Does the Early Bird Catch the Editor? By Janet Hartman

When competing with other writers against a call for submissions deadline, I wondered what was the best strategy. Submit early to get in the queue so by the end I’m an old favorite, or submit close to the deadline so my manuscript is fresh in their minds?

I tried to submit early, but I usually delayed in case further tweaking might improve my piece. I scrambled as a deadline loomed, trying for perfection. With two months to prepare a 1,000-word essay, I spent so much time researching that I submitted one day before the deadline. Convinced the final selection had probably been made, I cursed myself. But the muse smiled and my essay was selected.

Although tempted to use this success to justify procrastination, I knew I had to change. My nerves couldn’t take much more. Then I had an experience that confirmed the right strategy.

I learned about a call for submissions close to the deadline, but with a 300-word limit, I e-mailed my essay five days early. The next morning, the editor replied that she liked the beginning but suggested “fleshing out” the end and adding more emotion. As it stood, she would reject it, but she invited me to resubmit.

I submitted a revised manuscript the next day, thanking her for giving me a second chance. The e-mail reply arrived within hours: she much preferred the new version, and she thanked me for resubmitting.

Ultimately, my essay was selected. In a contest, coaching from the editor would not be kosher, but if it’s a call for submissions, I now know it pays to submit early.

Avoiding the last minute rush, I’m less likely to make mistakes.

If my first shot misses, I may get a second chance for a winner. Editors seldom take time to advise writers on improving their work. When one does, I show him or her the time was well spent by revising and resubmitting. I prove that I’m flexible and value professional advice. The extra effort often turns into a win/win for both of us.

Freelance writer Janet Hartman has published many articles based on her experiences living and traveling aboard a sailboat on the East Coast. Now back on land, she also addresses non-aquatic subjects in both fiction and nonfiction. One of her essays appears in the 2008 anthology, “Making Notes: Music of the Carolinas”. Carteret Writers recently elected her their new president. Visit her at: