The Waiting Game
By now, you’ve faithfully performed the exercises. You either have five stand-alone short stories, most of a novella, or a good chunk of a novel.
As you revised, you created market lists. You’ve crafted a solid cover letter that entices a potential editor to ask for your story. And, importantly, the letter is written in your own cadence, not in that of a formal stranger.
Yes, it is possible to follow all the protocols of a professional and exciting cover letter and still sound like yourself.
You’ve printed everything out and checked for typos and grammatical errors. You had someone else proof it, too. Very often, your eye and brain will adjust a typo-ed word to read as you wish it to, rather than as it actually appears on the page. You know what it’s supposed to say, but the page still has the error. It’s important to send as clean a copy as you can out. A letter with typos and mis-spellings and grammatical errors does not make a good first impression. Even if the editor does not want this story, you want to start a relationship so you can continue to send material you think the editor might like in the future.
You’ve done all that. You’ve sent all the stories out.
Remember, editors receive hundreds, sometimes thousands of submissions every week. The ones that are unprofessional hit the bin quickly. But, there are many savvy writers competing for a few available story slots. All of the submissions that aren’t instantly dismissed must be read, usually double read, and discussed. The best of those then compete for the few slots available.
It takes time. Even at the highest-paying magazines, there’s not much time in a day to actually read. Editors and readers read as they commute, or late at night, or first thing in the morning. Or they take stacks with them to the park at lunch. They read whenever and wherever they can. They want to find the perfect fit for their slots.
But it takes time.
During that time, you’re sitting there in a frenzy of despair, wondering why you haven’t heard. Resist the impulse to pester. On your submission log, mark how long the guidelines state it will take to receive a response. If two weeks pass beyond that time, then send a friendly note or email, asking for an update. Call only as a last resort.
In the meantime, work on your next piece. Go through the entire process, from idea to writing to revision, and send it out.
A friend of mine does something she calls “13 in Play”. She always has 13 submissions out. That’s what I aspire to do – although I usually have only about six or seven.
By preparing your market list ahead of time, in the event that something does return, you read the comments (if any), check to make sure it’s a clean copy (and run a fresh one if it’s gotten damaged), make appropriate changes in the letter to the next market on the list, address the envelope, put in the contents, log it, mail it, and the piece is out again. It helps you not to fall into a rejection funk.
Persistence is just as important as talent. It may even be more important. You can be the most talented writer in the world. But the writer who works harder and is more persistent is the one who will have the career.