chat and following my blog! I had to juggle multiple projects in my previous career and I found it helped tremendously. When I’m working on one project, my mind seems to secretly be working out the issue with the other projects.

  5. Great advice to carry on while waiting. I’ve been waiting over 8 months for word on a submission…but I just keep writing. I know about waiting on the doctors. I also had a herniated disc and waited 3 weeks for my surgeon to return from vacation to operate…not a fun time. 🙂

    • Those submission timelines are rough. Have you sent a check in email? It’s rare but a few times I’ve had a submission go into spam or get lost in someone’s inbox. Waiting in pain is the worst. Ugh. That’s tough. The worst part was the waiting for surgery. Every conservative treatment had to be tried first. It meant a minimum of 8 months in pain before surgery became an option.

      • Eight months of pain is a long time. I hope your back is doing better these days. 🙂

        The submission was mail in only, so no e-mail address was provided. I submitted to this magazine about a year ago and received a rejection pretty fast…so I’m hoping this time will produce different results.

        • It was up until my car accident in June. 🙁

          Oh, that’s tough. I’ve had that with editors for conferences where they only give you the physical address. Hope the wait means something good! 🙂

  6. Mae Clair says:

    Great post, Kourtney. And congrats on the YA with Harlequin. I didn’t know about that but love time travel. Can’t wait! And, of course, a sequel to The Six Train to Wisconsin sounds fantastic.

    I’m also with you on not sitting idle. I can’t imagine NOT working on something. As soon as I finish one writing project, I start another.

    Sympathies on the herniated disc too. I had one of those several years ago and never want to go through that again. Ugh!

    • Thanks Mae! The negotiations can take a while. It started in April. Thanks. It will be a bit on that one too. Traditional publishing timelines. 😉 I always had a vision of 4 books for the Six Train saga. Hopefully, I’ll get to outline and first draft going this year.

      The only way to improve the craft is to keep at it. Starting a new project always helps me see the flaws in the last one better. 🙂

      Thanks. They are terribly painful. Mine reherniated 3 more times before I was able to have disc replacement surgery. After the surgery it was a whole new world.

  7. You sound like you’ve taken lessons from a shark: constantly swim and eat or you’ll die. Not such bad advice.
    Glad you’re not languishing – which is easy to do.
    (now git back thar and rite. Giggles and hugs!)

    • It definitely helps to have a few projects going. Right now I’m promoting Six Train. Next month I should be shifting back to either revising or outlining. Depends on how far we are in the contract negotiation.

  8. Carrie Rubin says:

    Such good advice. It can be difficult to get our minds off one thing and start another. I’m one of those types of people who likes to work on one thing at a time and see it resolved before starting something new. But as you point out, that isn’t the way to go when it comes to writing. Otherwise we’d never make any progress.

  9. Woohoo…a sequel! I loved Six Train and I can hardly wait (but I guess I have to, huh?) to see what happens next.

    Great post, Kourtney, and one I will keep close to heart while pursuing my writing/publishing dreams.

    • Thanks Catherine! Unfortunately, I followed the rules and only ever drafted the first book in each of my series. Six Train’s sequel will require more time than my other novels too. But there will be one.

      Thanks so much! I hope it helps as you continue on your publishing journey. 🙂

      • Kourtney, however long it takes, that’s fine with me. A well-written book with great characters is worth waiting for; plenty for me to read in the meantime.. 🙂

        • Thanks Catherine! I agree. Some types of books take longer than others. MY YA novels are more plot driven and they are easier to draft. Then there’s the marinating and mulling time between revisions. 🙂 LOL. My TBR list never seems to get shorter no matter how many books I read. 🙂

  10. Pete Denton says:

    Great post, Kourtney. Keep plugging away and most of all keep writing. It keeps us sane in the long run. I think 🙂

  11. EllaDee says:

    … and you write a few blog posts. Good to see you back 🙂 Life goes on no matter what, so you might as well hop on board I think, and at least give it some direction.

    • This was supposed to be a guest post elsewhere until the blog owner decided to line edit it. Then I pulled the post and repurposed it here. 😉 I agree with you. The closer you stay to normal, the more you feel normal. Participating in life is the only way to get back to it. 🙂

  12. jmmcdowell says:

    I will try to be patient as I wait for the Six Train’s sequel. 🙂 But how about getting through those negotiations quickly so we can read the new book in the interim, please?!

