no matter what stage you're at in this process, there are always things you should be doing.
here are four:
1. READ BLOGS
blogs are the gold mine of the internet. i learned about 100% of what i know about publishing from the internet. (danger danger: you must, of course, be wary of what you read! find blogs that are known and respected -- blogs that win awards for content and are generally agreed upon as the best publishing blogs in the industry -- i'm talking about Nathan Bransford, Janet Reid, Rachelle Gardner, Miss Snark, Pimp My Novel, Guide to Literary Agents, GalleyCat, Writer Beware, Alan Rinzler, and 101 MORE of some of the best sites on the web.) i read blogs before i had a clue, i read them while i was still figuring things out, and i read them now, every day, every single day, long after i started this process. good blogs will keep you on your toes and apprised of current events, changes in the economic climate, breaking news with regard to bookstores, authors, agents and editors. if you want to know the world you're working in, you have to keep yourself informed. all the time.
2. READ NEW RELEASES
not just books. not just any books. but the new releases in your genre. you have to know what's selling, what's working, what's doing well in the market. read everything! but don't forget to read lots of new releases, too. they'll give you a good idea of how trends are working and what readers are responding to. it's also interesting to study publicity, marketing, to see how much the industry has shifted in these new-fangled electronic days and how much social media is making a difference in how we connect with readers. things are changing, books are changing; new releases will give you a... newer perspective into what's happening on the shelves.
3. CONNECT WITH ASPIRING WRITERS
as you progress in this industry, you'll tend to meet and connect with other writers who've, more or less, achieved the same sort milestones you have. and this is good. it's always good. but i think it's also very important to never lose touch with those who are still new to the journey, still plugging along, still drafting, editing, preparing to query, or sitting tight in the query trenches, helmets strapped to their heads as shrapnel falls from the sky. don't lose sight of where you came from and how long this journey was, is, will continue to be. there are so many talented writers (agented or unagented, published or unpublished) that we can learn from and build relationships with. don't burn any bridges. don't isolate yourself from others just because you've managed to climb another rung on this ladder. we're all here to support each other and we can't afford to lose that.
4. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE
no, seriously. being a writer makes it too easy to get caught up in an endless cycle of writing, reading, editing, reading, editing, reading, writing, tooting, myfacing, spacebooking and emailing. get out of your house. say hello to someone who doesn't live inside of your computer. exercise your eyes in front of natural light. go buy a carton of milk. trip on the sidewalk and blush in front of a friendly stranger or two. go to a coffee shop and hold up the line by asking for a tall half-skinny half-1 percent extra hot split quad shot (two shots decaf, two shots regular) latte with whip. and then smile a lot. twitch a little. wonder if these pants are too tight, too loose, too long on you now, because honestly, you can't remember the last time you wore actual pants made from anything but stretchy cotton. try to make time for the fun things, for social events, for long walks on the beach. it's good to feel an actual breeze every once in a while. really. at least this is what i've heard. i wouldn't know.
i'm clearly still sitting inside of my house.