where the writers are
You Might Be a Writer If...

In these trying economic times, we all need a little lift now and again, a little ray of hope on the horizon. And we all try our best to keep it together, to cut back, to stretch the almighty dollar or yen or denomination of your choice just a little further. Some of us even resort to games of chance to improve our lot. I hear the lottery is doing well everywhere. I used to play, when I was a very poor graduate student. I even won something like 64 DM one time. It amounted to roughly $32. A lot of money back in the day.

Writers have their own twist on games of chance to improve their fortune.

You might be a writer if...your version of the lottery is submitting manuscripts to publishers.

You're smiling, aren't you? But think about it, sending off to publishers really is like playing the lottery. Honest. I'll show you.

Let's take the entry fee. Minimal. For a lottery ticket, a couple of bucks. For a submission, 44 cents. Even less than the cost of a lottery ticket! (Which is good because we writers are a poor lot. Poorer than the average lottery player, I'd wager.)

A lottery player lingers long over the numbers, trying to discern which ones might be the winning power ball combination, just like a writer lingers over phrases and plots, trying to create a winning combination that will win the heart of an editor.

Playing leaves you feeling good, happy even. Even if you don't win, if you get the dreaded form rejection letter, for a brief moment, there is that indescribable high that playing brings. That full body rush that zings and sizzles all the way to the tips of your hair when you hand in that lottery ticket or drop the submission envelope into the mail.

While both are games of luck - getting your numbers pulled vs. finding an editor who resonates with your work - you can actually stack the deck in your favor with editors via...you guessed it, good writing. No matter how perfectly you fill in those little round circles on power ball, it's still all up to the gods of chance whether you'll win or not.

Nevertheless, regardless of which game you're playing, there are minuscule chances of winning. Take heart, though, fellow writers. Getting your manuscript pulled from a slush pile, read and then accepted (can you see the looming mountain?) still has a higher likelihood than winning the regular lottery in any state or country. Far fewer people play the publishing lottery.

Be forewarned all you lottery players out there. Playing the publishing lottery isn't for the faint of heart. It takes courage, a certain level of willingness to inflict self pain (via rejection), and the stamina to get up and play all over again.

Still, whether you're putting your money on words or numbers, one universal stands true: hope springs eternal. Next time, you might just win.