    Keeping the process going is so important, and I hope you’re feeling better and up for the next round of work—be it plantsing, revising, or writing!

    • Thanks JM. LOL. If negotiations are still happening in August, I’ll start outlining Six Train’s sequel.

      I planned for May-July to be promotional time. I’m taking it easier than I planned but life has a way of changing the best laid plans. 🙂

  13. Gemma Hawdon says:

    Great advice Kourtney. Having different projects also means you have something else to turn to if disappointment hits. Hope things turn out well with Harlequin 🙂

    • Thanks Gemma. It’s so hard to let go of something and move on, but it’s the only way to get perspective and not be decimated if things don’t happen. Thanks. Fingers and toes are crossed. 🙂

  14. I’ve heard from several friends the importance of keeping busy and working on new projects even as you’re in different editing stages of your current books. I think it’s great advice.

    • It’s good advice. Hard to take until your querying is going nowhere and you doubt yourself. Then it sorta clicks in your head and you realize you have to soldier on. Because it could be the first of the third manuscript or even the tenth manuscript that sells.

  15. winsomebella says:

    Still envisioning the movie, Kourtney 🙂 Way to go girl!

  16. Cat Forsley says:

    xo xo xo xo xo xo xo xo ………………….

  17. Clearly your tenacity is paying off! Way to go Kourtney!

  18. Subtlekate says:

    Great post. Now that I have sent off one, I am jumping into another. 🙂

  19. It really is hard to keep calm when you’re waiting, great advice! And everything crossed you hear news soon 😉

    • Thanks Victoria! Waiting stinks. Sitting and waiting is way worse than doing other stuff and waiting. Having to promote Six Train was and still is a big distraction from the negotiation process. Thanks. My agent keeps me updated on the progress, there’s just lots of steps to it. 😉

  20. Mayumi-H says:

    So true, Kourtney, and good advice for writers. As my sensei once said, “Time is one of our most precious possessions, but it exists for each of us in sadly limited quantities.”

    • Thanks Mayumi. Money can be earned and lost and re-earned. But time is so finite. We can’t buy more. We can’t earn more. We have expiration dates that cannot be postponed.

  21. Cool about the Harlequin negotiations! Your work is getting out there – happy for your successes!

  22. klynwurth says:

    Great advice. I’ve also found that rejections hurt less if I’m up to my ears in an exciting new story. Be well, friend.

    • I have this weird ability to see what isn’t working in my previous manuscript when I’m knee deep in my next one. I make notes on Post-its for future revisions. 😉 And rejection definitely hurts less when it’s not absolute. Having another book in the wings means there is always the possibility of a yes down the road. 🙂 Take Care!

  23. Excellent post, Kourtney. “Time is the only thing we can’t make more of.” A line that really resonates with me. Sounds like you’re handling the waiting game very well. Good luck with the publisher, a great achievement. And thank you for sharing your experience and for the great advice.

    • Thanks Silvia! It’s taken me several years to get a handle on waiting. Thanks–I’m excited to traditionally publish. I’m glad I’ve learned something worth sharing. 🙂

  24. Gwen says:

    The Six Train will have a sequel? I’m sold! Fantastic, inspirational message here, Kourtney, about the importance of keeping on.

    Btw – and update on beta reading for you: I plan to start in August, a chapter or two at a time. Looking forward to diving in.

    • LOL. It will. Thanks Gwen! 🙂 Trial and error taught me it’s the only way to keep on keeping on. Oh yay! Thank you so much. 🙂 Can’t wait to hear your brilliant thoughts on it. Hoping to work on revisions for that this winter.

  25. girlseule says:

    Great post, inspiring and useful advice. Good luck with your books.

  26. Great advice Kourtney, I always have a few ideas in ‘production’, though I think if I was published and in negotiations for another book I might be a bit distracted from other projects! Glad you’re planning sequels to six train, too good a premise to let it go after one!

    • Thanks Andrea! I planned to be in promotional mode most of the summer and then winding back into writing mode in late summer. 😉 It is hard to draft when you are promoting. My agent handles the negotiation stuff so I’m not really pulled into that too much. I’ve never written a standalone book. All my books have series potential. I like the idea of returning to characters and places too much. 🙂

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