I currently have two novels and six stories submitted to various contests, publishers, and agents all over the place. Some of them are on their second or third rounds of editorial review, some of them have been in the slush pile for nearing four or five months now. I just finished and sent off another story today (to Clarkesworld, which gives lightning quick responses, so they aren’t really part of this conversation). I always have my line in the water, waiting to catch the big one.
In keeping tabs on my submissions, I often stumble across folks writing comments on discussion boards or whatever exclaiming their overriding impatience to hear news, either bad or good. Their nerves are getting the better of them, they say, and they just need to hear, no matter what. I commiserate.
I also feel, though, that these folks need to move past such feelings if they’re expecting to make a habit of this writing thing. Writing, more than any other factor, seems to take time. You need the time to write, you need even more time to revise, you need time to accept rejection, and time to await acceptance. There is a lot of waiting, and there is nothing you can do about it (unless, of course, you simply want to publish it yourself, but I gather that, if you do it right, self-publishing should also involve a lot of time).
I long ago resigned myself to the fact that my road to success would not be short. It would require consistent, constant pressure on my part to cajole the catatonic publishing world to recognize my existence. I think of my writing as a process similar to that of glacial drift – slow but inexorable. I will always keep writing. I’m not doing this for money, I’m not doing it for fame (though either of those would be nice, I guess). I’m writing because I always have been, I always will be, and I simply don’t know who I am if I don’t. Even if I never publish another word professionally, I’ll keep doing this. And, since I’m doing this, I may as well submit stuff all the time. Sooner or later, some nice person (or sucker, depending on what you think of my talent) will pay me some modest sum and put my words in print.
Be the glacier, my friends. Always submit, always apply, always attempt. Start at the top markets, work your way down. If you got a story that falls out the bottom, then publish it yourself. Keep writing. Keep that line in the water.
You only fail if you stop.