Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Writer's Catch 22-An Epic Situation

Writer's face many moments of not knowing what to do. 
One is deciding if the book is ready for 
an agent, editor, or publisher.

Pushing "send" to an editor/publisher/agent is like walking into a room so dark it feels like a wall is in the way. No light seeping into the narrow space whatsoever. If you take a step forward you'll bang your foot. Who knows what all is in the room? 

Was my story really at its best? Or best enough to get noticed?


Ten months ago I met with an agent at a conference. Ten of my fifteen minutes revolved around the pitch I'd prepared. I looked at the agent and wondered what to say in the remaining five minutes. Inside my folder was a sheet of paper with one story idea--only a paragraph long. That's it. The idea literally popped in my head the Sunday before. In all the hurry to get ready, I printed out the paragraph and stuffed it in the folder.

I get rather tongue-tied when speaking to individuals with the power to say yay or nay. A regular Rain Man. This time, I pulled out the paper and set it on the desk facing the agent. "I have this other idea." I didn't give her a chance to read the paper. Words, ideas, excitement burst out my mouth. I gestured with my hands and no doubt with my face.

The agent listened intently. Her face matched the expressions I projected. When I stopped she paused for a second and said, "Write the book."

"Okay, I will," I said.

And I did.

*The story tumbled onto the page like a snowball soaring down a mountainside. At the end of 75,000 words I reread the first pages and thought, "Nope, needs to be in first person."

*I rewrote the manuscript in first person and loved the clarity it brought to the story. Hint  When we change our minds like that, switching third person to first person and vice versa, it involves much more than switching she to I and her to me. Every word needs to be reread to conform the story accurately.

*I submitted each chapter to my ACFW small crit group. Their eagle eyes detected content issues, grammar issues, spacing problems, etc. I addressed every single one, 
  *sometimes deleting the suggested words, 
  *sometimes changing the words to a synonym, and 
  *sometimes choosing to leave the words.

*While waiting for chapters to be crit, I wrote a full-page synopsis and several other short versions, including a twenty-word pitch size, edited them then set those aside.

*I entered this work in two writing contests. The story was a finalist in one!

*Next I submitted each chapter to a college English student. Her age was a special perk because she fit in the upper range of my target reader. I met with her many times discussing issues. What a godsend!

*While she worked on chapters, I edited the synopsis and the short versions again and worked on marketing.

*With the manuscript in pretty good shape, I sent copies to beta readers who were in the range of my target reader. I received corrections and positive feedback.  

*While waiting for more responses, I sent my manuscript to my kindle. This enabled me to see the story in book form. This fresh look helped me see corrections missed by others. 

I realize this seems like a lot. I confess, I am like a newbie with an energy drink in my system.

To me the work was worth it. I really wanted to invest my time into this story because it seemed to be THE ONE that might succeed.

I wrote an email to the agent from the conference and explained all I had done to prove my sincerity. I included chapter one and the synopsis. 

...But I didn't press send. I stared at the screen. 

Suddenly a sense of doubt and fear overwhelmed me. But--I'm a risk taker. 

This didn't make sense. I did chores around the house while the email sat open on my laptop. I only get one chance with this story and this agent. I reread my message and made a few corrections then walked away again. I can't send it yet. There must be more I can do before I let it go!

I talked with my husband, barely sitting on the edge of the sofa, and asked him to pray with me. When he finished with "Amen", he said, "Send it. You've worked on it all this time. It's ready."

I walked back to my laptop and stared at the black screen for several minutes then clicked the space bar to brighten the image. 

I inhaled and wondered what on earth I was doing. Satan pushed his ugly foot in the way and tried to hold me back. But my husband had prayed for me. 

I dragged the cursor over the word send...then pushed.

One of these times I'm going to have the rest of the story for you. Pepper had her first book published. Amy will later this year. Krista and Cara led the pack. Who knows? Maybe...

What questions do you have?
How can we help you?

I can't wait to read your comment(s)!

Photo Courtesy: - modifications made for this purpose

If you found any typos in today's post...sorry about that. 

Mary writes young adult mystery/suspense Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids. She has finaled in several writing contests.

Visit Mary at her website and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter


Unknown said...

Insecurities are the worst! Aren't they? Last year, before sending my proposal to Les Stobbe, as he'd requested at conference, I did the same thing. Had the whole email ready. Couldn't bring myself to click send. I Facebooked: If I don't click send, they can't reject me, right? I think it was Carol Moncado who wrote: If you don't click send, they can't say yes. I went back to Yahoo and sent the message as soon as I read that note. I think that was on a Thursday. On Sunday Les offered to represent me. Praise God! But sometimes it doesn't work that way. Yesterday I sent a chapter for critique. The incredibly talented and influential person on the receiving end loved the chapter, but couldn't see how it lined up with the blurb I'd sent. How do I reply to that? I know it's working because three very good professionals have said so. I want to communicate I haven't lost my mind, since other professionals are getting what I'm doing, but I don't want to come across as a know-it-all who doesn't need further feedback because I'm dying to get her feedback, and I can always use more qualified help. This morning, no message from her--yet. Did I come across as a know-it-all in my attempt to show I was not a waste of her time? Should I have been more careful crafting that email? You can go mad on this ride. But then you can go right back to Amy's post about embarrassing moments and realize that even when we are not our best, God will still get his way when the time is right. If it's our turn to prosper, He will make it happen. When He closes a door, no one can open it. When He opens a door, no one can close it (Revelations 3:7b). Praying for many open doors for you, Mary.

