Saturday, February 12, 2011

Waiting is the hardest part...

I was going to finish up a new story tonight, however I ended up submitting a couple of short stories for consideration instead. It's all part of that office work that writers are not immune to (and boy, do I love it!).

It gave me the chance to look at my spreadsheet of stories to see which stories I'm waiting to hear about. I can be a bit of an obsessive email checker...and owning an iPhone certainly doesn't help! Yet, the email address I use solely for my writing projects hasn't perked up at all (except for a few messages from that poor, deposed Nigerian prince. Will someone PLEASE do something about that? I hear millions of dollars could be yours).

The internet is a terrific tool...and is both the lifeblood and bane of my writing existence. Without terrific sites like Duotrope, I wouldn't know where to submit work. Of course, the other six million writers submitting short stories would be in the same situation. But the internet is the great democratizer; if you have the least bit of know-how and an inkling to write any type of story, you can find a market for it. It is both a blessing and a curse in that it's easy to find places to submit stories, but it also increases competition because others can also easily find those places as well.

I can't speak much of the publishing model before the internet because I was not a writer then. I know that people mailed manuscripts to popular publications with self-addressed stamped envelopes to learn if they got an acceptance or rejection. I'm going to speculate that competition was fierce then, too...but mailing manuscripts also became an expensive proposition. I know I would have a hard time printing out copies of my work, paying for postage on SASE's, and then paying postage to send the manuscript somewhere.

This is where the internet has become such a boon for writers. We can now easily and cheaply send our stories and expect a fairly prompt reply. But someone still has to read that story. Someone has to determine if it is of worthy quality. Someone has to write the author back to say "um, no" or "wow, yes!" And now, as submissions become easier to send, I'm betting editors are drowning in a pool of submissions.

Right now, I'm waiting to hear back on eight different projects (it's really ten, but I just sent out two of them today and to expect instant replies for those stories is a ridiculous thought). I wrote a couple of those stories specifically for certain publications...which means those stories won't be going anywhere else if they're rejected (well, I could send them to other places, but they'll need some MAJOR tweaking). Several of those stories were sent in December. It is now the middle of February and I'm still playing the waiting game.

This isn't a complaint; it's a reality. In addition, I tend to hit submission deadlines way earlier (it goes back to high school and college when an instructor would assign a project and I'd get it finished weeks in advance). For instance, some of those deadlines won't hit until March. That means acceptances/rejections won't go out until March...and probably not until April, when editors are assembling their table of contents. So, when you send a story in December or January, you're going to have to wait. Like me.

When you produce something you believe to be of high quality, you want to know if it'll make the cut. You hope for feedback--positive or negative--as soon as you can get it. That's where things like Twitter and Facebook and email fail us...we get so used to INSTANT FEEDBACK that we forget there are dozens or hundreds of stories that someone has to read and then reply to. It's a case where the instant nature of the internet is deceptive because we often forget the human factor involved.

Knowing that still doesn't make the waiting part any easier.