Submission Paralysis?

I’m not really a new writer, but with my break in service I get to do a bit of an imitation of one.

With the announcement that Asimov’s is accepting electronic submissions, I thought it might be worthwhile to talk about the current state of the submittal game things today vs. where it was a little bit further back in time. I figure my position as a pseudo-newbie gives me a somewhat unique perspective on this situation, and because there are absolutely zero other benefits that I can see to my “status” I figure I ought to run with this one as far as I can.

I’m talking E-Submission tools–you know, things like Doutrope, or like the automated system that Clarkesworld and several others use (and now Asimov’s will use). These tools let writers watch the editorial process work at some reasonable level of detail. As far as that goes, these tools are all good.

But, there’s this dark side, too.

In the old days when all hills went uphill both ways, you dropped a story in an envelope and then, as far as you were concerned, you could forget about it for about 90 days. At that point you could start to wonder a bit, but a bunch of places took six months so you really didn’t even worry much about it until then. This process could occasionally suck vacuum when one was particularly antsy about a story, but it had the positive of being totally separated from your life, totally out of your control. In other words, a new writer literally had nothing left to do regarding any piece of work he or she kicked out the door. Dropping it at the post was an emotional trigger to just let things go and get your backside to work on your next masterpiece.

That’s no longer the case.

Even when you send a story to Analog or F&SF (or On Spec or a few others), you can still head to Doutrope to see how the pile is moving. And if you send a piece to a more with-it group like Strange Horizons or Clarkesworld, you can watch the submission count drop until you know about when your baby is being judged.

So, that’s pretty cool.



I’m not sure this information is really that valuable–and in fact, I admit to thinking I could do with less information. It’s really just entertainment, isn’t it? And in the end, it’s really just another time sink.

This is bad.

I mean, do I really need another thing to obsess about? Isn’t it enough that I already feel a need to check email or Facebook a couple bazillion times a day? Do I really need the ability to follow-up on the 15-20 markets that have my work? Because you know danged well that if I can, I’m going to have to at least take a peek. This is short-fiction-writer crack as far as I’m concerned. I could no more ignore these tools than I could pretend I wasn’t aware of it if you put a brownie up on my kitchen counter.

Brownies are very important, you know?

But, Ron, I hear you say. You are in charge of you. You are an adult, and you can decide how to spend your time.

To that I say: where the hell did you get that idea?

Sure, I’ve seen a few years. Sure, I manage corporate programs and budgets more than a bit larger than than the average check that 3-5 cents a word will ever get me. So what?

I am also a writer, hence equal parts insanely curious and insecure. I can take any sign and turn it into something that comments on my personal situation. I mean, like, remember the big deal on paperclips? I never bought into such fiddle-de-dee in public in the old days, but hey, there are superstitions and there are superstitions. In weak moments–which is more often than I like to admit–I can be made to play rejectomancy with the best of them.

So, there.

Modern tools are downright dangerous.


Okay, the truth is that these tools do make life as a newish writer trying to break in quite a bit easier. That is true. And in a lot of ways I admit to being jealous of new folks coming into the field today.

After all, jealousy is another trait of writers, too, right?

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