Being a Better Writer: What to do While Waiting for Feedback

Welcome back readers! I hope you had an enjoyable weekend! It was (mostly) a quiet one for me, though I did have family over to make enchiladas on Sunday (so nice and hot) which was an absolute blast.

So, what’s new with the news real quick? Well, we had the sale last week, and that went pretty well. Hopefully those of you who wanted to fill out your collections took the chance! Other news? Well, the first draft of Starforge is almost at 100,000 words, and once the latest chapter is done, I’ll be taking a day or two to blitz through the Beta 1 of Axtara – Banking and Finance and get that one step closer to publication. As well as take care of a few other things … But I’ll hold on news about those bit and bobs until they arrive.

So then, that’s the news and—wait, I almost forgot something. This post? It’s the last topic from Topic List #15. I’ve noted for a few weeks now that we’re running up to the end of this list, and that one should make ready their topic suggestions for list #16. That post will drop Wednesday, so definitely be ready!

Okay, that’s it! No more news! It’s time to talk writing! Or rather, what to do when you’ve stopped writing for a brief moment. Because today, readers, we’re tackling a long-requested reader topic and talking about what too do while waiting for that fickle beast of fickle beasts.


So let’s start at the finish line. The moment you place that final keystroke on the draft of a new project. Short story, novella, novel, epic … The important thing is that you’ve done it. You’ve finished. It’s complete.

Or, well, most of the way there. You’ve gotten the writing out of the way, yes. The story is done. There’s still plenty to do, and you’re aware of that. Alpha Reading, Beta Reading, Copy Edit, securing a cover … there’s plenty to do before this story will see the light of publication.

But you know this. You’ve read the guides. You’ve followed their process, carving out your own niche where possible. We’ll even go the extra step and say you’ll be one of those authors who puts the draft down for 3-6 months (or the length of another draft) before coming back to it so that you come with a clean slate.

But you do come back to it. You clean it up, you get it ready for the Alpha Readers, you send it off …

Now what? Well, you wait. And this, readers, is what many of you wanted to know about. What do you do while waiting for your Alpha and Beta Readers take a look at things? How do you make use of that time?

Well … really any way you want. There are no right or wrong answers here. Furthermore, each one of you is going to have a slightly different experience based on how much feedback you get, how in-depth the required changes are, and how fast your feedback team is. As well as how quickly you work, which also ties into this.

Okay, so there’s not a right or wrong answer. But does that mean there isn’t a set of answers that I can offer for those of you that are worried about sitting around and twiddling your thumbs while you wait.

Now, I do want to point something out before diving into the different things you can do: None of these are hard answers at all. They’re all soft, because every editing experience is going to be different. Your draft might need a lot of Beta edits, or it might need almost no Alpha edits. And that’s going to change how much time you spend working to improve it.

Okay, enough pre-amble. Let’s talk about what you can do while waiting for feedback.

1) Work with your People!

This one feels almost self-explanatory, but work with your readers. Say you’re doing an Alpha Reading: You should start getting feedback almost immediately (I know I often get feedback within the same day of sending out invitations).

Now look, I know in the old days of the publishing industry you sat around and waited until the whole thing was done because the only alternative was to wait in a room with the person reading it, and that both wasn’t viable and was a little creepy.

But this is the modern era. And who cares if publishing with the big pubs hasn’t grown up. That doesn’t mean you should take their cues and wait. You can start working with feedback as soon as you want, thanks to the internet.

Now, this doesn’t mean immediately. In my experience, there are a couple of problems with this. The first is that even responding in the affirmative (as in agreeing with what your alpha suggests right then and there) tends to pull them out of things (makes sense really) and can even make comments from them less likely, even if you’re agreeing with them.

Also, again, as I said it pulls them out of the chapter (disrupting their flow). Now, with short stories, you can just wait until they’re done, but for a novel or something of similar length and time? I usually give my readers a few days to get ahead and then start shadowing them from a few days back. Since they don’t feel an immediate reply is required (since I waited a bit before replying to them) they won’t be pulled out of what they’re reading/doing right then, but can reply to my feedback on their feedback before starting their next chapter.

So yes, working with your readers is quite possible! Plus, it can help because you’ll be tackling issues while they’re fresh in the reader’s mind, and they can offer more complete feedback.

2) Prework a New Project!

Now some of you may have noted that being “three days behind” if you shadow, for example, still gives you three days (or however many you choose) to spend as you please. And you may also have correctly noted that even if you’re working with your readers closely, editing may still not take up a large chunk of your day, and you don’t want to catch up.

So, what can you do to break up that time? Well, you can pre-work a new project!

