It’s hard to note milestones when you don’t feel like you’re moving at all.

A friend of mine recently complained that even a rejection letter would be preferable to the great, soul-eating silence from the agents she’s queried. I understood exactly what she meant.

In the writing world we view rejections as milestones. It’s been said many times that receiving those rejection letters is part of the process. It means you’re getting your work out there. Blah, blah, blah.

But when you’re stuck in the Bermuda Triangle of publishing, the panicked questions take over.

Did the agent/editor receive my query? Should I send a follow up? Will that tick them off? What if my manuscript was so bad they figured it was a joke? Did I actually even send the query, or was that a dream? Am I dreaming now? Do I even exist?

When you’re this thoroughly lost and confused, it’s time for an anchor, something to tether you to reality. My critique partners regularly joke about tying a rope around my waist so that when I jump off a cliff, they can pull me back up. Critique groups are a writer’s sanity check. I wouldn’t hesitate to call any of the women in my writing group and ask, “Are you reasonably sure that I do, in fact, exist?”

I think only one of them would take that opportunity to really mess with my head.

Another way to drop anchor might be to go over notes you’ve taken in workshops or read an agent’s blog. I heard some good advice from an agent at a recent conference. She suggested that when you send that query off, you should look ahead in your calendar and make a note of the date four weeks out. Then forget about the query. Don’t sweat it. When that day comes and goes, it’s safe to do a follow up. Tips like this can help writers navigate the doldrums of the submission process.

You can also break free of the holding pattern by simply telling yourself, “It’s time to move on.” I know it feels like abandonment to leave that project you love and start on a new one, but this is one of the few things in the writing journey that is solely in the writer’s control. You can move forward just by writing. You can turn your stint in No Man’s Land into a milestone. In a few months time, you’ll look back and say, “I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I (yes, I) decided to move on, and look what I’ve accomplished because of that.”


Evangeline Denmark has to take Dramamine in order to even look at a boat. She has co-authored two children’s books, The Dragon and the Turtle (Waterbrook Press, 2010) and The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari (Waterbrook Press, 2011) and also writes adult fiction. You can find Evangeline online at http://www.evangelinedenmark.com and http://www.dragonandturtle.com

Advertisements