Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How Do I Know My Story Passed Muster?

For the second time this week, I've fielded the same question from two friends who are new to reporting and/or freelancing:

"I sent my story to my editor yesterday and have not heard anything back about it. Should I be worried that it's not good enough?"

OK. Let me say this as simply as I can:

No news is good news.

In other words, it doesn't matter if you're writing for a wire service where the story will be published as soon as possible, or for a magazine where the story won't see the light of day for another two months.

If you don't hear anything from the editor, your story is perfect.

Writers have a difficult time with this.

By our nature and personality, we thrive on positive feedback. Now, you might say to me, "Heidi, most people like positive feedback."

Um. No. Not like we do. Think about it. You get a little zinger every time you see your byline in print, don't you? I mean, I've been in this business for more than 20 years, and I even show my CHILD my byline when I get a magazine in the mail.

We LOVE the recognition we get for a well-written story.

But here's the thing:

Ironically, in an industry where everyone likes to get an atta-girl or atta-boy, those who are in power will not dispense praise.  If your story is stellar, you will NOT hear a peep from an editor.

Your pat on the back is to be published, plain and simple.

That's your reward.

If there's something WRONG with your story ... if the editor doesn't like the way you phrased your lead ... or the way you organized it ... or has a question about a source's quote ....

You WILL hear something IMMEDIATELY.

This also happens to be an industry where NEGATIVE feedback is rife. I can't explain it, I don't understand it, I hate it as much as you do, but this is the cold, hard reality. You will ALWAYS get wrist-slapped within seconds from an editor reading your beautiful prose if something is amiss.

So I want you to do one thing for me:

The next time you send in a story, don't sit by your email account and wait for a message that says, "THIS WAS THE MOST AMAZING STORY I'VE READ IN MY ENTIRE CAREER OF EDITING! YOU ARE A GENIUS! I LOVE YOU! WRITE FOR ME AGAIN! PLEASE PLEASE DON'T WRITE FOR ANYONE ELSE!"

Not going to happen.


Send your story, stop biting your nails and just know that when that magazine comes in the mail and you see your byline on an untouched story ... you did exceptionally well.

Reward yourself with that glass of wine, that bite of Godiva, that succulent bubble bath, that new pair of shoes ... however you wish.

Because the only person you're going to hear praise from ... is yourself.

Be confident that you did a good job and thank your stars that you didn't hear a peep from the editor until your eyes rested on your name in print.

If you really want to be lavished upon ... get a dog.

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