Prework is actually an ideal thing to occupy one’s self during the waits of an editing project because unlike writing a new book, where you need to fully immerse yourself in a world and setting (which can prove detrimental when needing to jump from that book to the draft in editing), prework is much more laid back since you’re working with brainstorming and framework. It’s easier to dip into and out of, which is handy when you need to shift gears to another genre or not cross-contaminate.

That, and prework can be a lot of things. Outlining. Brainstorming characters. Worldbuilding. Crafting a magic system. Or a government. Whatever.

All of this is stuff that you can easily “divest” from because you’re not orchestrating the fine details of a plot in 300 pages. You’re just coming up with the shape of things. So you can hop in and out of that pretty easily, which makes it perfect for alternating with bursts of editing and waiting.

3) A New Project

This one gets a bit more tricky because as I said under #2 above, having to “disconnect” your brain from one story to another is a little difficult. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. For example, right now I’m both editing/waiting on feedback for Axtara while writing the first draft of Starforge. It’s not been easy (and sometimes involves a fair amount of time spent “resubmerging” myself in a setting).

But there are ways around that disconnect. For example, I’ve written short stories while waiting on feedback before. A day to hear back from prospective readers, another to send out invites, and then a few days while you wait for them to get a good head of steam built up? That’s time enough for a short story! Maybe even two, or more if you time things right!

Plus, a short story can often be a bit easier to shift into and out of. Because, you know, short story.

Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t work on a longer work. You can. It’s just a bit trickier, but why waste time? However, juggling the two may be tricky. And you may find, especially with a big “new” project, that editing may take longer on your end as a result.

But maybe not. If there’s one thing to take away from today’s post that I’d have you take away, it’s that editing is NOT an exact process. You might spend a day going over a dozen chapters, and then three days working on one. Making an exact timetable from editing is very tricky because it’s fairly inexact. Sands, you may have very few edits, but have readers taking their time getting through because they enjoy letting the story soak in. It’s almost impossible to tell.

Which again, means you might have a lot of time to work on a new project, or very little … but you should be prepared to deal with the latter. Which can be hard sometimes, as you won’t want to leave a new project. That’s the risk of this approach you’ll have to contend with.

4) Work Ahead

You know what else you can do while waiting for that editing feedback? You can jump ahead!

For example, why wait to get a cover for your new work commissioned or taken care of if you can work on that while waiting for feedback? After all, that process involves waiting in and of itself. Why not get the waiting periods rolling in a cycle with one another so that you’ve always go something to do?

There’s more than cover work out there too. What about advertising? Getting publication details taken care of? Promotions?

Note that this sort of thing doesn’t just have to be for what you’re currently editing. It can be for stuff you’ve already written. Bringing a new book out often means a surge of popularity for your old works. Why not capitalize on that planned launch by working out some details now?

Yeah, this one is a little vague. Your projects, marketing, etc, are all up to you. As are your future plans for whatever work is being edited. But the point here is thus: If you can work ahead … why not? Just make sure whatever work you’re doing isn’t something that might be undone later. Or that any advertising (or something like pre-orders) don’t back you into a corner (IE, don’t promise a release date you will be unable to make).

And that’s it!

Okay, it really isn’t. You can find other ways to use that time I’m sure. Especially if we expand this to non-writing things. Sands, I could have done a micro-section on using that time to catch up on all the reading you may not have done while writing (this happens).

But here’s the thing: Most will probably figure that out on your own. Or if it’s something more specific to your instance and work … well how would I know?

What I’m trying to say here is that you’ve got a lot of options. Time is time, and it’s up to you how to spend it. Sure, it can be tempting to watch six hours of a TV show while waiting for feedback, day in and day out … but it’s not productive. This list is meant as a bit of a primer, really, to get your mind thinking on what you might do to fill those moments waiting for feedback. They’re your projects. What I wrote above might only serve as a starting point for you to figure out how you want to spend that time … or it might be exactly what you were looking for.

Either way, I hope you make the most of it.

Good luck. Now get writing.

Being a Better Writer exists thanks to the aid of the following Patreon supporters:

Frenetic, Pajo, Anonymous Potato, tiwake, Taylor, Jack of a Few Trades, Alamis, Seirsan, Grand General Luna, Miller, Hoopy McGee, Brown, Lightwind, and Thomas!

Special thanks to them for helping keep Unusual Things ad-free and the Being a Better Writer articles coming!

If you’d like to be a supporter as well, then check out our Patreon Page, or if you’re particular to a one-time donation, why not purchase a book?

You can also share this post (and others) online or via social media!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s