25 November 2009

A story's trip through the Clarkesworld submissions queue.

On a dream-like "what if?" hope, tempered with "since they are so responsive, at least I'll be able to submit it somewhere else when they reject me, but still: what if?" I finally submitted a ruthlessly-pared-down-from-5000-to-under-4000-words story (the paring down alone took a month to get to a place which made me somewhat happy) to Clarkesworld on Tuesday morning, and found that my story was #27 in the queue. Before leaving for lunch, it was #25, and I already felt the sense of approaching doom. You can actually watch the clock tick down to your story's death; it's an interesting feeling.

Back from lunch, and my story was already #23.

Do not click reload every ten minutes. Do not click reload every ten minutes.

By the end of the afternoon my story was still at #23. What happened to my impending doom?

I tried not to imagine what it would be like to be able to tell my friends, "I can hardly believe it, but Clarkesworld accepted my story! Yes, way!" But it was no use. It's one of those places I've long felt that I would be able to say that I'd written a damned good story if they liked it.

I checked again after dinner; #18. OHMYGOD.

I checked again after putting the kids to bed. #18.

I checked again right before going to bed myself. #18. Had I fallen into an alternate universe? Was that universe trying to tell me something important about #18? Lottery tickets? An address to avoid?

I checked again first thing in the morning: #18. Meanwhile Pseudopod had let me know they weren't interested in a different story. Ah well. I still have those first two acceptances and a few more hopeful stories, right? After seeing the kids off to school I had to check Clarkesworld again: #18.

I managed to avoid checking again for over an hour and a half. Taking a quick break to make some tea at work: #14! OHMYGOD. It's moving again. And it's at the precise midpoint of its ill-fated journey; a rickety roller coaster car having ratcheted its way to the summit of the first hill, awaiting gravity's inevitable and relentless pull. Fare thee well on the leeward side, fair story, and check your safety harness.

Stopping for lunch, I couldn't help taking another peek: #14. On a lark, between bites of leftover pizza, another peek: #13! The free fall has begun. Half an hour later and I saw that my story was at #9. Maybe by tonight? Or maybe by the morning? Do these crazy folks work on Thanksgiving?

In the early afternoon I was called to pick up my daughter, who has developed a fever just in time for Thanksgiving. One last check before heading out the door: #9.

A pre-dinner check: #9. A post-dinner check: #9. Pseudopod already let me know they weren't interested in my next try there, either.

After the kids got to bed? #9. Maybe the news will be the first thing to greet me on Thanksgiving morning? I need to get one of those color-coded info globes hooked up for this. It can start out as Purple, move through Indigo to Blue, onto Green, Yellow, and hold on Orange until finally turning Red at the end. (Just in case, rig up a "Psychedelic" color pattern for the alternative case?)

Before heading up to bed, one last check. (Sure, right. Like I won't check from bed before falling asleep.) #7. Oh boy.

A half hour later, the e-mail arrives:

Dear Samuel,
Thank you for the opportunity to read your story. Unfortunately, your story isn't quite what we're looking for right now. Each month, we receive hundreds of submissions and while I may like many of them, I can only publish twelve of them per year.
In the past, we've provided detailed feedback on our rejections, but I'm afraid that due to time considerations, we're no longer able to offer that service. I appreciate your interest in Clarkesworld Magazine and hope that you'll keep us in mind in the future.
Take care,
Neil Clarke
Ah well. Now I can uncompress the story and undo many of the cuts and slices which helped it sneak (barely) under 4000 words, as nearly every single friend and colleague who has been gracious enough to read the story has demanded; let it breathe a little and stretch back into its frame at about another thousand words or two. Stories don't die, they just find another home, right?



sfrank said...

Hope your story makes it! At least you're getting it out there. I've been sitting on my novel and tinkering forever. Next month is my personal drop dead date to send it out to get an agent. Wish me luck. SB Frank @fanlitfrankly. PS - Thx for the mention.

montsamu said...

Thanks, and good luck! I've 0 for 3 on submissions to agents (children's book manuscripts) but I'll keep writing and trying.