What Do You Do When Your Novel Is Out On Submission?

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As a writer, what do you do when your novel is out on submission?

The immediate answer should naturally be – Write the next thing/keep writing.

What if the novel out on submission is the first in a series?



That’s the place I’m currently in. The work that is out on submission is the first novel in a police procedural series. As an insecure writer, the what-if’s are pounding away at my head. Not just what-if’s. Knowledge. The knowledge that my work isn’t good enough. Every writer is too close to their work and thinks it’s worthwhile, when the reality is different. So I’m there. Feeling the strain of knowing I can’t cut it. My work can’t cut it. I can. I can sit down and put in the work that is needed, but it’s probably not up to scratch. I’ve read some bloody good novels recently.

So, with that in place, I still need to keep writing. I have books two and three plotted out. I also have an idea for another crime book. I am currently working on book two. But – what if I’m wasting my time? If book one gets completely trashed and it’s going nowhere, am I wasting valuable time working on book two when I could be working on my other idea? The flip side is, book one gets accepted and someone wants to know when book two will be ready….

I suppose, if book one can’t find a nice snuggly home somewhere, and I’m tapping away at my keyboard on book two, I can say that I’ve been practicing my writing skills and the next book I start will have a better start in life.

See, I’m a big shiny ball of optimism!

What are your thoughts on writing when a novel is out on submission?


Today’s post comes to you courtesy of Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group. The monthly blog hop that does what it says on the tin. 

32 thoughts on “What Do You Do When Your Novel Is Out On Submission?

  1. Oh, Rebecca, I hope you hear an enthusiastic ‘yes’ very soon! I’ve got a novel out on submission too as it happens. What I’m doing is keeping busy with other projects and revising my next novel. It’s very hard to wait though…


    1. Thank you Margot!

      And hoping you also hear that enthusiastic yes!

      I’m OK with the waiting – most of the time. It’s the weird place you find yourself. It’s a bit like floating I suppose. Fingers so tightly crossed for you x


  2. I wish you luck on your novel out on submission. You should still write the next one. You’ll never know. It would be great to have a ready truthful answer if an interested agent or editor asks if the rest of the series ready?


  3. Bleh! I feel your pain. I am in a very similar situation. My first is now out on its second submission merry-go-round (round one resulted in a few almosts and lots of nos… I bit the bullet and made some changes, but there is every chance it still won’t be accepted, as like you – I’ve read some brilliant books lately and am very unsure that this book has what it takes). My plan is not a series as such, but I have another two planned out that would share some characters and setting. So do I write the 2nd (wondering if the characters and setting are the issue, therefore making this pointless) – also bearing in mind that mine can also work completely standalone, so it doesn’t really matter… But still… OR, do I write one of the completely different standalones I also have sketched out, taking me in a very different direction – but perhaps ultimately what I need?!?! I have wasted months thinking this over, because I feel (presumably, like you) that it is hard to focus while the first book is floating around out there… I think I am going with the true standalone. At the very least it will give me something else to worry about!!


    1. I can remember reading your post about making the changes and it going back out. I didn’t realise though, that you may have had a some similar issues with continuing characters etc, It really is a weird place to be isn’t it?

      And as you say, the books out there are really bloody brilliant so it just serves the little demons in our heads. Giving them the resources to say to us, that we shouldn’t be bothering with the next one.

      I think I am going to knuckle down and get the first draft done, then let it settle in a folder while I start the completely different thing before going back to it to edit/revise, and by that point, I should know more…

      Good luck Susi! My fingers are crossed for you x


  4. Great question! I hope you hear good news soon.
    I currently have a similar problem; when I wrote the first in the series I made sure to tie everything up quite neatly, while always knowing I planned to take two of the characters on their own journey next. That book was picked up and published, with an option on the next. Now I find myself having written book two, in the hopes that the same publisher would take it, but the sales for book 1 weren’t good enough so they said ‘no thank you.’ Which leaves me with a sequel which is being pitched as a stand-alone, because apparently no-one will want to know about it if it’s part of a series. I’ve had feedback that says I’ve ‘missed the boat on several occasions,’ because they think my little reminders are actually story told ‘in retrospect.’ *head-desk* They have no idea those stories are told in full already!

    So, while Lady of No Man’s Land is out on submission I’ve decided to concentrate on getting the next in my self-pubbed series ready for publication. So I’m still writing, but I know for sure this one will be out there for sale this year! I’m also plotting out book 3 because, after all, if the publishers don’t pick it up, I can publish it myself! I’ve had a couple of bites though, despite its ‘sequel/not sequel’ status, so … *fingers crossed,* but all will not be lost if it’s a ‘no thank you’ after all. There are more options out there, for all of us.
    Good luck! xx 🙂


    1. Thanks Terri! Boy it’s a tough world out there and we have some decisions to make while we wait for the slow boat to take it’s journey. I’m sorry that Lady of No Man’s Land wasn’t picked up by the same publisher. No, is a really, really hard word and we keep putting ourselves out there don’t we!

