Let's face it. Writing involves a lot of waiting. We wish we could hurry up parts of the process, since it took so long to actually write the book. Yet we face waiting for critique group feedback, beta readers, contest results, agent and then editor responses.
It's almost enough to make a writer give up. The dreams of rapid publication vanish like the mist they are. Writers wonder if they should even bother starting another book if they can't interest anyone in the first.
But it's good for each of us to hear a dose of reality. That first books are rarely sold first, if at all. That writers ought to have a "practice" book in the drawer before trying for publication. That at least five years will pass from the moment we really imagined we might become published writers.
Why? Because with reality, comes the decision. Work hard, or give up. And years of waiting is the fertile soil for the hard work of becoming a published writer. Yes, you could sit back and wait passively for someone to recognize the genius of your writing. Or, you can wait actively, improving your writing to the point that the wheels of publication begin to turn in your direction.
Start your next project. Novel, article, short story--it doesn't matter. Start something. Don't be content to rest on the project you've completed, even if you believe it's your best. And if you're worried you don't have what it takes, keep writing anyway. It's the only way to get better. Remember, writing can be learned. They say it takes a million words to become an accomplished writer. How far are you to finishing a million?
Pull out a book. Make it a habit to always have a writing book that you're working through. Leave it on the nightstand, or in the bathroom (for busy moms). Even reading just a page or so a day will help to strengthen your writing. Tackling a few of these books a year is like going to a writing conference. If you need some suggestions, I've got a few.
Find a group. Whether you try an online group, or one that's in-person, joining a critique group is one of the best ways to become a stronger writer. You'll learn to write better from the feedback of others, but giving critique will teach you even more. Not every group will be perfect for you, so try some out before you settle in.
Consider a conference. I can't tell you how much I've learned from each of the conferences I've attended. Learning, in person, from agents, editors, and authors is inspiring, but so is being part of a large group of writers who have the same mindset. Save up, apply for scholarships, and go. There are some free online conferences (check here and here), but if you can manage a live one, go for it.
How many of these are you doing right now? Is there a way you're waiting actively that I haven't listed?