Friday, April 1, 2011

What We're Thinking: Writers Need Dates

Yep, writers need dates.

Not those kinds of dates.  I mean that we need to have some specific notion of when a reader is going to read our material and reply.  This applies to agents, editors, literary managers, artistic directors (and even friends/colleagues).  If a reader gets a script submission from a writer, that person can contribute to the increase in the world's net sanity by taking the time to send a simple e-mail that says, "Thanks for sending your play/novel/screenplay.  I'll get back to you in about ___ months."

Sure it's a pain, but please, please, please do it.

Because here's what we're thinking:

(timeline after submission--hours, minutes, seconds)

0:00.00   I did it.  Finally got that script out.  This could be my big break.

0:00.01    Did that really go through?

0:00.02   Did I spellcheck it before I sent it?  I didn't.  There's going to be a typo.  If there's a typo, that's an automatic rejection.  I'm such an idiot.

0:00.05  I wonder if she got it?  She's probably in a meeting.

0:00.10   I should eat some ice cream to celebrate.

0:02.00   I wonder if she got it.  I'll check my email.  Maybe she'll call instead.  Is my phone on? 

0:10.00    Maybe she didn't get it.  I could resend it.  But I'll seem like a pain in the ass.  Should I e-mail to see if she got it?  It's only been ten minutes, maybe she's not a compulsive e-mail checker (unlike some people).

0:13.00    I can't believe I just ate a whole pint of ice cream.  There's a maximum number of calories your body can digest in a single sitting , right?

1:00.00   Thank god for You Tube.

1:05.00    And Facebook.

1:17.00    And Twitter

1:35.00   #$%^& Angry Birds!  (I should be writing a new piece, but I can't stop wondering--did she get it.)

4:03.00   She got it. Just hasn't had a chance to open it yet.

4:03.10   She read the first page and hated it.  She'll never read another word.  She's just trying to figure out how to let me down easy.

4:03.25   She just hasn't checked her e-mail.  Bullshit, it's been four hours, three minutes, twenty-five seconds.  She checked her e-mail.  No one goes more than four hours without checking e-mail.  If it went through, she got it.  She's just busy.  Too busy for a hack like me.  Jeez, negativity.  My career is over before it even started.  Patience.

1 day   She must have gotten it.  She's just busy.  She'll get to it.

2 days   She spends half her life in meetings.  She just needs to find the time.

1 week    Just forget it.  Busy.  They're busy.  She hasn't had time to dig into the pile.

2 weeks   She didn't get it.

2 weeks, 1 day    She hated it.  I'm a terrible, no-talent loser.  She's just trying to find a nice way to tell me.

2 weeks, 1 day, 2 minutes    She's a demon from hell, determined to crush my spirit.  I won't be crushed.  I won't give in to despair.  But a drink wouldn't hurt.

2 weeks, 1 day, 45 minutes   Who knew there were so many shots in one bottle?  I could probably calculate how many.  Or could have before I drank quite this much.

2 weeks, 1 day, 3 hours   Orrrr thissh mushh.  Yer fnny looking.

1 month, 3 days    I wonder that it's really like to be a plumber.  It can't be all that bad, can it?

1 month, 5 day  Maybe I should follow up.  With an e-mail.  Or a phone call.  They say to never call.  I'll email.   "Did you get it?"  "Will you ever read it?"  "Do you hate me?"  "Was it really that bad?"

2 months   She detests my work.  I should submit to a bunch of other places.  Who will never respond.  The writing was so bad, she puked.

2 months, 2 minutes   She's a blind pig.

2 months, 2 minutes, 10 seconds    I'm a horrible person.  She's lovely.  Overworked.  Heading in a different direction.  Not interested in my work.  Who would be?  Why am I even wasting anyone's time?  My parents were right.  Even the cat doesn't want to sit on this manuscript, that's how bad it is.  Maybe I'll e-mail her.  Or call her.  Or e-mail her every five minutes, until I get an answer.

3 months  The phone will ring today, and she'll say she wants to represent it/buy it/produce it.

3 months, 1 day    She never got it.  She got it, but she'd rather work with some hack from NYU/Harvard/Julliard.

And, so on, indefinitely.  Until you answer, or the writer is hit by a bus, or dies of old age.

I don't mind rejections, but I can't stand silence and inaction.  Over the past few years, the response rate back on script submissions to theatres has risen over 40%.   The response rate to queries to literary agents for books has been about the same.  (As far as I can tell, literary agents for plays never respond.)

If a theatre/agent/editor doesn't have the time or resources to respond to submissions, then maybe he or she should stop taking submissions for a while.  Otherwise, the whole business, whether it's fiction or theatre, starts grinding people down in a way that isn't helpful or healthy for anyone.

Often, writers feel lonely, ignored, and worthless.  Some of that is unavoidable, and maybe even inspirational.  But there's no point in feeding desperation and despair and creating a poisonous cloud that enshrouds all of us.

Writers need dates, from readers.  We'll be as patient as you need us to be, but we just need a little help.


Michelle Underwood said...

Wowza. That's stressful. If you live this every day, it's probably worth the $40 on a service like That should at least save you from one or two bottles of whisky, eh?

scriberess said...

Yup... As a as yet un-produced playwright waiting for my work to be discovered, I hear 'ya! I too wrote a similar tale-of-angst kvetching about the same thing. In all fairness, though, there are theatres - few and far between - that do take the time to respond with their rejections. One theatre (the one I wrote a blog about) even read the play and commented on the story line and characters. These theatres make up for all the others who don't respond. Hang in there!

Ian Thal said...

Where it gets really frustrating is when the theatre actually solicits the script from you, but doesn't bother to acknowledge receipt when you send them the script that they requested-- and then you get to a point where a full year has gone by since they asked for the script and you still haven't even heard a peep from them.

Patrick Gabridge said...

I definitely know what you mean, Ian. I'm overdue on a follow-up binge, where I do follow ups on all scripts that have been out for more than 6-12 months.

Ian Thal said...

I sort of don't mind so much if I submit an unsolicited script if I don't hear back from them-- it's when they ask me personally for the script and take their time, because when they solicit I'm at least interpreting it their having said that I am of interest to them.