The Submission Cycle: Schrodinger’s Story

Maybe you have one of these.  Something you’ve sent out to the great beyond, and it’s been out there for a while.

Maybe it’s not even a story. Maybe it’s a résumé. Or a request for information. Or a sculpture for a show.

Whatever it is, it’s out there, and you’ve noticed it hasn’t been batted back to you as quickly as those things sometimes are.  In fact, it’s well past the time when you were told to expect a response. This happened to me about a month ago.

With stories (and résumés), it’s not always the case that you get a receipt-confirmation. Sometimes you do.  Sometimes you get a note saying the story is being held over.  That’s always good.

For the others, the ones that go into the ether at the press of a ‘send’ button, there is a point where they enter the realm of Schrodinger’s Story.

Your story (or résumé) is neither dead or alive.  It could be either, or both. It’s quantum.

And you don’t necessarily want to ask after it, because opening the box will have its own results.

So what do you do, when you have one or more of these? Personally, I find myself wondering if I wrote the address wrong, didn’t attach enough postage, or missed a reply.   And I try to forget it, until things have gone so far past the query date, that I open the box and send a polite note checking in with the journal’s editors.  But other times, I just sit and stare at the box.

None of which, I should note, is remotely related to writing.   I should go do that.

Read the other Submission Cycle posts, “The Submission Cycle as Story Trunk,” by Nicole Feldringer, and “Schrodinger’s Slush,” by Kelly Lagor.


  1. I tend to open the box. As soon as possible. If the magazine permits queries at 90 days and Duotrope doesn’t show a steady stream of 100 day responses, I query on the 91st.

    Sure, there may be a dead cat (rejection) inside, but I’ve had plenty of scenarios where I found out the submission or the reply to it had been misplaced, and even shook loose an acceptance once or twice.

  2. I use Duotrope to keep track of my submissions. Once I’ve gone past the farthest accepted date in red (and I’ve checked the publisher’s website for their policies) I write a polite query as to the state of my submission. Then they usually reject my story and I send it someplace new.

  3. I tend to give editors the benefit of the doubt and wait until the response time goes well beyond reason. (Read, I’m desperate to avoid the inevitable rejection, and clinging to hope.) In the mean time, I obsessively check Duotrope, and generally stalk blogs and various other outlets (twitter, etc.) related to the publication I’m waiting to hear back from. When I can’t stand the waiting any longer, I send off a polite query. Authors are never neurotic, why do you ask?

  4. I’m afraid I’m more of a fatalist. If I don’t get an answer by well after the query date, I mark it as “no response” (Duotrope) and move on. There are always other markets. Plus, I tend to get so caught up in submitting and tracking that I forget to do any actual writing…

    • B., you don’t query the sub?

      > Plus, I tend to get so caught up in submitting and tracking that I forget to do any actual writing

      I have no idea what you’re talking about – none. Nope. Can’t fathom it. Not atall. SIGH.

      • I don’t. Of course, if they’ve shown an actual interest, I might query, but those folks usually stay in touch. If they just don’t answer the original submission, I give up on them. Duotrope tells me this has happened relatively rarely (especially if you exclude the New Yorker and Writers of the Future.

  5. A good case for querying… I suffered an attack of paranoia yesterday and fired off a query to a market that’s usually speedy with their responses. They had indeed mis-placed my sub, but now that they found it, they’re holding it for further consideration. Mark one in the Victory for Paranoia column!

  6. I have a spreadsheet for allegedly tracking my submissions. I send stuff out. I mark my spreadsheet appropriately. I close the spreadsheet. The data in meat-memory becomes corrupted. Eventually, I get a response from someone and say, “Huh. I’d forgotten about that story.” Or I don’t get a response, and one day when I’m poking at the spreadsheet, I see a story is out to someone and I’d forgotten, and I think to myself, I should really query them. And then I close the spreadsheet.

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