So, you’ve submitted a short story to a literary journal or a screenplay to a film company, and now you have to cope with the deafening silence. Waiting is perhaps the most difficult aspect of the process. If your work is accepted, that’s great. If you receive a rejection, you can send it to another editor or producer. It’s the time between the submission and the response that’s incredibly frustrating.
Before you submit any material, check the Submission Guidelines, because it usually tells you how long it should take to receive a reply and how long to wait before sending a follow-up inquiry. Reading the Submission Guidelines may seem like a no-brainer, but when you’ve just finished a writing project, you may be tempted to “just get it out there.” I’ve done it before, and it’s embarrassing when you realize that you haven’t formatted the file as requested by the editor, and perhaps lost an opportunity because of your impatience.
What if there are no guidelines regarding how long you’ll have to wait, after submitting material? One option is to e-mail the editor and just ask how long the normal wait times are, and how long you should wait to inquire about your submission. If the wait times aren’t listed, I usually wait three months before sending a follow-up for literary journals, or six months if I’ve submitted a screenplay to a film company.
My experience with literary journals, anthologies, and magazines is that you always get a reply. You may wait longer that you originally expected, but you will receive an answer. That isn’t the case with film companies.
Some film companies say they’re willing to read one of my screenplays, but six months later, won’t acknowledge my e-mails. It might be a legal issue, if they’re working on a project that bears some similarity to my screenplay. One producer states clearly on his website that he can’t accept screenplays directly from writers, because he has been threatened with lawsuits, for supposedly stealing intellectual property.
Waiting can be frustrating, but don’t let it discourage you to the point where you stop writing. Consider this reason for why you should continue writing: There are 7.7 billion people on the face of this planet, but you are the only one who can write with your voice, your passion. Keep the words flowing….
Note: I recently had an essay published in an anthology; Writing Better Fiction: Craft Tips From Some of Canada’s Best Writers and Editors. It was edited by Brent Nichols and was released at When Words Collide in August 2019.