      You sound very decisive and organised, which is a great thing. I was wondering/mulling things over, but I’ve made the decision and I’m going to keep on track and see what happens.

      Fingers crossed and good luck to you also! xx


    1. You’re right about the good practice. I don’t think you’re alone in not writing a second book until the first was out. It’s a bit of a limbo land and that can be a weird place to write in.


  5. I think the next project should be whichever one you’re most excited about, whether it’s book two, or something totally different.🙂 Good luck with the one on submission!


    1. Thank you Rachel!

      As for excited, I think I have too many idea’s and not enough time, so I’m going to stick with the sensible and do the work on book two, then put it to rest for a while and start on the other one and hopefully, I’ll know what’s happening then🙂


    2. Yes – I like this, Rachel! The hanging about can really get in the way of getting on with the next. I find I can’t wait – get cracking, get on with the next one, keep the energy rolling – that’s what I say!


  6. My W.I.P is the first in a series too. I have completed book two and three in the hopes that the first will be picked up. But I am no longer querying it. When I did query it, I ended up checking my email every few hours and working on the second book and various other projects, just to stay distracted.

    I really hope that you will choose an option that best works for you. I had to finish book two because it was begging to be written, even though I wasn’t sure what the outcome for book one would be.

    Don’t doubt your work. You have to believe that your work is good enough, even though it is different. Maybe your writing is exactly what your genre needs to keep it fresh. I hope you sell your first book soon.


    1. Email checking – that’s a dreadful passtime! I’ve done that and now am happy to say I’ve settled out of it🙂

      I’m going to do book two. It’s the right decision. When I started, I knew it was going to be a series, so I’m going to write it until I’m told otherwise…


  7. Help me here: If your wonderful book that you wrote–you, an accomplished proven writer who has several notches on her belt already–gets turned down, will you actually walk away from it? Me, I’d probably think the naysayers were crazy, didn’t know what they were thinking, were in a bad mood, didn’t need mysteries that week–I could go on. I might make some changes, but not toss it. Is there any chance that would happen?

    So, twere I you (or twere I me), I’d start Book Two in the series.


  8. Good luck with the submission! I’ve always wondered this same question but more in regards to authors who write stand-alone novels. What do they do if the next book isn’t already lined up and ready to be written? At least with a series you know what to work on next and that there will be more!


    1. Thank you! I think the key is just to keep writing. Waiting for other people’s opinions is hard and can be really hard on some people and distract them to such an extent that they can’t write while subbing. I’m doing book two and I’m enjoying doing it. Fingers crossed. If not, it’s good practice🙂


    1. Thanks Marina. I am doing book two. The last few days I’ve really enjoyed it as well. I think airing that feeling does some good. So, this may not happen this time around, but it won’t ever happen if I don’t keep practicing my craft🙂


      1. Well done, Rebecca – sounds like you’ve broken through this issue. Lovely to have such a good response from fellow writers! Good luck with the submission and keep going…


  9. Similar situation as you, although I’m on book three. I think you need to just keep going, and try and put the rest to the back of your mind (which is VERY hard, I know!) Are you still with your agent? She obviously thinks your work is great to take you on in the first place. We all have the doubts kick in, it’s natural. Best of luck with the submissions! Give it a few months (since the whole process is so slooooow) and you’ll be writing a post saying how you’ve landed the deal for you🙂


    1. It is a slow process isn’t it, which is why I think some writers find it so difficult. I am still with my agent, and yes, that is a great boost to my confidence, but no matter what stage we get to, I think as writers, we are doomed to forever feel we aren’t good enough.

      Keeping my fingers crossed for you and I look forward to seeing a similar post from you!🙂


      1. Ah, thanks🙂 I quite like reading that some of the best-sellers still feel like this when they start a new book – it makes me realise it’s normal to feel this way lol. It means we’re always trying to improve. Good luck!


  10. Best of luck with the submission! Just keep writing regardless of what they say about the book – it’s great practice and will come in very handy if they ask ‘where’s the next one?’


  11. You nailed it with ‘keep writing’ Rebecca. I’ve gone further, and begun my next novel while my reading team looks at the first draft of my current WIP. Keep writing…that’s what we do.


  12. I agree with the “keep writing,” but I know it’s easier said than done. I am the queen of letting all those insecure thoughts wreak havoc on my writing. I hope you get great news on your submission soon!


  13. That’s a really hard one, but think working on book 2 is the right decision. Stay confident and positive, you can do this. Best of luck with the submission x


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