HOW TO SUBMIT WITHOUT FEELING LIKE THROWING UP
by Yvonne Mes
Through my travels in various children’s writing groups, on-line and in person, I have come across a few people who have said something like:
“I have just submitted my manuscript to (insert name of dream agent or publisher). Eurgh, I feel like throwing up.” Or they took it one step further and expressed the state of their nerves by regurgitating their lunch.
I am here to tell you submitting should not make you feel sick!
You may not be quite as emotional as some, or go to these bodily extremes after submitting a manuscript, however feelings of anxiety are quite common.
I admit to having experienced some strong but opposing emotions when submitting a story. I share a couple of my experiences below.
Ignorance is bliss
My first submission was a picture book story for a writers’ festival competition. I knew nothing about writing for children, but I had children, I loved reading, and I had an active imagination. Therefore, I was confident my story was a winner. Ah, the bliss of ignorance. I whistled merrily as I pressed that send button. I would win that contest. Someone would offer me a contract, and people would soon start calling me the new Mem Fox or Jane Yolen.
Fast forward a few months …
During the months of waiting for the results, I immersed myself in picture book writing. I researched online. I read books. I enrolled in one writing course and then another. By the time I found out I hadn’t won the contest, I was only a little devastated, because by then I had realized that the story I had submitted, well … sucked.
Too much knowledge is dangerous
The next time I submitted a story, to an agent no less, I had almost finished my writing courses. I had spent a lot of time on this story. I had joined several critique groups. Using their feedback, I revised and revised and polished my story so much that I could almost see my reflection in it.
But this time when I submitted, I had realized how hard it was to get traditionally published, how small the chances were and how long it could take. This time, I felt I had everything to lose. And I did feel rather queasy.
Now, I am going to be wildly assumptive and judgmental, or perhaps incredibly insightful and say that most of us writers are control freaks.
When you hit that send button or let that letter slip from your fingers into the great unknown and unpredictable via the mailbox, be it real or virtual, it is out of your control.
You had control when you coaxed it into being. You let others critique it, but still, you were able to decide what was worth taking into account, and you were in control of the revisions. But once it’s gone, you can’t change that sentence around anymore or find a stronger verb. And now that you have let it go, you are worried that perhaps it could have been better.
Even if you are completely confident about the creative masterpiece that is your manuscript, you worry about the things beyond your control. What if the mail truck does a double flip en route to Mr. Dream Agent? What if the agent sloshes her coffee over your manuscript? What if a computer virus hacks her inbox? What if your agent has left to join another agency and your manuscript has been filed in the black hole of lost stories? There are so many variables beyond your control. And it makes you sick. Sick to your stomach. Pass the barf bag.
After a suitable amount of waiting, anywhere from 2 minutes to 6 months, you hang on to every little shred of hope that your story has, in fact, NOT been rejected but perhaps misplaced temporarily or even better is taking longer while a contract is being drawn up. You anxiously wait, and wait, and wait.
Hang on, hold on. Stop! What you are doing? Do you really have time to obsess over these things? Let’s be practical.
Set a reminder in your diary at the date the agent or publisher had specified as their cut-off date. If you haven’t heard anything by then, ask them for a status update. If you don’t hear back from them within a few weeks, that’s it. You have been rejected. Move on.
What can you do?
Now, I am the least Zen or Buddha-like person. I don’t believe in fate and karma, and I can never quite attain a sense of calm and complete relaxation, or at least not for very long. But I do believe in logic.
And my logic tells me that once my manuscript is gone, it is out of my control, and therefore not worth spending energy on.
Let it go.
Know that you have done all you can. You have done everything you can to make this manuscript the best. You did what you could to make yourself visible as an author. You did your homework, your research on your story AND on the agent or publishing house. You studied the craft of writing. You had the story critiqued several times. You have not written the stuffing out of it. Now it is time to …
… let it go.
Know there is more than one good story in you. Revel in the knowledge that even if every submission you ever send out gets rejected, you are already a successful writer. You wrote a story. You made it your best. And you are in the game!
Let it go.
So what if you discover you have made a grammatical error or misspelled Mr. Cszrukosy, your dream agent’s name? Well, it is out of your control now. Besides, if the rest of your query was professional, and your story is pretty awesome on top of that, well then, they will forgive you that mistake.
Go and work on something else. Spend some time with your family or friends or pets. Do something else enjoyable, like read a book! And then … start writing something else.
Let it go.
And if ‘Letting Go’ doesn’t work try the following:
Face your fears
What is the worst that could happen in the micro cosmos of this particular story? It could be rejected. Let’s be honest, statistically that is the most likely outcome. You know that it is going to happen, just not how, or when. Even established writers get more rejections than they do contracts.
Be practical, increase your chances by writing more stories and submitting more often, and if the story keeps getting rejected? It still doesn’t mean the death of your story. If you receive feedback you can work with, you can submit it somewhere else. If you don’t receive feedback, seek it out. Maybe your story plot is fine but instead of a picture book, your idea will work better as a short story for a magazine or chapter book.
Whatever you do, keep submitting. Press that ‘send’ button, shove that letter in the mailbox, breathe, smile and let it go.
Yvonne has been around children most of her life, if she isn’t working with them, she is raising them. Yvonne coordinates Write Links, the Brisbane children’s writers group ww.brisbanewritelinks.weebly.com and is a supporter of Kidlit411.com. Her short story My Sister Ate My Science Project will be published in The School Magazine (Australia) this year. In addition to writing for children, she also likes to work on her illustrations.
Yvonne has a Bachelor of Children’s Services, a Certificate in Professional Children’s Writing, a Cert IV in Visual Arts and Crafts and a Cert IV in Training and Assessment.
You can find out more about Yvonne on her website. www.yvonnemes.weebly.com.
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