letter-envelopeHaving stories sitting in virtual slush piles can be frustrating; in fact, it can drive you crazy if you let it. Waiting to hear back from editors can stretch on for what seems like forever. And while you wait, your manuscript is like Schrödinger’s Cat. Is it alive? Is it dead? You have no way to know; until you receive that response, the manuscript is still alive in potentia: it could be sold… but maybe not. Maybe it’s dead (to that market, at least) and you just don’t know it yet.

The best approach is not to think about it. But for so many people — newer writers especially — it’s hard to do.

A wiser, more accomplished author than myself recently tweeted that his wife said he was always, always on the web site The Grinder. I could relate, because at the time, I was checking it far too often myself. The Grinder is wonderful and terrible; it helps you organize your submissions, keeping track of what story is currently awaiting judgment from what market, and it shows you lots of interesting and sometimes helpful information, like when said market last sent out responses, how long their average response time is, and so on. But if you’re at all prone to obsessive thinking, The Grinder is not necessarily your friend. (I had it bookmarked on my toolbar until I realized that having it in plain sight was just feeding my anxiety. The bookmark is now tucked away in a folder where it’s not as obvious.)

So how do you deal with Schrödinger’s manuscript?

For a start, pick your markets carefully. Before you put your cat in that box, do your research. What’s the typical response time for that market? If it’s three months or longer, you want to know that before you submit and be mentally prepared for the wait.

Next, don’t make assumptions based on response time. Just because a market is holding your story longer than normal, that doesn’t mean they’re going to buy it. Don’t start writing your byline or mentally crafting Twitter announcements. Pick out some backup markets and work on new stories.

But don’t assume that cat is dead, either. Those thoughts will only get you down — and you’ll start getting annoyed at the editor for holding on to your manuscript for so long when you could be shopping it someplace else.

Really, it all boils down to keeping your mind off of it. Send it out and forget it; look for new opportunities, new inspiration. Start new stories. Live your life.

I realize that’s easier said than done, but right now, it’s the best strategy I have. If I think of something better, I’ll let you know.

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