Mary Vee Writer said...

What an awesome comment. Your words were so encouraging.

One thing to add to your excellent advice: sometimes the one who is receiving our email is having a bad day. He/she is reading with bags under their eyes. Bags of sadness, everything going wrong, illness, etc. So the rejection from them is sometimes not what it seems. Unfortunately, the rule still applies. One and only one chance for that submission.

On the other hand, God always has our best in mind. He will inspire the right recipient to say yes. We just have to follow through with the send button, like Carol said.

Thank you so much, Patricia!

Jill Kemerer said...

Mary, I sooo get this!! I have to sit and pray before I hit "send" on my proposals, manuscripts, you name it! I always worry I missed something or could have done it better. But then I remind myself everything I've done to prepare the piece. And I let it go...

Congratulations! I can't wait to hear how everything goes. Your publication story will be fabulous!!

Sarah Bennett said...


Your words encouraged me. I doubted myself deeply after attending a conference earlier in the year. On a whim, I prodded myself to at least enter a few contests, but it wasn't without the nagging feeling that I would fall miserably short. Satan knows my push buttons. It took prayer and faith in the words the Lord had given me. There is such peace in turning it over to the Lord when I submitted the stories. While they are both still in process, I did make it to the semi-finals with one and almost heard the Lord tell me to bide with Him when I received the notification. I have no idea where those stories will go, but I keeping learning, reading, writing and praying!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Totally! I'm always second guessing myself! Still am even the the ms that is going to be published!

Anonymous said...

This was SO inspiring and helpful. Definitely going to need a reread as I polish up my baby to send to a publisher...and I'll have lots to do in the interim before I hear back. Thanks for this

Mary Vee Writer said...

I think you hit the mark exactly. It's so easy to lose sight of all we've done to prepare. God reminds us and deep down, we know what is needed to scrub the manuscript spit polish. As long as we do those things, a particle of dust isn't going to bring a rejection.

Mary Vee Writer said...

I know exactly where you're coming from...and still don't get it. We attend the conferences, receive a boatload of encouragement, advice, and information...then we go home and immediately Satan zaps the zest away. Seriously? Why do we let that happen? I seriously don't know. Let's band together, Sarah, you and I. We'll pray for each other for strength and stamina to flee the discouragement and doubts seeping into our thoughts. K?

Mary Vee Writer said...

Ames...I'm tellin' yah girl. I have read that manuscript. It's fabulous. Stand your ground. Don't lose the joy God put in your heart.

Mary Vee Writer said...

You are so welcome. If, as you work on your submission, you find some insights, be sure to share them, K?

Jodie said...

I was wondering, if an agent asks to see your WIP when it's finished, at what point should you send it? After you get it critiqued? When it's totally ready for submission? When?

Mary Vee Writer said...

Great question, Jodie.
When an agent asks to see your WIP you really have even a whole year to send it. I know many writers who have done precisely that and have moved forward to publication. However, the key is take only the time you need. In my case, I presented the idea, was given the thumbs up to proceed, wrote the manuscript, then did all the things on the list to insure I had the best product, prayed, then pushed send ten months after I spoke with the agent. I actually had the manuscript finished three months after spoke with her, but wanted to send the best product.
An agent can turn down a good story if the writing is not well done. Their first impression of the work is what counts. They may read one line, one paragraph, one page. If not intrigued they will stop.

But, if you hold onto your story in fear, never quite sure if it is good enough. Rechecking and rechecking again, correcting this and that...the story will never see the agent's screen.

It is a balance.

To answer your question, especially if you are a debut writer/author, when your manuscript is ready for submission.

Can I help clarify any farther for you? I want to help.

Jodie said...

Thanks, Mary! That helps a lot. An agent did ask to see my manuscript at the last ACFW Conference, which means I have a month left.
I'm just finishing up the self-editing and I want to get it professionally critiqued as well.
I'll just have to pray it's ready for submission in time.

Mary Vee Writer said...

You're so funny! I was watching an episode of Chopped while reading your comment, "I have a month left...I'm just finishing..."
Don't watch the clock. Keep stepping forward. God will help you get it done as long as you keep trying.

I totally can't wait to hear good news from you! Don't forget to let me know.

Jodie said...

I will!