The first writing I ever had published was a short story in Children's Digest Magazine.
I submitted it on April 8, 1986.
On May 12, 1986, they wrote to me saying: We have decided to hold it for possible publication.
Oh, happy dance!
One year later (April 3, 1987, to be exact), I wrote to them: Please advise if you have reached a decision regarding this story.
They wrote me back: We realize that your material has been in our possession for quite some time. However, we feel that it is good and we would like to continue to hold it for possible future publication.
A somewhat less enthusiastic happy dance...
They accepted that story for publication in January of 1989.
They paid upon publication: April 1989.
Three years after submitting that story, I received $80 (8 cents per word).
So, to anyone new to the writing world - young, dumb, old, smart - I offer this nugget of advice:
Make sure you know your contract wording and understand - and accept - the difference between "pay upon acceptance" and "pay upon publication."
If your mortgage company really needs that loan payment now and simply cannot wait three years, well, I'd recommend passing on the "pay upon publication" contract.