Thursday, November 24, 2005

Watched Pots: I think a lot of us, when we decided we wanted to be writers, thought of it those terms--we wanted to be writers. We never really stopped to consider what we would spend most of our time actually being, which is people who were struggling to become writers. Which basically consists of typing for a living.

No, that's not true. It basically consists of typing in the hopes of one day having a living, while in the meantime you spend all your real creativity and energy doing something else for a living.

So that's the first reason more people aren't real writers. Because the writing part, no matter how much you love it, is hard.

But then there's the other part. Like writing, some people are better at this part than others. But it's just as vital.

And that's the part where you send the stories out to editors and cross your fingers.

I'm lousy at this part. Absolutely terrible.

I know there are writers out there who can send their stories out and forget about them. They can keep cranking out the fiction day after day while the dozens of stories they've already written float around the markets. The ones that sell, great, and the ones that don't--well, they just pop them in another envelope and try out the next-best-paying-market.

Not me. When I tuck one of my babies in an envelope and send them off, it's like I've got a kid on trial for murder. I can't sleep until I know his fate.

It's not healthy. You have to forget about the stories. It's hard to decide to have more kids if you're still not sure if you screwed up the last bunch.

But I know I'm not alone in this. Otherwise there wouldn't be as many "Response Time Trackers" as there are.

What? Never heard of a response time tracker?

Well, those of us who want to obsess over our submitted stories have found a way to use the internet to pool our resources. See, my own submissions are basically a two-day process. One day I send it, one day I get the response. There's not much tangible there to fret over.

But if all of us send in those two dates, now we've got something we can follow in real time. We can track exactly where each story market is in its reading process. We can get average times for each market, so we know about how long we're going to be waiting. And of course, we can read far more into it than we probably should if we see people getting rejects back who submitted to a market after we did.

My own daily "Doom Loop" through response time trackers includes the one at Speculations, Andrew Burt's much-loved Submitting to the Black Hole, and (If you've got a favorite I missed, feel free to leave it in the comments).

I'm hoping that once I break out of the semi-pro market and make my first solid pro sale that I'll give up this obsession. That at that point, whatever crazy validation I'm pining for will have come to pass and that I can just settle in and write, confident that regardless of what response I get to each story, my status as a pro writer is secure.

And maybe a leopard won't need it's spots any more once somebody says, "Hey! Look! A leopard!"

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