I thought, having lived for decades as a consciously identified feminist, that I was aware of most gender differences. And, having written for years I’ve thought–when I gave the subject of gender differences in writing my attention–that I was aware of how differences between men and women play out in our writing lives.
Well, I stand corrected.
I’ve recently become aware (thanks to writer Jan English Leary for sharing this article on social media) that women writers, according to some, respond to editorial suggestions on submitted manuscripts in ways that are problematically different from their male peers.
In “Submit More Like A Man: How Women Writers Can Become More Successful”, Kelli Agodon, former co-editor in chief of Crab Creek Review (https://medium.com/@kelliagodon/submit-like-a-man-how-women-writers-can-become-more-successful-9031ffc6043a) states:
“If an editor of our press rejected work from a male writer, but wrote something like, “This came close. We’d like to see more of your work, please send us more poems” on the rejection note — we would usually receive another submission from the male writer within the same month and sometimes even within a few days after he received his rejection.
When we sent this same note to a woman writer, she might resubmit her work in 3–6 months, but more likely, we would not hear from her until over six months to a year later. Sometimes, she will not resubmit at all.”
I, sadly, can relate to this.
A year ago I received an encouraging note from the editor in chief of a highly-respected literary magazine praising a story I had submitted and making suggestions for its improvement. I decided to resubmit the story to the magazine after altering it in the recommended ways. I also felt determined to take my time in making the changes, in order to do “a good job” with them.
This I did and, while doing so, had fun, learned new things about my story, and produced, I thought, a better story.
It did occur to me while laboring on the changes–in the midst of doing other submissions, and working on revisions of another story, and developing new material–that perhaps I was taking too long getting the story back to the magazine. My rational mind countered this concern with the response of “Why would it be too long? Surely he (the editor) will recall his note to me.”
Unfortunately, after resubmitting the story a little more than five months after receiving the initial, enthusiastic rejection, it was rejected again. And this time, I again received a praise-filled note, but a note that was signed not by the editor in chief, but by “The Editors”.
There is no way, of course, I can know. But based on K. Agodon’s article, I now think that any number of things can happen when writers linger too long in response to positive overtures from editors.
We can, simply, be forgotten, our earlier manuscript relegated to dusty corners of the minds of editors too fatigued and deluged with new writing to possibly recall a story read months earlier.
But, also, when we wait we send our revised manuscripts, or our new work, to what might be a changed group of readers, with different sensibilities. Staff at literary magazines changes, sometimes rapidly. The work is heavy, the pay modest, and much of the staff often quite young.
Even if staff is unchanged, the current needs of the magazine might well be different from what it was just months earlier. Writers scoff at the oft used phrase: “We are sorry, but your work does not meet our needs.” But the reality is that the editors and creators of magazines are putting out a product, and each issue does vary and editorial needs do change.
Last, I don’t think it is farfetched to speculate that the response of an editor to a manuscript–the same manuscript–might change, over just a couple months. Editors, like all readers, must vary in their responses to the written word, even the same written words. A manuscript that delights one summer afternoon in August might just fall flat months later when read in a December rain.
Moral of story?
Writers, should you be so fortunate to receive positive feedback from an editor asking either to see more of your work, or a piece of work altered, do not delay! Get the manuscript revised, pronto! Get out the new work, ASAP! Move this task to the top of your to-do list, and do not allow doubts, baseless worry, or compulsive fussing to create delay. Editors do not throw these encouraging words around for no reason.
Women writers, we especially need to be attuned to our levels of heightened perfectionism and care when submitting. This is not to say that there are not some male writers who sweat every comma, and a handful of female writers who let it all hang out, and just send it in, wrinkles, scratch-outs, and all. I, however, am acquainted with few. There is a time for fine-tuning our writing, a time to hold back, to ponder its quality and meaning, attempting to deepen it, strengthen it.
But when an editor says “I like this, send more”, that is the time to take the editor’s words at face value, and to send more.
Let me revise that: Happy speedy submitting!