Ways for Neurotic Writers to Torture Themselves – Possibly a Rant

If you are a writer submitting your work around, you know the ol’ waiting game is torturous. You know the drill: spend a few buckets of blood on a new story, then chew off all your fingernails as you edit the thing, re-edit it, then go back to the way it was two edits ago, then re-edit again. You know – just for fun.

After a while, you get confused. Is the story better the way it was 3 versions ago, or if you combine the ending from 2 versions ago with the beginning from 5 versions ago would the characters seem more developed? 7 versions ago the sentence structure seemed tighter, but this last version it seems looser. But which is better?

Of course, once you completely and utterly HATE the story, you know it’s ready to be sent out to editors who you expect will hate it equally as much as you do. You gird your loins and go out to Duotrope to find places where you think the story might possibly get massacred, or maybe the editors will just slit its throat quietly in a dark alleyway (uh-oh, I’ve been reading too many Court Merrigan stories, sorry…) or perhaps your story will come back with a terrible virus if the editor is really mean and says something a little encouraging. Oh hell…

THEN you have to look at the story cross-eyed for two weeks and start plucking and reshaping its eyebrows, but before long you’ve shaved half its head into some wierd half-mohawk, and of course you soon realize you have to shave the other half of its head and then it’s not the story you started with at all … but maybe this one is better?

You’re not able to send it back to editor three who was slightly encouraging in their rejection because they didn’t ask for a rewrite, they threw the raw meat back at you and said to filet it a different way and serve it to someone else.

Oh, mother of all parrots.

All of this is actually the norm. No, really, I mean that. It’s pretty much par for the course. At least for me it is.

But lately, I’ve come up with new and daring ways to torture myself all on my own without the assistance of an editor.

If you’ve gotten this far, you writers who are addicted to the masochistic tendancies we all share, for god’s sake please look away now. Don’t read what I’m about to say, because it’s a great way to make yourself crazy.

(Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

So just for fun I go to my list of submissions and look at submissions that are more than four weeks old. I start at the bottom, which means a submission labeled #1 – the item that has been waiting longest for response.

Then I go back to Duotrope and see what is the average number of days to acceptance or rejection. Then I go back to the list, as if it was my very own personal crystal ball, and figure out if I should have heard back yet.

If I’m overdue for a response, I send a polite inquiry to find out if, maybe, perhaps, the editors have been fighting amongst themselves whether or not to accept my piece or a piece by Jhumpa Lahiri. (Hey, this is my blog and my fantasy so back off, M-kay?)

Now here comes the maddening part. Sometimes, the staff will write me back with a cryptic one or two sentence note saying, yeah we’ve still got your story hostage over here, we’ve tied it up in the backroom and we’ve water-boarded it repeatedly and its not talking. We’re moving on to the pliers and fingers next. In other words, we haven’t made up our minds and we’ll let you know when we do.

In the world of neurotic writers, and by “the world” I mean me obsessively checking email 100 times a day, getting this “your story is still under consideration” note is not enough to do a happy dance, because it’s not an acceptance, and yet, YET, it’s not an out and out rejection either.

It would never, ever occur to me that the editor’s dog got bit by a squirrel and they are off at the vet and that’s why I haven’t heard back, or maybe they’re off doing the very mysterious things editors do in their free time (hahaha, I said editors and free time) and not spending their every waking moment thinking about whether or not they’ll accept my story or not. No, in my fantasy life, that’s all they think about.

And since it’s all they’re thinking about – why can’t they Hurry Up and Make a Decision before I gnaw through the cable connecting my laptop to the internet?

Please, writer friends, for the sake of your health: Do Not Try This At Home.


7 Responses

  1. It’s too late! Why didn’t someone warn me years ago! AAAAAHHHH!!!!!

  2. This doth not bode well.

    I just started writing (well, re-writing) my first novel. I am not a patient person. So this sounds like a horrifying experience for me.

    Thank you… I think!

    • Well David, the thing about re-writing is it can be very gratifying. A few years ago I worked with a very close friend of mine and helped him edit the mss of his novel. I enjoyed seeing the material take shape in a way the previous versions hadn’t, and my friend could see how our working together was tightening the material.

      But since you may be new to my blog I’ll just say that I sometimes use exaggeration for effect, especially when I’m trying to be a bit funny. There’s always a core nugget of truth in there, but this post mixes both the truth about how I drive myself crazy, and some … uh … poetic license about just how much I may drive myself crazy.

      Also, you don’t have to go it alone. You can and probably should consider hiring a free lance editor to help you with the editing, once the mss is ready for an editor’s touch. You’ll want to clean it up as much as possible yourself first, to get the most of any editorial time you purchase.

      For the record – I helped my friend without recompense because I adore him and he’s one of my best friends in the entire world. If you have such a writerly friend, you may want to consider asking them for some assistance.

  3. well, this is one way of being neurotic. There are millions of scenarios to get crazy, every writer has some psychologicla issues I guess, the more psychotic the more intense his/her writing, I am talking for creative works not a thesis or a bio.

  4. I chose the self-publishing route years ago. It comes with its own neurotic requirements, but at least I have the illusion of being in control.

    Great post, Carol.

    • Thanks, glad you enjoyed it.

      While getting published in small journals does require a lot of energy, I can say I still find it satisfying. The editors of small press journals are usually very passionate about their editorial vision, and that’s something I admire and enjoy being a (small) part of… even though it also drives me crazy at times!


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