Six Ways to Survive the Query Trenches

Every writer knows that publishing is a notoriously slow process, and waiting at any stage of the game can be pure hell. Never is that more true than when you're in the Query Trenches.

Let me set the scene. You've poured your heart out, written the best story possible and revised the hell out of your manuscript. You've submitted it out to agents for consideration, but now what? How do you make the most of the time you'll spend waiting for responses? And I mean something other than obsessively checking your email and daydreaming about your interview with Oprah. Here are six ways to survive your time in the query trenches. 


1. Watch Television

That’s right, you heard me. Now that the heavy work of writing and revising your novel is complete, the time is perfect for a little Netflix binging. As if you needed an excuse to sit back and enjoy your favorite shows, I’m telling you that not only will it be good for relaxing, but it can also be excellent research. Sure, you could flip aimlessly from show to show, relentlessly changing channels until you find something that catches your fancy, but there really is a better way.

Now is not the time to be fixating on the perceived success of your writing friends and acquaintances.

Find a show you’ve wanted to watch, and get ready to view it in a whole new way. Start from the beginning and watch for content and pacing. Watch for dialogue and tension. Watch for all of the elements you hope to improve in your own writing. All of a sudden binge watching your favorite shows has gone from mindless fodder for snack time to something you can actually use. Or you can just kick back with the Kardashians. I’m not here to judge.

2. Read a Good Book

If you’re like many writers, your intense schedule of writing and revising has left you precious little time for getting lost in the worlds of other authors, so now is the time to open up a good book and enjoy. Maybe you’ve avoided reading within your chosen genre for fear of emulating another writer. If that’s the case, step back into your comfort zone and see what published authors are doing in your genre. Read without fear of being influenced and just enjoy your time within the pages. Or maybe you’ve been reading only within the genre you write for inspiration. In that case, now is an excellent opportunity to pick something up outside of your typical read. Nothing makes the waiting for an agent response easier than getting lost in a new story.

3. Write Your Dream Acknowledgments Page

Just because you’re waiting to hear back on one of the most important steps in your career doesn’t mean that you have to stop dreaming. One day your perseverance will pay off and you will have the agent of your dreams championing your work. Someday your book will be on the shelves of your favorite bookstore, and in that book will be a little page where you’ve thanked your nearest and dearest for supporting you along the way.

While you’re waiting to hear back from that dream agent, an excellent way to keep the dream alive is to sit down and write that acknowledgments page. Sure, you’re likely to have more folks to thank by the time the book is published, but right now is the time to express gratitude to those who have helped you early on in your journey to publication. Dream big!

4. Recommit to Family and Friends

A writer on deadline with a mission to finish a project is no easy person to live with. You’ve just done an incredible thing in polishing a novel, but your relationships are probably suffering a little bit of neglect. Now that you’ve put yourself out there and are waiting on a response, the time is right for jumping into dedicated family and friend time. Go to the movies! Go out for dinner or to the park! Do things with the people who have loved you despite your tendencies to be reclusive during the writing process. Not only will you rekindle those important relationships, but you will spend less time brooding over your empty Inbox if you are out and about doing things.

5. Step Away from Social Media

A favorite pastime for any querying writer is clearly stalking agents on social media, right? No? Is it just me? Well, while you are waiting on a response to queries, one of the best things you can do is step away from social media and try not to fixate. Obsessively watching every post from said agent isn’t going to make the response time any less, and it’s just not healthy to wonder if every vague tweet is about your work.

Not to mention the comparison game we all play with other writers on social media. Now is not the time to be fixating on the perceived success of your writing friends and acquaintances. Now is the time to take a break from social media and congratulate yourself on finishing a novel and putting yourself out there in the Query Trenches.

6. Begin a New Project

One of the best ways to keep yourself occupied while you’re waiting for an agent response is to simply do what you do best—write! Now is the perfect time to begin a new project and revel in the honeymoon phase of writing where every word is fresh and exciting. Dream up a new outline, or dive right in and draft something altogether new. Not only will jumping into a new project make you feel productive again, it will also pass the time in a meaningful way. After all, when your dream agent calls to offer you representation, they are going to ask you what else you have for them. Get a leg up on that and have something to show them!


Nobody likes to wait, and the stakes are even higher when you consider the fact that you’ve just poured your heart and soul into a book and sent it off for subjective feedback. During this time in the Query Trenches, above all else, be kind to yourself. You’ve done an incredibly brave thing in putting yourself out there in the first place!

If you find yourself obsessively refreshing your Inbox or pacing the room waiting for the big call, try immersing yourself in one of the tips above and make the most of the wait.

Riki Cleveland

Column by Riki Cleveland

Riki has a long-standing love affair with all things books and writing. She indulged her love for all things literary with a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University and is currently studying at the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. Although she is well past her own teen years, Riki’s reading passion lies with Young Adult literature where she devours books that handle the “firsts” in life. When not reading and writing she can be found yelling at the television while watching sports.

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